Monday, February 28, 2011

Pens hold steady on deadline day

By Jeff

What? Ray Shero and the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't make a move in the final minutes of the trade deadline today? But Rob Rossi told us that his NHL sources told him not to be surprised if the Pens pulled off a stunner.

Damn you, Rossi!

This is a new and weird feeling for Pens fans who have grown accustomed to Shero making some kind of deal on Trade Deadline Day. I capitalized it because it's a holiday to hockey fans. Too bad it was kind of boring this year. Almost like when I was 4 and cried on Christmas when I got clothes.

Well, being kind of mature now, I realize that clothes may have been a boring gift back then, but they served a purpose. Unlike the Shredder action figure I opened next and was very excited about. Shredder may have brought me joy instead of tears at that moment, but he wasn't going to really help me in any way.

That's how this Trade Deadline Day was for the Pens. Shero has spoiled us into thinking he is going to do something big on this day every year, so we are a little confused and sad when he doesn't. But the no deal was the best move the team could make. Dustin Penner fetched a former first-round pick, a future first-round pick and a future third or second-round pick. Since when did Penner become Marian Hossa? If Shero was going to make a big splash today on someone like Penner, Alex Hemsky or another similar player, he would have had to overpay.

Just look at the how New Jersey Devils were able to get David Steckel and a second-round pick from the Washington Capitals for Jason Arnott. The same Arnott was on Shero's radar, but there was no way he was giving up a second-round pick for a 36-year-old with 14 goals. No, instead Shero gave up a seventh-round pick for a 38-year-old with 14 goals in Alexei Kovalev. Maybe I am biased, but give me Kovalev for seventh-round pick and no one from the active roster over Arnott for a second-rounder and a player on my NHL club any day of the week.

Shero doesn't make deals just to make them. The team didn't need another third-line center posing as a No. 2 center. No one should be sad that Arnott is not a Penguin today.

And let us not forget that Shero already made his big move when he acquired James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski. So let's be happy the Pens didn't sacrifice their future today on overpriced players and just blame Rossi for getting our hopes of that the Pens might do something wild.

Phantom Planet - Big Brat

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pens trade for Kovalev

By Jeff

The Post-Gazette and Tribune Review are both reporting that the Pittsburgh Penguins have traded a sixth or seventh round draft pick to the Ottawa Senators for Alexei Kovalev.

Let's take it back to 2000 baby!

How can a Pens fan not love this move? Kovalev is having an off year and is 38 and only has 14 goals this season, but he hated the coach in Ottawa. He was on a last place team that was going nowhere. It's no coincidence his game greatly improved once February rolled around. He was ready to get the hell out of there and go to a contender. Kovalev can score and he can skate. The power play will be better with him on it.
Does anyone have Martin Straka's or Robert Lang's number?
Screw it. I'll Facebook them.

Kovalev will be on one of the top two lines with the Pens after being relegated to the fourth line several times this season. Of course, that doesn't mean much if you look at the current lines. Craig Adams is a second line player on this Pens team right now. But the point is he is going to have motivation to play well.

With the addition of Kovalev and James Neal, this team actually has some scoring wingers on it. I may be jumping ahead of myself, but I'm picturing a first line featuring Sidney Crosby and Neal, and a second line of Jordan Staal and Kovalev for the playoffs. It's a beautiful picture that would have to be taken as a Stanley Cup contender.

Even if Crosby doesn't come back, this team can win in the playoffs. They have great defense and a goalie playing the best hockey of his life right now (Where did the Fleury haters go?). Why can't think team make a deep playoff run with the newly acquired talent? Chris Kunitz is a week or two away, Mark Letestu could be back this weekend and Dustin Jeffrey is almost healthy. Add them to Neal, Kovalev and Staal, and you have an offense that can score goals and wreck havoc.

It's going to be a fun and long spring for Pens fans.

Eddie Money - I Think I'm In Love

Frank Coonelly needs to shut up

By Jeff

This blog is one of the rare places out there where the Pittsburgh Pirates' management and ownership is defended to some degree. Mike and I think the organization is finally on the right path to bring a successful baseball team back to Pittsburgh with their focus on the draft and improvements to their International scouting.

Too bad there is no defending what team president Frank Coonelly told Coonelly was asked if the team could afford a $70 to $80 million payroll. His response came off as blaming the fans for the team's low payroll. "Today, no, but we will be able to support that payroll very soon if our fans believe that we now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive," Coonelly said. "We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number while continuing to invest heavily in our future, but I am convinced that the attendance will move quickly once we convince our fans that we are on the right track."

The whole interview is here.

How can the Pirates ask more people to attend more games at this point? The team hasn't had a winning season in 18 years. For the majority of those 18 years, the team did nothing to try and improve. No. 1 overall picks were spent on players with a ceiling of fourth of fifth starters, while other top 10 picks were used on bullpen arms. Any player the fan base has grown attached to has been traded, and usually for very little.
If only fabulous hair translated to wins.

Even if the majority of fans think the team and management are righting the ship, which they don't, telling fans they need to come to games and watch a mediocre team in order for the team to improve is ridiculous. Does any successful business operate in this fashion? Imagine if restaurants said they would only improve the ingredients and food if more people came. It would go under very quickly.

Coonelly is right about one thing, though. Attendance will jump when fans are convinced the team is on the winning track. The people of Pittsburgh love baseball and want to cheer the Pirates. They just don't want to spend their money on a team they think is going nowhere. This team will need to spend money at some point if they want people to believe again and come to PNC Park.

The biggest criticism the Buccos face is that ownership only cares about a profit. Just listen to the local talk shows and you'll hear countless fans rip into owner Bob Nutting for never spending on the team, while he makes money. The only way to bring those fans back is to spend some money.

I'm not saying the Pirates need to go out and overpay on big free agents. That's a recipe for failure. What they need to do is lock up the good talent they have right now. Until Andrew McCutchen and the others receive nice extension, fans are constantly going to fear these players will be traded to the New York Yankees.

That's just the beginning. The team must then develop at least one top of the rotation starter. Once these objectives are done, the team can then complement it with free agents that will actually help the team win, not simply fill out a starting lineup.

