Thursday, March 31, 2011

Real solutions for the Pirates wanted

By Jeff

Many people in Pittsburgh would think I'm an idiot for a lot of reasons. One of them is unfair, though. I actually like the direction the Pittsburgh Pirates are moving in.

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. The team will stink this year. But they actually have a legitimate plan in place that makes sense. The minor leagues are beginning to actually have talent that could be stars in the next few years. Under previous management, the the organization drafted players that had very low ceilings, helping extend the dark ages of Pirates baseball we've been stuck in for 18 years.

People think I'm an idiot for actually buying into this plan of drafting players with high ceilings and building from within. I understand how the organization and owner Bob Nutting have asked a lot of the fan base and many are unwilling to trust the Pirates now. But it still bothers me when you hear local and national media folk and Pittsburghers crying about ownership and their unwillingness to spend.
Is there a more hated man living in Pittsburgh?

The national media is actually letting up on the Buccos. Guys like Pete Gammons and Buster Olney occasionally have nice things to say about the team and its direction. Baby steps.

But back to the angry fans and the relentless local media. They are very quick to pointing out how terrible the team is. Look at Joe Starkey's column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review today. There is nothing new in this story. He makes fun of the Charlie Morton and the rotation and how the team will struggle to win. And just like the everyday callers to his and other radio shows, Starkey provides no solutions.

It's very easy to point out the flaws of anything. The real challenge comes in then proposing ideas that could help improve the problem. Oh, and spending more money doesn't count. Just saying "Spend!" makes it sound like that's the only issue. It's not.

I've noticed many critics never give a specific area to spend more money on. They might say on the Major League team, but that's as far as the realistic answers go. Maybe Starkey or others would have liked the team to bolster the rotation with a quality starter. That's a great idea, but what starters were out there this winter? Cliff Lee was there, but he would never have come to Pittsburgh and one starter would not have made this team relevant.

Or maybe the team should have brought in a big bat. Adam Dunn and Adrian Beltre were out there, why not buck up and pay these guys. Well, one or two sluggers doesn't do much when your rotation is terrible. I don't think the Washington Nationals did much with Dunn in the lineup. And Beltre has had two great years that just so happened to be contract years. The rest have been eh.

So now I'm asking logical people out there to provide realistic solutions for the Pirates that could actually help the team in the long run. It doesn't have to be a blockbuster move. Just something that could help the team get out of the cellar.

I'll start.

The Texas Rangers have a big slugger in their farm system named Chris Davis. He has received some playing time in the majors with mixed results. In 2008 he had 17 homers in less than 300 at bats. The man can mash. But he lacks plate discipline and strikes out a lot. We're talking Mark Reynolds-like. He had an excellent spring with five homers, 18 RBIs and a .362 average. He still had the strikeout problem, though, so the Rangers sent him back to the minors.
Davis has excellent form when it comes
to heading soccer balls.

Davis requested a trade. Why not try and package one of our crappy pitchers like Paul Maholm to the pitcher-needy Rangers for Davis? Of course, I don't know how realistic this is, but I think moves like this can't hurt. Maholm is never going to be any more than a No. 4 starter, if that. Moving him will not hurt this team. Davis may turn out to be another Jeff Clement, but there is no harm in taking the risk. Grabbing a young, cheap player with 30-homer potential won't make them division contenders, but it can be a nice piece.

One thing the Pirates are already doing, but I would put even more emphasis on is international scouting. These players don't have to enter the draft. If the Buccos can find some treasures that other teams miss, it could greatly speed up the process of bringing a winner back to Pittsburgh. The key is to find players that other teams don't have on their radars yet, because the Pirates just can't win bidding wars at this point.

Any other suggestions?

REM - Shiny Happy People

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Predicting the 2011 MLB season

By Jeff

With 162 games, it's safe to say most predictions for the Major League Baseball season before Opening Day are stupid. Players will get hurt, traded, called up, sent down or suspended. But that's not stopping me from giving my take on the upcoming season.

NL East Winner: Philadelphia Phillies

Pitching wins. Plain and simple. A rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Gary Coleman could lead a team to the playoffs. I'm not saying Joe Blanton is comparable to Coleman. I'm saying that it doesn't matter who the No. 5 guy is when you have those four in front of him.
Roy: "Really, Tim? You only weight 120 pounds.
I put you at no less than 130."

The lineup is a big question mark. No one knows when Chase Utley will be back. He said the goal is to return before the All-Star Game. Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are both a year older and were injured last year, and Placido Polanco is hurting too. On top of that, the team still doesn't have an answer to right field.

On top of injuries to the lineup, closer Brad Lidge will be out for a while because of a partially torn rotator cuff. Of course, when you have guys like Halladay and Lee going at least seven innings a night, bullpen problems become less of an issue.

NL Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals?

The question mark is because this division is really up for grabs. Every team has major flaws, whether it be injuries, lineups, pitching depth or the bullpen. I picked the Cardinals because I just don't trust any of the other teams to do what it takes. The winner of this division will probably do so with 84 wins.

NL West Winner: San Francisco Giants

Once again, pitching wins. The Giants have a lot of it. They also have a quality lineup, especially if Brandon Belt contributes like he is supposed to. This is a scary team and they have the firepower to hold off the talented Colorado Rockies.

NL Wildcard: Rockies

OK, so I am completely going against my theory of never picking a team with Ty Wigginton to do anything remotely good. But this team has a lot of promise. Even the league's top pitchers have to be a little worried about having to face Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki back-to-back. These are two MVP candidates that can rake. They are both going to hit 30 home runs this year, and Ubaldo Jimenez and solid bullpen will help them beat out the Atlanta Braves for the final playoff spot.