Coonelly is a fool if he thinks a rise in attendance has to happen before the above three objectives are completed. This organization has already asked too much from its fan base. At some point, the fans need results if they're going to spend the money and time to attend Pirates games.

U2 - I Will Follow

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shero works magic again

By Jeff

At the rate he's going, Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Ray Shero will have a street named after him in this town.

The man was at it again yesterday. In case you haven't heard, the Penguins traded friend of the blog, Swan... er, defenseman Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars for 23-year-old winger James Neal and 24-year-old defenseman Matt Niskanen yesterday.

I haven't really seen Neal or Niskanen play, but this deal has me excited for a number of reasons.
Neal has Pens fans excited,
 even if they've never seen him play.

The team is still playing for this season despite a season-ending knee injury to Evgeni Malkin and a potential season-ending concussion to Sidney Crosby. They could have packed it in and used the trade deadline as a time to bolster the team for next year, but I don't think that's what this deal is about. Both players the Pens acquired in the deal are signed through next year, which is great, but I think it'd be foolish to think Pens are only looking to the future with this move. Neal will instantly improve an offense that has lacked a viable scoring option from the wing this season. With the way the defense and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury are playing, the boost Neal provides might be all the team needs.

As for who the Pens are giving up, it's not that big of a loss. The Pens didn't need Goligoski. He was the fifth defenseman on one of the best defenses in the NHL. Shipping him does not hurt the unit as a whole when you consider their top four d-men are still here and Simon Despres is on the way soon. Goligoski is a solid offensive defenseman who does well on the power play and moving the puck up the ice quickly. He is kind of a liability on defense at times and he is not capable moving big bodies off the puck. He will be missed, but he's replaceable.

Niskanen is just an afterthought in this deal. The former first-round draft pick has a measly six assists this season, is said to have confidence issues and tends to be a liability on defense. Sounds like a poor man's Goligoski. There are already rumors that he could be a part of another deal Shero is planning. 

If the Pens add another scoring winger to this mix, the team could make some noise in the playoffs this year even if Crosby doesn't come back. There are constant rumblings that Shero is targeting Alexei "I refuse to call him Alex" Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators for a low-round draft pick. The move would reunite Kovalev with the club he had his best seasons with. Granted, that was when Kovalev was a lot younger. The potential reward, especially if Crosby returns, would greatly outweigh the risk.

Of course, Shero knows a lot more than me and he might not agree with that assessment. Either way, I trust Shero to do what's in the best interest for the Pens.

As for the future, I really like this move. Neal could be that winger to grow with Crosby that this team has lacked since they drafted Crosby. Imagine the fits the Pens would cause other teams if Crosby had someone finishing his plays on a consistent basis. It's scary.

Neal will be a cap hit of around $2.8 million next season, which is a little more than Goligoski's $1.8ish million. But with Neal filling the need for a scoring winger, players like Max Talbot, Tyler Kennedy and Pascual Dupuis become expendable. I love Talbot and Dupuis, but the Pens are not going to be able to resign these guys unless they take some major discounts.

On paper this looks like a great move for the Pens. On the flip side, I'll hurt myself if Neal turns into Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Belle & Sebastian - Expectations

Monday, February 21, 2011

The day I became a real hockey fan

By Jeff

As much as I love the Pittsburgh Penguins, I didn't become a true fan of the team and the sport as a whole until I was 14 years old.

My uncle set it up so Mario Lemieux just happened to be at the Ground Round on Route 19 back in 1989. Our dog had just died, so my parents had my uncle take us to dinner while they buried the dog. Lemieux and Dan Quinn were there and my brother and I played checkers with the two men.

I have bragged about this experience my whole life, but it didn't make me like the Pens anymore. Cartoons and pro wrestling were my favorite things at the time.

Even Dan Quinn coming to our house on Christmas Eve the following year made much of a dent. Honestly, I didn't have a clue who Quinn was at the time. I just know I cried in front of him because my family from California gave me clothes. In my defense, what 5-year-old wants clothes for Christmas.
I'll never get sick of this image.

You'd think the Pens' Stanley Cup runs in 1991 and 1992 would have made me the fan I am today, but I don't remember watching any of the games. I do remember being obsessed with winning at that time, so I only cheered for teams that won. This led me to tell everyone I was cheering for the Minnesota North Stars when they won a game, and the Pens whenever they won a game. There are rumors that this is the formula that created today's Washington Capitals fans, but I can't confirm or deny it.

No, the moment I fell in love with hockey was Dec. 27, 2000. Diehards don't need me to point out that this was the game Mario Lemieux came out of retirement.

I can't specifically tell you why it took me so long to realize how great the sport was and how much the Pens meant to me. I think it was because I was old enough to realize what an incredible comeback it was and how big the actual moment was for the city.

The team that was almost moved away from the city was getting it's best player back. A player who overcame cancer and various back ailments to play the game he loved. How could you not look at the moment and love every part of it.

To me, it didn't matter that Mario was coming back against my second favorite team in the league, The Toronto Maple Leafs. I wanted Mario to light the lamp and the Pens to destroy the Leafs.

I can still see (without the assistance of YouTube) Mario breaking down the ice, demanding the puck from Jaromir Jagr and burying the shot.

Lemieux was back and he hadn't lost anything. I was hooked to the sport and the team from that point on. If there was a hockey game on, I was watching it, or at least trying to find out who scored the next day.

Needless to say, the Pens have been my favorite team in any sport since that day. The Steelers are great, but I can't look back on them with the same memories the Pens have given me. Even though I wasn't a real fan throughout my childhood, I can remember my dad taking me to games whenever my uncle or friends gave us tickets. I remember being the last people to leave the arena because my dad is one of the most impatient drivers in the world and wanted to avoid traffic. The Igloo would go dark and the two (or three  if my brother was there) would just be sitting there with the hopes we might get a broken stick or something. We never did, but it was still cool. We never got tickets to Steelers games, so there are no similar memories when it comes to football.

My love for the Pens also grew as the team sucked in the years prior to lockout and the year following. It would have been easy to throw them away, but it was a great time if you loved going to hockey games for $20. My friends and I would hit up Student Rush whenever we could to see the X-Generation. The team stunk, but we got the best available seats for $20.

The best example was when the Steelers played the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs of the 2002-2003 season. The Pens had an early start and the Steelers were playing that night. The arena was practically empty, so Swan, Johnny and I got seats seven or eight rows from the ice. I had never sat so close at a hockey game!

The Pens lost to the New York Rangers 3-1 that day, but it was an awesome experience with me flinching whenever the puck hit the glass near us.

I think the reason these dark ages in Pens history made me a bigger fan is because I now feel like I have grown up with the team they have now. You tend to feel more attached to a team when you have seen them struggle for an extended period of time and then reward your faithfulness with an extended period of success.

None of these feelings would have ever happened if No. 66 came back on that December day in 2000. Sure, I'd still like the Pens, but this level of love and commitment to the club would not have been anywhere close to what it is now if that moment never occurred.

The Pittsburgh Penguins Theme Song

Friday, February 18, 2011

In battle between millionaires, fans are the only losers

By Jeff

Is anyone else getting tired of potential NFL lockout?

It's a big story and needs to be followed closely, but it's the two sides that annoying. How are fans supposed to choose sides between the NFL owners and players? They are both coming off as greedy, yet they are both crying to fans and the media that they are getting screwed.

Apparently, one of the main points of contention is the owners received $1 billion off the top under the previous CBA and want $2 billion off the top in the next one to cover rising costs. This would mean less money in the pol for players, so they obviously don't want that.

That's the main argument from what I can tell. It seems they are willing to compromise on the stupid 18-game schedule and a rookie wage scale.
Greed is good unless you're an NFL fan.

So how exactly do these billionaires and millionaires expect to gain our support when they are fighting over $1 billion in an industry that had $9.3 billion in revenue last season?

How are fans supposed to feel bad for either side? You have players crying that they won't have league-provided health insurance if there is a lockout. This is a common problem countless Americans face every day, but unlike these NFL players, most regular people don't make millions of dollars. The players can afford a few months of buying their own health insurance.

On the flip side, how can anyone feel bad for these billionaire owners? They are going to make money even if there isn't a season. They cry about rising costs and the need to build new stadiums, yet taxpayers have been footing the bill for many of these modern stadiums in all sports. These same owners charge ridiculous amounts of money for jerseys and other sports merchandise. Why should we feel bad for them if the players want that extra $1 billion for their salaries. Afterall, the players are the ones endangering their lives.

I think I speak for the majority of football fans when I say that both sides are coming off as greedy. That's how business works, though. Business leaders are always trying to get the best deal for their own interests. Businesses are also content with sacrificing short-term profits in exchange for greater long-term profits, which is exactly what the owners' stance is regarding the CBA. Sure, they won't make as much money this season if there is a lockout, but if their long-term profits will significantly increase if they get their way in negotiations.

It's unclear which side will win, but it's very clear that the fans will lose if this stalemate continues and there is no 2011 season.

Dire Straits - Money for Nothing

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baseball salaries are out of control

By Jeff

Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals have broken off negotiations on a contract extension. Reports out there say that Pujols was looking for a 10-year deal worth $300 million, which would make him the highest paid baseball player in history.

For those of you who suck at math (Like, really suck), that's $30 million per season. If he were to average 40 home runs and 125 RBIs during the length of the contract, he would make $750,000 per home run or $240,000 per RBI. That's right, he could buy a really nice house for every RBI he gets.
If he gets what he wants, Pujols would
make more than $50,000 per at-bat.

This is why baseball is ridiculous. Really, all the professional sports are ridiculous when you think about the money players make. Baseball is just the most ridiculous of the bunch because there is no limit as to how much players can be paid.

St. Louis is a great baseball town. The Cardinals mean a lot to the city. But St. Louis is not New York, Boston or Los Angeles. They can't afford to put together a solid team around Pujols if they have to pay him $30 million. The Cardinals' payroll for 2010 was a shade below $94 million, meaning Pujols' salary would take up almost a third of the team's salary for 2011 and beyond.

As good of a player as Pujols is, and I think he is the best in baseball right now, deals like this cripple teams not named the Yankees or Red Sox. Because baseball contracts are guaranteed, teams the size of the Cardinals and smaller clubs can't afford to hand out these deals. They are screwed if the player suffers a major injury or just doesn't live up to their potential because they have all their money invested in one player.

I'm not mad at Pujols for working the current system. He is the best player in baseball and you should be paid your worth. I'm mad that baseball salaries are spinning out of control. Deals like this trickle down to the mediocre players of the league, forcing small teams to overpay even bad players.
Meche's contract with the
Royals represented all that is
wrong with baseball salaries.

My favorite example is Gil Meche. Because pitchers command so much money today, he made more than $11 million in 2008 and 2009. Meche would have made more than $12 million this season if he didn't retire. Nevermind that Meche has only pitched more than 200 innings twice, had an ERA below 4 three times and had a career ERA of 4.49. How does someone with those numbers deserve $12 million?

Here is a great chart showing the highest paid player each year since 1985. I understand that times change and there is also inflation, but it's crazy to see that the highest paid player in 1985 (Mike Schmidt) was making $2.1 million a year. Flash forward to 2010, and Alex Rodriguez's $27.5 million per year salary and you can't tell me salaries are not out of control.

Can we please get a friggin salary cap in MLB? If another Gil Meche gets $12 million I am going to go nuts.

Van Halen - Hot For Teacher

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring Training lacks optimism this season

By Jeff

It hurts my heart to see all of these posts on Facebook about people getting excited from Spring Training and the coming of the major league baseball season.

I used to be one of those happy individuals. Well, I never posted my giddiness on Facebook, but I used to come into every spring with a naive optimism regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Is it worse that I thought Perez would be an ace,
or that the Mets traded for him?