NL MVP: Tulowitzki

It was between him and Gonzalez. I flipped a coin. Tulo is going to be healthy this year and do amazing things.

NL Cy Young: Halladay

With all the question marks surrounding the Phillies lineup, it makes Halladay's role that much more important. He will answer the task, win more than 20 games with an ERA below 2.50.

NL Rookie of the Year: Not qualified to answer

Honestly, I don't know crap about rookies. I don't go to minor league games and can just go by what other media say in their stories. Apparently this Belt guy and Atlanta's Freddie Freeman are supposed to be really good. We'll see.

NL Champion: Giants

They are going to take down the Phillies in the NLCS again because I don't trust the Phillies to be able to last. The chances of Utley, Howard, Rollins, Polanco and Lidge being healthy in October are slim. Their pitching is great, but the Giants have a rotation that in almost just as good.

Worst team in the NL: Houston Astros

Seriously. They are going to be worse than the Pittsburgh Pirates. People make fun of the Pirates rotation, but who do the Astros have? Their lineup is a joke and Brandon Lyon is their closer. They will suck.

AL East Winner: New York Yankees

I understand that the Boston Red Sox bought a lot of good players this offseason. I get that some of their key guys are healthy. But I don't like their rotation or their bullpen. After Jon Lester, they have a lot of problems. Josh Beckett and John Lackey were terrible last year, no one knows what Dice-K is going to do and Clay Buchholtz doesn't look like he is going to be the future ace the team once thought he was. And I hate Johnathan Papelbon. And I really hate how announcers say the face he makes on the mound actually intimidates grown men.
Is there a worse picture of Cameron Diaz out there?

The Yankees are not without their problems. They have two starters and then a bunch of mediocre guys. Their lineup is getting old. But they are still the most dangerous lineup in the league. A healthy A-Rod with no steroid controversy over his head to start the season could hit 40 homers again, Robinson Cano is hitting his prime, and Mark Teixeira is going to hit 30 or more home runs. This is still a strong team.

AL Central Winner: Chicago White Sox

It's between the Sox and the Minnesota Twins. It will probably come down to Game 163 again.

AL West Winner: Texas Rangers

Remember when I said pitching is what makes champions in this league? Please ignore that for a moment. The Oakland Athletics have a great rotation, but they might not have a player hit 20 or more home runs this season. The Rangers, while they might have some problems in the pitching department, have six or seven guys that could hit more than 20 home runs and a few guys that could top 30 in Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. In the end, the Rangers' slugging will trump the Athletics' superior rotation.

AL Wild Card: Red Sox

I hate this team, but they are going to win 95 games this year.

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez

The man put up huge numbers in the spacious Petco Park in San Diego. I can't imagine the damage he is going to do Boston. It's not just the park. He is going to have protection behind him and a lot more runners on base in front of him. It's not crazy to say he could hit 45-50 homers and 140 RBIs this year.
Can we please have a salary cap?! 

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez

He might only get 10 wins, but all of his other stats will be great. It was either him or CC Sabathia. The rest of the pitchers in the AL just don't stand out this year. Come back Roy!

AL Rookie of the Year: J.P. Arencibia

I'm not qualified to answer this question either, but the young Blue Jays catcher could hit 20-25 home runs this year. He just might have a batting average of .220 to go along with it.

AL Champions: Yankees

They have major questions now that money and trades can answer come July. I'm still praying for the year the season ends and neither the Yankees or Red Sox are in the playoffs. I will riot like Habs fans after a Game 1 win in the first round of the playoffs.

Worst team in the AL: Seattle Mariners

Remember when the team acquired Cliff Lee and were expected to do great things? That was fun for the whole one month it lasted. They have the worst lineup in the majors and only have one pitcher to try and make up for it.

The Kansas City Royals are an honorable mention as they have a worse rotation than the Pirates and Astros. Their "ace" is Luke Hochevar. The same Luke Hochevar who has a career ERA of 5.60.

World Series Champions: Giants

If that pitching stays healthy, they have the most complete team in the majors. And that's even with Pat "The Stat" Burrell roaming left field like the lost, overgrown child who has not yet realized how to coordinate his limbs he is.

Violent Femmes - Blister in the Sun

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bertuzzi likely to get nothing for elbow

By Jeff

The NHL is not consistent in any way with handing down punishment for dangerous plays. This isn't breaking news or anything, but it's getting frustrating to watch as a fan.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke was suspended for up to 17 games (Rest of the regular season and first round of the playoffs) because of a reckless and dangerous elbow to the head of New York Rangers Ryan McDonagh. He deserved the suspension. Cooke targeted the man's head with his elbow when he had no business even checking him.

The reason for the extended suspension was not the hit itself, but because Cooke is a repeat offender and was already suspended once this season for a dirty hit. Other recent elbows by Dany Heatley and Brad Marchand that were just as brutal as Cooke's only resulted in two-game suspensions because they aren't considered dirty players.

Well, what's the NHL's excuse for not suspending Todd Bertuzzi, or even scheduling a hearing for his elbow to Ryan Johnson's head last night?'s Pierre LeBrun tweeted that Bertuzzi, who received a game misconduct for the hit, won't face further discipline. LeBrun also agreed with that decision, saying the hit was "clumsy/stupid rather than vicious."