That optimism usually revolved around a few young players that brought legitimate excitement to the team. For a stretch, I was pumped about the core of Jason Bay, Jack Wilson, Ryan Doumit and Freddy Sanchez. Hell, I was even excited about seeing if the starting rotation could pull it together at the same time. There were actually times where I looked at Zach Duke, Oliver Perez, Paul Maholm and Brad Lincoln and expected good things from them.

Well, those times are over.

What is there for a Pirates fans to look forward this season? It will be nice to see Andrew McCutchen continue to improve, Jose Tabata put together a full season and Pedro Alvarez hit the ball really hard when he's not missing horribly, but there are no expectations for this team. There is not one pitcher that makes you think this could be the year the team doesn't suck, let alone five of them.

Spring Training is also a chance to see a team's future players' potential. Too bad all of the Pirates top prospects are really far away. Once Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie have time to develop, they will be Spring Training attractions. Right now, it's just too early to get into it.

I envy those people who love baseball enough that they are just excited for the season. I enjoy attending the games, but I just can't bring myself to admit that I'm looking forward to having baseball again. Talk to me in a year or two, when the Pirates actually have a shot to do something, and maybe my mindset will be different.

Lustra - Scotty Doesn't Know

Monday, February 14, 2011

Islanders-Pens brawl embarrassed teams, league

By Jeff

Sorry I'm late to the party on this Islanders-Penguins melee from Friday night, but I didn't have a chance to see what happened until now.

It could be my homerism speaking, but I thought the Islanders were definitely the worse offenders. Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin could be the biggest cowards I've ever seen in sports. They somehow overtook Carmelo "Hit and Run Like Hell" Anthony.

How was Martin only suspended four games and Gillies only nine? Max Talbot was not looking or speaking when Martin just dropped the gloves and jumped Talbot. Todd Bertuzzi did the same thing to Steve Moore in 2004. Moore wasn't looking, and Bertuzzi jumped him. Moore suffered a severe concussion, never played hockey again and Bertuzzi was suspended for 20 games. The only different between what Bertuzzi did and what Martin did was the result. Fortunately for Talbot, Martin didn't hit him clean with his first punch.
This tool has one goal and seven shots this season.
His sole purpose is to be a d-bag.

Gillies also deserves at least a 20-game suspension. He clearly targeted Eric Tangradi's head with his elbow. The puck wasn't even close to Tangradi, as he had played it away. The elbow deserved a suspension by itself, but then Gillies proceeded to punch a vulnerable Tangradi in the head. Oh, and then he was taunting Tangradi as a trainer attended to him. How can you be taunting when you took a run at a guy who wasn't looking?

The actions of Martin and Gillies can't be tolerated if this league wants to stop being looked at as a joke by most sports fans. It doesn't help that ESPN's Scott Burnside has a bigger problem with Mario Lemiuex demanding the league clean up its act than the gooning of the game by Martin and Gillies. Burnside mentioned that the hits were bad, but just briefly. His beef was with Lemieux calling for the league to put an end to incidents like Friday's game when Lemieux signs Matt Cooke's paychecks.

I get it, Cooke has had some dirty hits in his career. He hit Marc Savard in the head last year, went knee-on-knee with Alexander Ovechkin and charged some guy on the Columbus Blue Jackets who I'm too lazy to look up.

The hit on Savard deserved a suspension. Not because I think Cooke was intent on injuring Savard, but just because he did hit Savard in the head. The hit on Ovechkin was cheap, but I have no sympathy for the Capitals and their fans. Ovechkin did the same exact thing to Sergei Gonchar in the playoffs in 2009, and Capitals fans said it was Gonchar's fault for not getting out of the way. Oh, Ovechkin also did it last year and was suspended for it, so it's not like it was a one-time occurrence. The hit on the Blue Jackets guy was definitely a check in the back, and Cooke left his feet to deliver the check. I agree that the guy was trying to draw a penalty by turning his back after seeing Cooke come in, but Cooke had plenty of time to pull up and didn't have to leave his feet.

Basically, I'm saying Cooke deserved his suspension.

But just because the Penguins employ Cooke doesn't mean the organization has no right to call out the league for losing control and being upset when opposing players are clearly trying to injure their players.

Cooke wasn't in Friday's game, there is no reason to bring him up. By Burnside's standards, no owner in the NHL should ever speak out against the league's lack of discipline regarding goons because every team has at least one. The only issue I have with Lemieux's letter taking the NHL to task is that he ended by saying he might not want to be a part of the league anymore. It gives off this sense of self-importance, like the league would falter without his presence. Honestly, no one outside Pittsburgh would notice his absence.

Until Friday's events in New York, I've never really had a problem with hockey fights. I always thought it was better to have guys on skates trying to keep their balance and punch each other than seeing them use their sticks as weapons. That opinion is changing. The penalty for fighting needs to much more strict than a 5-minute major. Players need to be ejected and/or fined when they drop the gloves. Hits to the head need to be automatic suspensions, no matter if they were accidental or intentional.

The NHL was making progress in getting away from an image of goon hockey, but the events of Friday and this season are negating this progress. If the NHL wants to gain more fans and showcase hockey as the skill game it is, they need to start carrying a big stick when it comes to punishing ass clowns like Martin Gillies.

Carbon Leaf - The Boxer

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tanner dead at 81

By Jeff

It's a sad day in Pittsburgh. Chuck Tanner, the manager of the 1979 World Series champions Pittsburgh Pirates, died today at the age of 81.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the story here.

Stark: Pirates least recognizable team in baseball

By Jeff

Jayson Stark is a very good writer. Well, aside from his love for the Philadelphia Phillies that he doesn't even try and hide. The way he portrayed Roy Halladay's no-hitter in the postseason last October was kind of ridiculous. You would have thought Halladay just split the Red Sea and then cured Polio with the praise Stark threw on him. And I'm a huge Halladay fan.

In his most recent column on, Stark and a dozen baseball "sages" broke down the offseason's biggest winners, losers, spenders, etc. The Pittsburgh Pirates were No. 3 when it came to most unimproved team in the NL and were No. 1 as the least recognizable team in the NL.
Is he looking at me or you?