Why does it matter if the hit is stupid or vicious? Bertuzzi raised his elbow, left his feet and clocked Johnson in the head. His intent should not matter. Especially when you consider that Bertuzzi is a repeat offender. As NHL fans may recall, Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore's career with maybe the dirtiest sucker punch in NHL history. Bertuzzi received a huge suspension for the incident.

Cooke could make the same argument. When he elbowed McDonagh's head, he didn't make any striking motion or deliver a vicious hit. He raised his elbow as he skated by to clip the man's head. I'm not saying that makes it OK, in fact, I'm saying the complete opposite. Stupidity should not be a defense.

Maybe Bertuzzi didn't mean to elbow Johnson in the head. No one but Bertuzzi knows his intent. But if the NHL really cares about eliminating dangerous head shots, shouldn't reckless plays be punished too?

And what exactly has Bertuzzi done to redeem himself? Everyone deserves a second chance, and Bertuzzi seemed sincere in his apologies for the Moore incident, but there were no columns on SI or ESPN today crying for Bertuzzi to be kicked out of the league like there was for Cooke. The man has a history of intentionally trying to hurt people, just like Cooke. It's the same situation, but the reactions are completely opposite for the two players.

Are members of the media, let's just use Scott "Ginger" Burnside as an example, going to now call out Henrik Zetterberg to be accountable for his own players the way the media called out Mario Lemieux when he criticized the NHL for not taking dangerous plays serious enough? If you missed it, Zetterberg said Cooke should be suspended for the remainder of the season and the playoffs after his most recent hit on McDonagh. So far, I haven't hear anyone calling Zetterberg a hypocrite the way people attacked Lemieux.

It's as if the NHL takes one step forward (Cooke suspension) on eliminating dangerous plays that have no place in the game, but then take two steps back when they are not consistent with handing down punishments.

Bruce Springsteen - One Step Up

ESPN loves cricket

By Jeff

ESPN doesn't try to hide it's disinterest in hockey. Their top analyst was a career 84-108 as a head coach, and that was with Wayne Gretzky on the roster.

Anyway, they never feature the NHL on their programming or Web site. They will put spring training scores across the top of as the feature item before they put NHL scores that have playoff implications.

In fairness to ESPN, hockey is more of niche sport. The mainstream doesn't really like hockey. It's hard for people outside Pittsburgh and Detroit these days to realize that, but it's true.

But I'm pretty sure the NHL is more popular in this country than cricket, which was the featured score this morning.

I realize this isn't a big deal, but I just couldn't help but call it to someone's attention.


Bob Seger - Turn the Page (Metallica sucks)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Where are Fleury haters hiding, what are their modivations?

By Jeff

The tricky thing about Pittsburgh Penguins fans who hate Marc-Andre Fleury is that they never really go away. They just find dark places to hide in when the goalie plays well.

Of course, these dark places have very easy to locate exits, as their occupants take to the streets very quickly if Fleury hits a rough patch. Maybe they are in abandoned fire stations or Leaps and Bounds, where fun exit slides and poles are in abundance.
If he wasn't so nice,
Fleury would tell haters to suck it.

No matter where these characters are, I hope they stay put.

Fleury was named the team's MVP this weekend and has the full support of his teammates coaches. Dan Bylsma didn't have to say Fleury deserved to be in consideration for the Hart Trophy this season, but he did just that after yesterday's shootout-win against the Florida Panthers.

While I think it's a bit much to name him the MVP of the league, Fleury should definitely be in the running for the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the league's top netminder. He is the main reason the Pens are fighting for the top seed in the East. Voters might shy away from him because he is apart of the Penguins, who were expected to do well this year, but they shouldn't.

Fleury started out the year rough, but he has stepped up in a big way when the team has needed him most. With Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each missing about half the season, and Brooks Orpik missing a month, and just about every center on the team going down at some point, Fleury has been their to answer the call.

Whether it's in regulation or the shootout, Fleury has kept the Pens in countless games that they would have lost if he wasn't their goalie.

Those Fleury haters not in hiding, (All three of them) will say that the great play of the defense is the reason for Fleury's improvement. While they are right, the defense is playing great in front of Fleury, it's a two-way street. For all the times the defense has helped Fleury out of tight jams, he has been there to bail them out as well.

Just look at what happened when the team's best defenseman and healthy leader, Orpik, went down for a month. The team is right where they were when he left because Fleury has played out of his mind more often than not. The team was right behind Philadelphia for the East, and that's where they are right now.

How many other goalies that lost their top sources for goal support and their top defenseman for long stretches of the season? And how many have thrived in that situation?

The answer is one, and his name is Fleury.

Take that, haters.

Degeneration X Theme Song

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Looking back at bold Pens predictions from September

By Jeff

Back in September I stole a page from Matthew Berry and made some bold predictions regarding the Pittsburgh Penguins. Looking back, I aimed high and crashed very hard on almost all of them. Let's review this debacle.