I wish I could argue with either statement, but I can't. The Pirates' big offseason acquisitions were Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz, Scott Olsen, Kevin Correia and Joe Beimel. What? You're not excited about that bunch?

It looks bad – and it will be bad this season – but the Pirates just aren't going to improve the lineup with free agents until they have a viable starting rotation. They are spending in the draft and hoping they will have a strong core of young pitchers in a few years. It worked for the San Francisco Giants.

I'm a little surprised the Pirates came ahead of the Kansas City Royals and as the most unrecognizable team. The Pirates actually have a few guys that people have heard of across the country in Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker (to an extent). Once the Royals shipped off Zack Greinke they became a pretty anonymous team. Billy Butler, Luke Hochevar and Joakim Soria are the only guys on their team I can name.

Do you agree or disagree with the voters?

The Pixies - Gigantic

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Injuries, suspension leave once deep Penguins scrounging for players

By Jeff

What the hell happened in the span of a month to the Pittsburgh Penguins?

Remember January 1, when Jordan Staal made his return to the lineup and the team finally had all of its players healthy? Fast forward to today and the team's two biggest stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, are out. The team's top winger, Chris Kunitz, has the mysterious lower-body injury and there is no word when he will be back. I haven't seen Aaron Asham in what feels like forever. And finally, Matt Cooke is suspended for four games.
I hate Tyler Myers for doing this to Malkin!

What's scary is the severity of some of these injuries. Malkin had surgery to repair a torn ACL and is out for the season, while Crosby is dealing with a concussion and no one knows when or if he'll be back. Kunitz was finally having a healthy season as a member of the Pens, but we know he is a little injury prone and this could just be a start of a familiar and frustrating situation.

Asham won't be missed too much, as he wasn't doing much when he was playing. The Cooke suspension at least has a set timetable. We know he'll be back in four games. But he is on the NHL's radar and could be suspended again because of the way he plays. Personally, I don't mind the way Cooke plays most nights. He gets after the puck and pisses off the other team while doing so. But he deserved to be suspended for his check in the back the other night. I don't care if the guy saw Cooke coming and then turned his back, Cooke left his feet and propelled into the guy. Cooke is not Alexander Ovechkin, so he can't get away with that stuff.

The injuries and suspensions have the Pens looking like the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Baby Penguins tonight. Six of the 12 forwards started this season in the AHL. Ryan Craig, Joey Vitale, Chris Connor, Dustin Jeffrey, Brett Sterling and Ben Johnson are all in the lineup tonight.

On one hand, it will be great to see how the AHL guys perform on the big stage. On the other, I'd much rather see Crosby and Malkin out there and keep wondering about the AHL guys.

Who is going to score goals for this team? Jordan Staal hasn't been able to do much since his return, Tyler Kennedy is Tyler Kennedy, Pascual Dupuis is lost on offense without Crosby and Max Talbot doesn't score goals in the regular season. You get the point.

It could be a long time before we see a lot of pretty goals from the Pens. This team is going to have to fight and grind for every goal. The team has only scored more than three goals twice since Crosby went down.

February is going to be a long month for the Pens and their fans.

The Firm - Radioactive

Ohlendorf deserved raise

By Jeff

I might be in the minority, but I have no problem with Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf getting a raise of more than $1.5 million.

Ohlendorf won his arbitration case against the Pirates yesterday, so he will make a little more than $2 million this season. The Pirates were offering $1.4 million and Ohlendorf made less than $500,000 last season.

The ruling sparked local and national media to jump on the story because Ohlendorf was 1-11 last season.
Are there any pitchers that don't look
constipated in their delivery?

The more traditional baseball minds look at the win total and can't believe that it would warrant a raise. And I can't really fault them for that thinking. While a pitcher's record depends on many factors out of his control, you can't ignore the wins stat completely. One way to look at the raise is that the Pirates are paying Ohlendorf $2 million per win. Yikes.

Even with this in mind, I have no problem with the raise. Ohlendorf played for the worst team in baseball last year. They were terrible on offense and were mediocre on defense. How in the world was he supposed to compile a decent record on this team? Of the 21 games Ohlendorf started the Pirates scored 4, 1, 3, 0, 0, 2, 5, 2, 4, 3, 2, 2, 0 12, 2, 6, 0 , 8, 1, 2 and 2 run. That's less than three runs per game. The offense was clearly not helping him.

Ohlendorf also had an ERA of 4.07. It's not great, but there are plenty of players making more than him that had much higher ERAs. He also only gave up four runs or more in five of his 21 starts. I look at that stat and the run support and will argue that Ohlendorf kept his team in a lot of games. Unfortunately for his record, he had little or no help.

It's also unfair to just judge Ohlendorf by last year. He was the Pirates' best pitcher in the 2009 season. He was 11-10 that year with a 3.92 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and pitched 176.2 innings. I will also never forget that he had a game against the St. Louis Cardinals that season where he struck out the side on nine pitches. It was incredible. That feat alone doesn't deserve a hefty raise, but it made me giddy.

I don't like the arbitration thing in baseball. Well, I don't like the amounts of money baseball players are paid, period. But I have no problem with Ohlendorf making $2 million next season. He will be a solid contributor to the team as long as he stays healthy.

Barrett Strong - Money (That's What I Want)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fans tell their Super Bowl horror stories

By Jeff

Time spoke to several of the displaced Super Bowl 45 (I'm rebelling against the Roman numerals) and the stories do not paint the NFL in a good light.

The article is filled with lies about moving to better seats, no food being available and bolts falling out of the temporary seating.

You can read the story here.

Is anyone else surprised by this? Roger Goodell promotes the safety of fans and players with his words, but then he lets fans sit in seats with bolts falling out and calls for an 18-game season. Pardon me if I'm skeptical of anything the man says regarding safety.

I'd also like to point out that after I wrote a post on how the NFL should be reimbursing fans with a Super Bowl ticket of their choice, the league made this offer to fans. This announcement was not made until after the post. Clearly I had no influence on the NFL. I just don't want people thinking I didn't know what I was talking about.

The Four Tops - I Can't Help Myself

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Coach gives player kidney. What did you do today?

By Jeff

Here is a great story from The Wake Forest baseball coach donated his kidney to a freshman player on his team when he learned that he was a viable donor.

Have you ever had a coach you think would do this kind of thing for you? I doubt there are that many out there, but at least there is one.

Big Country - Teacher

Super Bowl game was fun, the rest was embarrassing

By Jeff

The game portion of the Super Bowl was great. It wasn't the prettiest game, but it had fans excited for all four quarters. Just look at the estimated television viewership. More than 110 million people watched the game. That's a third of the country's population.

Too bad the game didn't overshadow some embarrassing factors surrounding the rest of the event.

First, Dallas and the NFL really screwed up with this ticket problem. Hundreds of people who traveled to Dallas and paid for hotel rooms were denied entrance into the game despite having tickets. The temporary seating that Jerry Jones had built was not approved by the fire marshall. So imagine yourself in the shoes of these people. You're all stoked for the biggest sporting event of the year; you've spent hundreds, probably thousands of dollars on the tickets, travel, food and accommodations; and then you walk up to the ticket window and are told that they can't let you in.
OK, maybe you would turn these people away too.

Sure, getting free tickets to the next Super Bowl is nice, but who says they want to go to the next Super Bowl? These were probably Steelers or Packers fans and there is no guarantee they will be in the big game next season. It also doesn't factor in the time and maybe work days that these people missed in order to attend the game. It's one of the biggest failures in sports I have ever heard of.

One more thing on the tickets issue. I get that the workers installing the seating were trying like hell to get it done in time for the game. Problems arise and I don't have a problem with the seating not being ready for the game. My problem is that these fans had no warning. They showed up at the stadium and were told their seats we no longer available. Would it have been so hard to notify these people and keep them in the loop? Blindsiding fans like that is not acceptable.

Second, Christina Aguilera botched the national anthem for the world to see. I can't make fun of her too much.  No one has ever performed on a bigger stage in the history of television. Of course, it still looks terrible when you have someone that doesn't appear to know her country's national anthem. At least she sounded good.

Are flyovers really that cool?
Third, the flyover by the Navy jets was ridiculous. Many football venues do flyovers. Hell, Elon once had people parachute in before a home game. The problem arises when the venue that is being flown over is a friggin dome! The majority of people probably couldn't see the jets through the roof, so they watched it on the big screen. Why not just get footage of "Top Gun" and play it on the screen. It would have saved $450,000.

Fourth, The Black Eyed Peas were terrible. Can we please just stop the halftime show? Have a contest or something for lucky fans like the conference championship games in college do. When was the last time the halftime show was actually good? The sound quality is bad and the performers are forced to do medleys to get in the popular songs.

Maybe I'm just bitter because the Steelers lost.

Iron Maiden - Can I Play With Madness

Monday, February 7, 2011

What role does postseason have on Hall of Fame voting?

By Jeff

Regular readers of the blog know that I'm not a big fan of baseball Hall of Fame voters as a whole. I don't understand how they don't vote for deserving players in their first or second (or ninth) years of eligibility, but eventually cave and vote for the same players despite no new statistics to consider.

I also wish I knew how big of a role postseason statistics and results factor in. Well, I'm not alone. Joe Posnanski at had a great article regarding this topic. He used Andy Pettitte as his main example and does a great job of showing how people tend to get stuck on name recognition when considering players for the Hall of Fame.

The article is here.

MacDonald's - The McCafe song 

Pittsburgh sports, fan crushed this weekend

By Jeff

It's hard to find a weekend in recent Pittsburgh sports memory that sucked as much as this past one.

The Steelers lost 31-25 in the Super Bowl, Evgeni Malkin was lost for the season with a serious knee injury, the Pens were shut out by the rival Washington Capitals and Pitt could be without Ashton Gibbs for a few games.

Let's start with the Super Bowl. The Steelers just didn't bring their best game. Ben Roethlisberger was off all night, not just on the two interceptions.  He was missing a lot of throws he should make. I lost count of how many balls sailed high on receivers.
Ben's play had all of Pittsburgh feeling like this.

The interceptions were bad. The first was a play that Roethlisberger usually avoids. He had a defensive lineman coming at him and his arm was jarred, resulting in a duck that was ripe for Packers to pick off. Roethlisberger had room to move to his right and avoid the pressure, but he didn't. The second interception was just a bad decision on Roethlisberger's part. I don't think he saw the defensive back in the middle of the field.

While the Steelers didn't play their best game, you can't take anything away from the Packers. They are a great team and deserved to win last night. Aaron Rodgers was excellent in targeting the Steelers' weakest links and didn't show any signs of being nervous. Just imagine his numbers if his receivers didn't have around seven drops in the game.

What might have been most impressive about the Packers' win was that they did it without Charles Woodson for a half. Woodson broke his collarbone late in the first half, but their secondary play didn't seem to falter. I thought for sure that the Steelers would capitalize on that injury, and they kind of did, but not to the extent they should have.

As painful as the loss was, and as poorly as Roethlisberger played, I'm not backing on my statements that he's an elite quarterback in this league. He had bad game, but he will have a chance at redemption in the near future.

The Pens had a terrible weekend as well. It started Friday night when Malkin went down in the corner clutching his knee after he and Tyler Myers got tangled. I don't know what replay the NBC guys saw, but Sunday they said it didn't look like a serious collision. Malkin's leg was straight and planted when Myers came crashing into it. If you saw it, you knew it was bad.

Well, it was worse than bad. Malkin has a torn ACL and MCL. The Pens haven't ruled him out for the season yet, but the chances of him returning are similar to those of Keira Knightly showing up at my door and proposing to me. Yeah, it would be a little weird if a woman were to do the proposing, but who am I to question Keira?

To pile on the Pens' injuries woes, Rob Rossi from the Trib is reporting that Crosby will probably be out until at least March. February could be a long month.

The Pens then put forth a lousy effort against the Capitals Sunday afternoon. A 3-0 loss to anyone hurts, but losing to the Capitals like that is really annoying. Their goalies are mediocre and their defense sucks. Even a roster full of AHL players should get at least one goal. What made it even worse was the NBC guys praising Mike Green's defensive skills.