  • Sidney Crosby will win the Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophies - 
What really happened: Crosby had me looking like a genius for half the season. He had around 10 more points than the next guy and was the unanimous MVP. Then the Winter Classic came and you know the rest.
  • Evgeni Malkin will return to being a 100-point player
What really happened: Malkin wasn't playing up to his potential even before he destroyed his knee. Hmmm. Seems like I kinda jinxed the team. Sorry.
  • Paul Martin will score 10 goals and 50 points this season
What really happened: Well, the season isn't over yet, but I think it's safe to say Martin won't reach these milestones. Should have gone with Kris Letang!
  • Max Talbot, Asham and Matt Cooke will be the best third line in hockey
What really happened: The third line seems like it changed every game, yet I don't think these three were ever on the ice together. I really thought the trio would be wreck havoc on every team, but Talbot went to suck, Asham was relegated to fourth line when healthy and Cooke became the most hated player in the league.
  • Eric Tangradi will score 20 goals
What really happened: Like Malkin, Tangradi wasn't playing well even when he was healthy. Then he was blindsided by Trevor Gillies' elbow. I should never make predictions again.
  • The Pens will sweep the season series against the Philadelphia Flyers
What really happened: This one fell apart on the first game of the season! Frick!
  • Marc-Andre Fleury will start the All-Star Game
What really happened: This did happen. I'm brilliant.
  • Someone will tackle the dancing "Cotton-Eyed Joe" ginger
What really happened: I've only been to one game, so I can't confirm or deny that he has been tackled.
  • Mike's siblings will get tickets to games when Mike should have gotten them
What really happened: This probably happened, I just wasn't told about it. 
  • The Pens will beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 in the Conference Finals
What really happened: TBD
  • The Pens will beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 in the Stanley Cup Finals
What really happened: TBD
    • Fleury will win the Conn Smyth to avenge last year's playoffs debacle
    What really happened: TBD

    For those of you keeping track at home, I made 12 predictions and only two came true. There is potential for three more to happen, but that would still leave me at less than 50 percent. Whatever.

      Pirates make smart move, name Correia Opening Day starter

      By Jeff

      The Pittsburgh Pirates today named Kevin Correia their Opening Day starter and said Paul Maholm will start the home opener.

      Correia was terrible last year and is 1-2 this spring with a 6.38 ERA. Not exactly ace material, so why is this a good move? Simple. If you are a avid reader of this blog you might remember this post about how the past 10 Pirates Opening Day starters went on to terrible seasons.

      Well, it was my fear that the Buccos would throw James McDonald out there for Opening Day, setting him up to be terrible for the rest of the season. Fortunately, the team must have read the blog and decided that it would be best to make Correia the sacrificial lamb. If someone if going to be terrible this year, you want it to be someone you expect nothing from.
      Only in Pittsburgh does a 5.40 ERA the previous year
       earn you the ball on Opening Day.

      Correia has little trade value and is just filling space until the Pirates' top prospects are ready to jump to the big leagues. McDonald and Ross Ohlendorf have the potential to be good. The choice was obvious to throw Correia to the wolves.

      In all seriousness (Well, everything above is serious. Just look at recent history and you'll see it's not just a cooky theory.), is there a worse Opening Day starter in the bigs this year than Correia? Opening Day is the most exciting day in baseball. It's the time where everyone is 0-0 and technically has a shot at the playoffs. Optimism is high for all teams, even the Pirates. It's the game where you usually throw out your ace pitcher. Yet here are the Bucs going with Correia.


      The man's spring stats certainly don't warrant this honor. Correia was 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.49 WHIP last season, so it's not like he earned the start from that performance.

      Clearly the Pirates don't want to jinx one of their younger pitchers with potential for decent years by giving them the dreaded Opening Day start. You may not agree with a lot of the Pirates' moves, but this one was a no-brainer.

      The Beach Boys - I Get Around

      Monday, March 21, 2011

      Cooke putting Pens in tough spot

      By Jeff

      Until a newspaper or sports publication hires me, I'm a homer. The Pittsburgh Penguins are my favorite sports team in the world. But even I can't defend Matt Cooke's hit on New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh Sunday.

      Cooke's elbow to McDonagh's head was blatant and dangerous. And it came at probably the worst time in the grand scheme of things.

      I won't say it cost the Pens the game. They scored a shorthanded goal and the Rangers didn't get going until Matt Niskanen got sent off for a double-minor high-sticking penalty. The high-stick was questionable as the Rangers player lifted Niskanen's stick into his own face. Anyway, the Cooke penalty gave the Rangers momentum, but to say it cost the Pens the game would be a bit dramatic.

      Unfortunately, Cooke's elbow comes on the heels of Mario Lemieux and Ray Shero calling for the NHL to do more to protect players. It allows critics of Lemieux and Shero jump all over the Pens because they employ Cooke. Which then turns more people against the Pens and takes their attention away from actually cleaning up the game.

      What was the man thinking? He can't claim he was just finishing a check. You don't pop your elbow out at someone's head to finish a check. It's understood that Cooke is the most effective when he plays on the edge, but that wasn't on the edge. That hit was just stupid and served no purpose than to take a cheap shot at another player.

      While the hit was indefensible, I'm never going to be one of those people that say the Pens need to get rid of Cooke. He helps this team a lot more than he hurts them. And last I checked, the other 29 teams in the league employ similar players. Guys that play with a chip on their shoulders and tend to cross the line.

      Cooke needs to change the way he plays. That's clear. He can't keep taking stupid penalties. Even when he makes clean plays, there is a good chance officials will flag him because of his reputation. Lemieux, Shero and Dan Bylsma need to sit down and have a long chat with Cooke about his future. He can play balls to wall, but he needs to know when to ease up. His past two incidents could have very easily been avoided. They served no purpose. They were bad judgments.

      The team shouldn't get rid of Cooke for his play, but you also couldn't blame them if they did for the situations he has put the team through in the past 12 months.