Finally, Pitt will be without Gibbs, their leading scorer, for at least two games. I don't know much about college basketball, but losing your best scorer sucks no matter what sport you're talking about.

The Guess Who - These Eyes

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Packers win, I cry

By Jeff

If you told me that the Steelers would have the ball with two minutes left in need of a touchdown before the game started, I would have told you I was confident they'd pull it out. Oops.

The Steelers did not deserve to win tonight with three bad turnovers that all resulted in touchdowns for the Packers. There is no more analysis needed. The Packers capitalized on Steelers mistakes. End of story.

The worst part is that the immediately sent me an e-mail promoting Packers championship gear.

Salt in the wound.

I'm too sad to put a song. It would just be depressing.

Super Bowl pick

By Jeff

We've finally made it. The Super Bowl is here and we can finally be released from the 24/7 sports news cycle of the game.

No more stories about players singing at piano bars, Maurkice Pouncey's ankle injury or Aaron Rodgers being the greatest quarterback in the history of the game.
How has no one mentioned how pasty-white Rodgers is?

The only thing left is to play the game. Well, the only thing left for me to do is make the pick. I'm 8-2 in the playoffs, which is much better than my regular season record. Yeah, I'm tooting my own horn.

Pittsburgh (+2.5) over GREEN BAY: Did you know that Aaron Rodgers is really good in domes and that Dallas will have the roof closed? We've only been hearing about it for two weeks. He also has a scary quick release that is needed if you want to do well against the Steelers. B.J. Raji is also the greatest nose tackle to ever play in the 3-4 defense. Ever.

OK, so like many Steelers fans, I think the Packers are being played up a lot. If you're living in other parts of the country or are a Packers fan, you may not be getting that impression. Think of it as a taste of what Steelers fans are thinking or yelling at when the analysts come on TV and pour praise upon Aaron Rodgers like he was Zeus' gift to football with his lightning-fast release and ability to impregnate woman while in the form of a swan.

No one seems to mention that he has struggled against defenses that get after the quarterback this year. His offense did not put a lot of points on the board against teams like the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. They also haven't seen many good 3-4 defenses this season, and the Steelers have the best in the league. Don't tell me they see a great 3-4 in practice every day. That's practice and Rodgers is wearing a red jersey in those.

The Steelers are going to win this game. They run the ball better, their defense provides the biggest challenge Rodgers has seen this year and Ben Roethlisberger lives for these moments. He's an egomaniac. He says the right things to the press and appears humble, but I think he is constantly thinking about his legacy. He wants to be mentioned with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, not after them.

Who would you trust more in the final two minutes with the game on the line? Rodgers, whose coach has a mean streak of terrible time management, or Roethlisberger, who has already led a last-minute Super Bowl winning drive and has done it countless times in the regular season?

And pardon me if I'm not sold on the Packers secondary being so amazing. The Atlanta Falcons only have Roddy White and the Chicago Bears have no receivers at all and were playing a third-string quarterback for almost half the game. Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are going to pose a much bigger threat than the Packers have seen in the playoffs.

The Steelers will miss Pouncey, but Doug Legursky played decent in the AFC Championship. I would even say he played very well if he didn't have those two fumbled snaps. With two weeks of practice, I highly doubt you'll see those fumbled snaps again, so I think he will be just fine.

Rashard Mendenhall is going to take home the MVP. The Steelers will win their seventh Super Bowl and Roethlisberger will cement his legacy as an elite quarterback.

The Doors - Break on Through (To the Other Side)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Malkin tears ligaments, season in doubt

By Jeff

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Evgeni Malkin tore his ACL and MCL in last night's win against the Buffalo Sabres. There is a good chance he is done for the rest of the season.


No song today. I'm too sad.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tomlin deserved at least one vote

By Jeff

How in the hell did Mike Tomlin not get a single vote for the AP Coach of the Year?

If you read my NFL awards prediction post here, you'll know I didn't expect Tomlin to win the award. But I fully expected him to be in the running. Instead, Bill Belichick ran away with 30 of 50 votes, Raheem Morris finished second, Todd Haley took third and a group of coaches all tied for fourth with one vote apiece.
Someone just called him Omar.

Really? Steve Spagnuolo of the 7-9 St. Louis Rams was more deserving of Coach of the Year than Tomlin? He did a nice job with a bad team, but what problems did he and his team overcome? They didn't have a win against a team over .500, they only won two road games and they were terrible in their biggest game of the season. At least Haley won a division before his team collapsed at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Tomlin had to hold together a team that didn't have it's starting quarterback for the first four games. Hell, he didn't even have his No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks for four and three games, respectively. The young coach also lost both starting tackles and arguably the best 3-4 defensive end in the league before the midpoint of the season. When his team absolutely needed wins to clinch the NFC North, they got it done.

I get that Belichick and Morris were deserving of the award. Belichick took a team with a group of no-names, other than Brady and Welker, and led them to the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Morris took an incredibly young and raw team and had them playing for a playoff spot in Week 17. There is no questioning the great jobs they did, and it really hurts me to compliment Belichick.

But how can these 50 voters look at the Steelers' season and not take note of the challenges Tomlin and his squad overcame? He held a team together that could have easily fallen apart. We all questioned his decision to give Roethlisberger so many snaps in the preseason, but then you see the result and realize there's a reason he is an NFL head coach and we're not.

Now, for any of you out there who makes the argument that he's winning with Bill Cowher's players, you're being silly. Please stop this nonsense. LaMarr Woodley, Ziggy Hood, Lawrence Timmons, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Anontio Bryant have played critical roles on the team this year, and they are all Tomlin guys. Oh, and there is that small fact that Cowher couldn't reach the playoffs the year after the team full of "his" guys won the Super Bowl.

I know Tomlin doesn't care that he didn't receive any recognition for the job he did this year. I know all he cares about is the ring, and that's all he should care about. But the man deserves recognition for the great work he's done. He should have at least got more votes than a guy with a losing record.