      Rise Against - Give it All

      Friday, March 18, 2011

      Pirates will suck in 2011

      By Jeff

      Let's not pull any punches when it comes to the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates. They are going to have a long, painful season.


      The season begins in two weeks from today, and the team still doesn't have a fifth starter. Well, they don't really have any starters. James McDonald was once a highly regarded prospect, but he isn't a real No. 1 the Pirates will use him as this season. Paul Maholm had ERA higher than 5 last season, Ross Ohlendorf is a No. 4 guy, Charlie Morton has yet to put his game together, and Kevin Correia stunk last year and is having a terrible spring.
      Rumor has it, The Pirates could have traded
      Maholm for Alex Rios a few years ago. Oops.

      It's normal for teams to have question marks at the No. 4 and 5 spots of a rotation. Having red flags at all five slots is asking for disaster.


      The poor starting pitching is really frustrating when you look at the potential the lineup has. It actually has a chance to be decent to good this year!

      Jose Tabata had a good rookie campaign last season. If he can hit near .300 again, the table will be set for Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones and Lyle Overbay.

      OK, so most people outside of Pittsburgh won't recognize the names above, let alone get a little excited about them. But the truth is the top of this lineup can do some damage. Other than Tabata, they all have 20-homer power. The problem is Alvarez is the only one in the group with the potential to hit 30+ home runs any time soon.

      Ronny Cedeno and Chris Snyder are not going to do anything to help the offense on a consistent basis, but six out of eight non-pitchers spots isn't too bad.

      I'm not saying it's a championship caliber lineup, but it's one of the better ones this team has had in a while. They will get in funks, as they're young, but they will be exciting. McCutchen and Tabata could steal more than 30 bases apiece and they're going to take a lot of extra bases on hits to the outfield. Alvarez is a year older, and Walker hit higher than .300 last year. It's OK to get pumped to see this lineup.


      Unfortunately, defense is a little iffy with this squad. Overbay and McCutchen are excellent defenders, but that's it. Tabata is good, but fans still need to see how he handles a full season in the expansive left field of PNC Park. Alvarez is destined for first base, Jones/Matt Diaz are eh in right field, Walker is still learning second and Ronny Cedeno is one of the most inconsistent fielders I've ever seen. One play he will look like a young Jack Wilson, but then the next he looks like Hanley Ramirez with errors all over the diamond. Snyder is an upgrade over Ryan Doumit, but so would one of those nets that you throw a ball into and it bounces back.


      I'm not going to pretend I have a clue what this bullpen will do. Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek are good, but I haven't seen the rest of them pitch much. They are going to need to be good, as they are going to be called upon early and often with this starting rotation.


      Clint Hurdle has received nothing but glowing reviews from players and people covering this team. He is completely different than John Russell and Jim Tracy. He has fire and shows emotion. But that doesn't mean he will help this team win.

      It's almost unfair to say the manager of the Buccos is good or bad at his job. The Marx brothers made a great point in their latest post about the Lloyd McClendon era Pirates in that it would be hard for any manager, no matter his pedigree, to win with the talent they're given.

      What is unfair to bring up is that Hurdle was fired by the Colorado Rockies, replaced by Tracy and then the Rockies went on a tear. Different players respond differently to different coaches. Just because Tracy works in Colorado and Hurdle didn't except for one season, doesn't mean that Hurdle can't succeed in Pittsburgh.

      Of course, the talent Hurdle has around him right now means he can't succeed in Pittsburgh.

      Mega Man 2 Theme

      Wednesday, March 16, 2011

      Change NCAA Tournament back to 64

      By Jeff

      Adding three play-in games to the NCAA Basketball Tournament was really stupid.

      I'm sorry. I meant to say the new first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Apparently, league officials don't like the term "play-in game" because it makes it sound like the teams competing in them are not really in the tournament. But let's be honest, if a team is playing to make the 64-field tournament we all know and love, they probably don't deserve to be there and are wasting our time.

      What was the point of expanding the tournament from 64 teams? Simple. Money. Expansion allowed the NCAA to negotiate more lucrative television contracts. They didn't do it because they thought more teams deserved a chance at the National Championship or to raise the level of competition.

      You would think the NCAA would at least come up with a logical setup. Instead, we have teams competing for the No. 12 seed in one region and the No. 11 seed in another region.

      How does that work? Teams that didn't deserve to be one of the top 64 teams will get higher seeds than other teams that made the 64-team field without play-in games. I can imagine there are some pretty upset 12, 13 and 14 seeds. And they have every right to be upset. Why should they have to play higher seeded teams than two teams that would not have made the tournament if it was still just 64 teams?

      By the way, I know it was 65. I never really counted the play-in game before either. At least I'm consistent.

      The tournament itself will still be great. It always is. But the NCAA needs to stop making stupid changes.

      I'm not saying don't ever change March Madness. There are always ways to make things better. Let's make the selection process more transparent so fans know exactly why UAB had an opportunity to dance while Virginia Tech was at home. Just telling us that one team didn't get enough votes isn't enough. Why didn't they get enough votes? Who didn't vote for them, but did vote for another team in question?

      Expansion could even be a good change if it's done right. Make all the winners 16 seeds. It might make for some unusually challenging games for No. 1 seeds, but wouldn't that be better for the fans than watching the one-sided affairs these games usually produce?

      The tournament wasn't perfect before, but the changes this year are lame.

      Speaking of the tournament, there is still time to register a team in the SDEE March Madness Challenge. Click the link here and join a private group. The group ID is 132586 and the password is sdee2011. Winner gets $10 if we get 20 people!