Collective Soul - Generate 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why you root for the Steelers

By Jeff

Rick Reilly is an excellent writer. He does great stories that bring attention to events and causes that deserve at least the 800 words he gives them. He also tells it like he sees it without pulling any punches. Tiger Woods, James Harrison, Jay Cutler have all been in his crosshairs.

Reilly just wrote a column on that you can read here. It basically tells you that unless you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, you should cheer for the Green Bay Packers this weekend. Despite being a Steelers fan, I found it to be a great read. Reilly doesn't say anything about Ben Roethlisberger's legal issues or Harrison's hits (Which is surprising when he made it clear in a previous column that he doesn't like the way Harrison plays). He just points out how much the Packers mean to the city of Green Bay.
Steelers fan are in good company around the world.

Of course, the column made me feel the need to counter with the reasons non-Packers fans should be pulling for the Steelers on Sunday.

You root for the Steelers because you know they'll never leave you. The Penguins and Pirates have almost left the city in recent memory, but there has never been that fear with the Steelers. Even when the steel mills were closing and young people were leaving the city, the Steelers remained a constant for the city. They have been around for 78 years and will be around for another 78. Probably more.

Visitors are greeted by two historic figures when they arrive at the Pittsburgh airport. One is George Washington. The other is Franco Harris making the immaculate reception. Harris' catch and touchdown didn't win the team a Super Bowl. Hell, it didn't even get the Steelers to the big game. They lost in the AFC Championship the next week to the Miami Dolphins. But the moment represents the rise of the Steelers. It was their first playoff win.

You root for the Steelers because you find fellow fans no matter where you go across the country. You could be driving in Nebraska and see Steelers bumper stickers, or sitting on a beach in Guam when a Japanese tourist runs by with a Steelers shirt on. Steelers fans are everywhere and never hide their love.

You root for the Steelers so that maybe Roethlisberger will be put in the same tier as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. It's where he belongs.

You root for the Steelers because while it may not be on Broadway yet, you know about and have seen "The Chief" at the local theater or went to a special screening of the film version.

The Steelers took an everyday household item and made it one of the most recognizable symbols in sports. The Terrible Towel has also raised more than $3 million for a local charity. Who cares what Clay Travis says. Steelers fans feel a sense of unity when they wave their towels together in a show of support for their teams.

You cheer on the Steelers because they've made Sundays a weekly holiday. Whether you celebrate it with friends or family, every week you get together for the game and all other conflicts or issues are put aside for at least three hours. New conflicts, as to whether the defense should be more aggressive or the offense should run more, do arise, but they are quickly forgotten when the team brings home a W.

You root for the Steelers because they participate in countless charitable organizations in the area. You may not run into them in the grocery store as often as you would run into Packers in Green Bay, but you view them as a part of your community. And Joey Porter is no longer here, so miniature ponies are safe again.
Steel would crush cheese. It's science.

You root for the Steelers because they have prevented the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns from doing anything in the playoffs.

You root for the Steelers because they aren't cute or fancy. They punch you in the mouth and then move on to their next victim. They don't shy from contact, but ask for more. There are rules in the league that were made specifically because of the way the Steelers play and it bothered other teams and their glass-jawed players.

And Reilly asked if we wear steel beams in Pittsburgh. Yes, we do. We just prefer the Terrible Towel.

Weezer - The Greatest Man That Ever Lived

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

King doesn't make excuses for mistakes

By Jeff

SI's Peter King wrote a little snippet yesterday in his Monday Morning Quarterback column that many people got upset over.

King wrote that Roger Goodell spoke to about two dozen Steelers players and not one of them came to Ben Roethlisberger's defense in regards to his alleged sexual assault last year and his qualities as a person.

Apparently King messed up and inserted the "Steelers" part in the quote. King clarified the error today. This makes it a less important story, as it's not a big deal if players on other teams don't have Roethlisberger's back. Why should they? They want to beat him and they're not in the Steelers' locker room. If this had come from Steelers players, then it could have been a real distraction for the team.

I mention this correction because King took full responsibility for the mistake in his column today. That's what good journalists do. They admit when they screw up and don't make excuses. King doesn't claim he was given bad information, he just explained how he messed up and how there was no excuse for it.

The situation immediately made me think of a story reported by Ken Laird on ESPN Radio 1250 Pittsburgh (It's now 970) last year. Laird reported that anonymous, yet reliable, sources inside the Steelers' locker room told him that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was having a meeting with Mike Tomlin and was going to be fired.

Well, they had a meeting, but Arians was not fired. Laird came on the next day and instead of just saying he screwed up, he proceeded to make excuses. He kept saying how he had reliable sources and prior to the meeting Tomlin was leaning toward firing Arians.


Laird wanted to be the first person to have the story and reported it prematurely. That's the danger of today's 24/7 news cycle. We all want our news immediately and news organizations try to feed that need. Unfortunately, this leads to mistakes.

All I want is for people to admit they screwed up and apologize for it. That's what King did and he has my respect for doing so.

Barenaked Ladies - Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Fleury carrying Pens in Crosby's absence

By Jeff
Now if only he could play center.

Real short post today. I just need to once again express how important Marc-Andre Fleury is to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In case you don't know from previous posts, SDEE is a big fan of Fleury. We never failed to recognize his struggles last season or the beginning of this season, but we've always been happy he is the man between the pipes for the Pittsburgh Penguins. And if you were to look at how what the team has done since Sidney Crosby got concussed against the Tampa Bay Lightning, you'd have to agree.

In Crosby's absence (including the Tampa game, because if you watched it, you know Crosby was not playing near 100 percent), the team has gone 6-3-1. Fleury started eight of those games and is 6-2-0. He  boasts a solid .946 save percentage and 1.75 goals against average in that time. Not bad for someone critics were crying for the Pens to trade early this season.

Fleury hasn't given up more than three goals in a game during this Crosby-less span, which includes a few games without Evgeni Malkin. So the team doesn't have its two biggest offensive weapons, yet they're winning games. The defense has continued it's solid play, but it all starts with Fleury.

Homer Simpson - Born Under a Bad Sign