      Dropkick Murphys - Finnegan's Wake

      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

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

      2005 Pittsburgh Pirates

      By Marks and Lil Marks

      The 2005 season was a roller coaster ride for the Pirates. Jason Bay became the first player in franchise history to hit for a .300 average, 40 doubles, 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs, and 20 steals in a season. He also nearly set an MLB record for most stolen bases in a season without being caught stealing. Bay was tied for the record, stealing 21 for 21, until he was picked off on the third to last game of the year. Zach Duke put together an exceptional rookie campaign and won 20 games between AAA and the majors. The Pirates were somehow at the magical .500 mark on June 11, but then went into a heavy slump.

      The 2005 season also brought on a number of changes for the Pirates. Lloyd McClendon was fired in September and bench coach Pete Mackanin took his place as interim head coach. By the end of the year, the entire coaching staff was fired.

      Zach Duke: After an 8-2 rookie campaign where he posted a 1.81 ERA, the sky was the limit for this rookie sensation. D

      uring the next season it looked like batting practice when Duke pitched. He gave up an MLB-high 255 hits and never again finished a season with an ERA below 4.00. After the 2010 season the Pirates were able to pull off a blockbuster deal when they traded Duke to the Arizona Diamondbacks for César Valdez.

      Mark Redman: After a stellar 5-15 campaign with the Pirates, Redman joined the Kansas City Royals in 2006. He managed to go 11-10 and make the All Star team, despite having an ERA of 5.71.In 2007 Redman started the season with the Atlanta Braves, but was released after his ERA climbed to 11.63 and he was forced to undergo surgery for an ingrown toenail. Over the next few months Redman would spend time in the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, and Colorado Rockies minor league systems. Interestingly, Redman made an emergency start with the Rockies in September after Elmer Dessens suffered a hamstring injury. Ahh, the full circle of Pirates suckiness. Redman remained with the Rockies for the 2008 season, but was sent down to the minors in July. After this stint in AAA, Redman left baseball and has not since returned.

      Fun fact: In April 2008, Redman accomplished something that had not been done since 1900, he gave up 10 runs and still finished the inning.

      Another fun fact: Before each game Redman would sign a baseball “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME - PHIL 4:13” and give it to a fan.

      Tom Gorzelanny: During the 2009 season the Pirates sent a struggling Gorzelanny packing to Chicago along with John Grabow. Gorzelanny started several games for the Cubs, often jumping back and forth whenever Carlos Zambrano had to visit the bullpen to calm down his anger issues. In January 2011 the Washington Nationals acquired Gorzo from the Cubs for three prospects.

      Fun fact: Gorzelanny decided to stop throwing his curve ball in 2010.

      Because the damn thing don’t curve!

      Bryan Bullington: The first overall selection in the 2002 draft quickly accelerated through the minors and reached the majors in September 2005, only to pitch a measly 1.1 innings. Since Bullington was ready to start his career with the Pirates, he naturally underwent Tommy John surgery after the season and missed all of 2006. He came back in 2007 with a decent season in AAA, enough to earn a September call up. Bullington struggled in his three starts and lost all three games. After a bad start to the 2008 season in AAA, the Pirates released Bullington at the age of 27. Eventually the Cleveland Indians claimed him off waivers, where Bullington again failed to impress at the AAA level. The Toronto Blue Jays signed Bullington in the offseason (Rickel, did you know about this?) and he began the season in AAA, where he started to get back his rhythm. The Blue Jays were plagued with injuries to their pitching staff in April and Bullington was promoted to the Major Leagues. He would make a major league appearance before the month of September for the first time in his career. His first three outings resulted in scoreless innings of relief, but he started to falter and was sent down. Bullington signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals and put together his best AAA season with an 8-2 record and 2.82 ERA. He was brought up in May to help the bullpen, but did not fare very well. He was called up again in late July and has been in the majors ever since. His first and only major league win came against the New York Yankees, pitching 8 innings of two-hit shutout baseball. Three weeks later he was demoted to the bullpen. Following the 2010 season, the Kansas City Royals took Bullington off their 40 man roster. Bullington decided to sign with a Japanese club called the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

      Fun fact: Toyo means “heavily mutated by atomic bomb” in Japanese.

      Rick White: The only thing we really remember about Rick White is that he wore the numbers 88 and 00. After starting out with the Pirates in 1994 and 1995, White went to Tampa Bay where he settled into a relieving role. After a few years with the Devil Rays, White spent time with the Mets, Rockies, Cardinals, White Sox, Astros, and Indians before he made his triumphant return to Pittsburgh. After dominating the mound at PNC Park, White pitched for the Reds, Phillies, Astros, and Mariners.

      You’re going to pay me how much to throw a baseball? Alright, as long as it isn’t during hunting season.

      J. J. Furmaniak: Some loved him for his name, some hated him for his jersey foul (no one else is allowed to wear #66 in Pittsburgh, you idiot), but most didn't know who he was. Try telling that to his die-hard fans though.

      Furmaniak (the maniac) spent all of 2006 in AAA Indianapolis, then joined the Athletics in 2007.During the offseason he signed with the Yokohama BayStars. After his season in Japan, JJ spent the 2009 season with the Phillies’ AAA team. Furmaniak was in the Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen for the 2010 season.

      Alfredo Amézaga: After a cup of coffee with the Pirates, Amézaga signed with the Florida Marlins. He spent four years there, but his 2009 campaign was cut short due to a knee surgery. The Marlins released him after the 2009 season and he was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Amézaga missed time early in the season, but returned to their AA squad in May. He played one game and missed the rest of the season. Amézaga recently signed a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies.

      They play baseball a little differently in Mexico.

      Brad Eldred: Ahh, Big Country. The greatest first base prospect ever to grace the Pirates organization. Granted, between the minor leagues and majors he hit 40 home runs this year. But most Pirate fans will never forget that the team was offered Ryan Howard and turned it down because we had our first baseman of the future already in place. After a pretty successful 2005 season, Eldred missed the entire 2006 season. He made the opening day roster for the Pirates in 2007, but was demoted to AAA Indianapolis in May. Eldred signed with the White Sox in the offseason, where he hit 38 home runs and 100 RBI for their AAA team. Big Country signed with the Washington Nationals in the offseason, but was not as impressive in AAA this time. He signed with the Colorado Rockies for the 2010 season and was briefly called up when Todd Helton landed on the DL. This is really what ‘Where are they now?’ is all about: Brad Eldred is still in baseball. He recently signed a minor league deal with the defending champion San Francisco Giants.

      Matt Lawton: Lawton was traded to the Cubs at the deadline for the often injured Jody Gerut. He was then sent to the New York Yankees in August after he passed through waivers. In the offseason Lawton was suspended for 10 games for performance enhancing drug use. This suspension carried over to the 2006 season, where he played with the Seattle Mariners. Lawton was sent down within a month, only playing 11 games with the team.

      Michael Restovich: If you know who this man is, you are indeed a diehard Pirate fan. He appeared in 52 games and hit just .214. After the 2005 season, Restovich spent time with the Cubs, Nationals, Phillies, White Sox, and Dodgers. He has not played a game in the majors since 2007.

      Ryan Doumit: Currently a $5.1 million back up to Chris Snyder. Known for his average switch hitting and horrid defensive abilities, Pittsburgh comedian Mike Wysocki states that “he couldn’t throw out Stan Savran pushing Alby Oxenreiter in a rigshaw.” Please see exhibit A. That look on Doumit’s face is priceless.

      Matt Capps: The 2009 Pirates chose to non-tender the closer, who then signed a one year $3.5 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals. Capps would begin the 2010 season by converting his first 16 saves. At the half way point of the season, he played in the All Star game

      and got the National League’s first win in 13 years. Capps was then traded to the Twins where he would go 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA and convert 16 of 18 saves in August. The Twins made the playoffs, but Capps saw just one inning on the mound, giving up one run against the Yanks in the ALDS. Capps will likely be the setup man to Joe Nathan this upcoming season after signing a one year, $7.15 million deal with the Twins.

      He’s a big bull rider…

      Benito Santiago: The Pirates gave up future Marlins closer Leo Nunez for Santiago and only kept Benny around for his last 23 at bats. After the 2005 season he signed a minor league contract with the Mets, later opting out and retiring in 2006. Santiago, always known for his durability, was mentioned in the 2007 book Game of Shadows when the Giants’ clubhouse attendant found a pack of syringes in his locker.

      David Ross: Ross was traded to the Padres for JJ Furmaniak. The Reds signed Ross as a free agent in 2006. In 2007 Ross slumped at the beginning of the season 4 hits in first 38 at bats with 17 SO, hit into a 5-4-3 triple play against the Phillies, and finished batting .203. Ross was released from the Reds in 2008 and signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox. At the end of the 2008 season, Ross signed a 2 year deal with the Braves, which was extended another 2 years in 2010.

      Chris Duffy: After leaving the Pirates and going home due to a lack of desire to continue a career in professional sports in 2006, Duffy had a Pirates-esque season in 2007. In 2008, Duffy failed to earn a spot on the active roster and was sent to the minors after he cleared waivers. The following season Duffy signed a minor league contract with Milwaukee, getting called up for 32 at bats. In 2010, Duffy signed a minor league deal with the Phillies, where he currently is signed.

      Ray Sadler: Sadler was traded to the Pirates for Randall Simon. When he was called up at the last minute to replace an injured Craig Wilson, Lloyd McClendon mistook him for a construction worker. After three games Sadler was sent back down to the minors and remained there until 2010 when he joined an Independent League to play with the Kansas City T-Bones.

      “Oh, thank god. Are you here to work on the ceiling?”

      “No, I’m here to play left field.”

      Nate McLouth: McLouth was traded midseason for Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, and Gorkys Hernandez in 2009. Trading the 2008 All-Star, Gold Glove Award, and Roberto Clemente Award winner did not come as a surprise for Pirates fans that have seen many stars leave town in their prime before. The 2010 season was a disaster for McLouth, resulting in him being sent down to AAA in July. At that point in the season he was hitting for a .168 AVG, 3 HR, and 14 RBI. McLouth hit .234 in 34 games after being recalled August 31st. The Braves will take another shot at McLouth starting in center field this season, at least until the fans chase him out of town. While not a fan favorite in Atlanta, McLouth would be welcomed into the Aryan Brotherhood.

      Ronny Paulino: The Buccos traded Paulino to the Phillies for Jaramillo. He was traded to the Marlins two hours later. Paulino found success platooning with John Baker, but unfortunately, he received a 50-game suspension for taking weight control pills, which violated MLB banned substances policy. Ronny will back up Josh Thole on the Mets next season after he sits out the first eight games of the season for the PED suspension.

      I didn’t know “Massive Weight Gain Powder” was on the MLB banned substances list.

      In the end McClendon’s fiery managerial style was not able to rattle the cages of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In five seasons he never won more than 75 games, which is something that Gene Lamont was able to accomplish twice in his four year tenure. Nevertheless, that should never be a professional baseball team’s goal and to Lloyd’s credit, few if any coaches could have made the playoffs with the teams he had.

      Here is a look at McClendon’s tenure season by season.

      Team Year Won Lost Win % Finish

      PIT 2001 62 100 .383 6th in NL Central

      PIT 2002 72 89 .447 4th in NL Central

      PIT 2003 75 87 .463 4th in NL Central

      PIT 2004 72 89 .447 5th in NL Central

      PIT 2005 55 81 .404 6th in NL Central

      This concludes our journey of Where Are They Now? A Tribute to the Lloyd McClendon Era, we hope you all enjoyed the series. Play us out Will.

      Snell hangs up the cleats

      By Jeff

      My dad doesn't pay a lot of attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He watches when he looks up from his book, but that doesn't stop him from ripping ownership and management for making trades he thinks are salary dumps.

      It's hard to argue with him sometimes. He loves to bring up the Aramis Ramirez trade. But he also has moments that make him look silly, like when he said he thought Ian Snell was going to be really good after the Pirates traded him to the Seattle Mariners in 2009.
      It's not that confusing, Ian.
      You needed more than two pitches to succeed.

      Well, it's spring training of 2011 and Snell retired today.

      Snell, 29, ends his career with a 38-53 record, 4.80 ERA and 1.549 WHIP. He goes down as another pitcher who had one decent season, so the Pirates gave him a large contract that he never lived up to. Snell was actually good in 2007. His 9-12 record was more of the team around him and not his pitching. He had a 3.76 ERA and 1.332 WHIP that season, which were both career bests.

      Unfortunately for the Pirates and their fans, he then went to suck.

      Snell went 7-12 with a 5.42 ERA and 1.765 WHIP that season. Not exactly ace numbers, but that didn't stop the Pirates from making him their Opening Day starter the following season. Snell proceeded to follow the recent trend of Pirates Opening Day starters by pitching terribly the rest of the season. He went 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA and 1.624 WHIP with the Bucs before he was traded.

      To make matters worse, Snell also said he would never be caught living in Pittsburgh. Maybe he wanted to live somewhere warm, but that's not the way to go about saying that. He also asked to be moved down to AAA because he was sick of the negative attention he was gaining with the Pirates.

      Yeah, I don't think anyone in Pittsburgh will be missing Snell in the majors.

      Green Day - Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

      NFLPA starting to get annoying

      By Jeff

      I wrote in a previous post that it's hard to feel bad for the owners or the players in the ongoing NFL labor dispute. That's still true, but the NFLPA is starting to get on my nerves.

      NFLPA Executive Director Demaurice Smith made a very emotional and dramatic speech Friday, basically praising the players and calling the league a bunch of liars. In the statement, Smith uttered the line, "... Players who risk everything, every day, for the game they love."

      When Smith said this, my dad just happened to walk in the room and say, "Talk about a drama queen. They (NFL players) don't risk everything, every day. Soldiers in Afghanistan risk everything, every day."

      This is coming from a man who is not a fan of the greedy owners.

      I completely agreed with my dad. The players are acting like they are tragic victims in this ordeal. In actuality, they are arguring over what to do with $1 billion. That's what it all comes down to. I don't believe for a second that the 18-game schedule and the future health coverage is nearly as big of a problem in negotiations as that $1 billion.

      The NFLPA has every right to bargain. That's not what's annoying. The problem is every day we hear a player or NFLPA executive acting like the players are victims. They're not. They are making a great deal of money. NFL players face more health risks than most, but it's hard to feel bad for people who vuluntarily take those risks. While I do want the game to be safer for all involved, feeling bad for NFL players is like saying I feel bad for the guys from "Jackass". Getting beat up for others is in their job description. If they don't want to do it, they don't have to.

      Now the NFLPA is trying to encourage draft prospects to not show up at Radio City Music Hall for the draft in April. Take that, NFL! They are proposing that the top college players attend the NFLPA's separate shindig that would be equally fun.


      I don't get it. Is that a way to stick it to the NFL? People will still watch and pay attention to Roger Goodell announcing the names. Viewers will probably prefer not seeing 17-20 guys walk up to the podium and get a jersey and hat. Hell, Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn probably wish players didn't show up the years they were drafted.

      Of course, the NFLPA (and the owners) claim that they feel sorry for the fans. What a load of crap. If the fans were the players' and owners' priority, we wouldn't be in this situation.

      The Eagles - Lying' Eyes

      Monday, March 14, 2011

      SDEE March Madness contest

      By Jeff

      We're doing a March Madness bracket contest here at SDEE. If we get enough entrants, I'm saying at least 20, I will send the winner $10. I'd say a gift card, but why limit you to where you can spend your winnings?

      The league in in Yahoo, the ID is 132568 and the password is sdee2011.

      I'd wish you luck, but I'm competing and am a selfish individual.

      Traveling Wilburys - End of the Line

      Wednesday, March 9, 2011

      Tressel got off easy, Smizik stole my thunder

      By Jeff

      I had a big post planned for today that called out Ohio State University for going easy on football coach Jim Tressel. Then I went over to the Post-Gazette's Web site and saw Bob Smizik beat me to the punch. Now I am trying to figure out if it's worse that I agree with Smizik, or that he and I share an opinion.

      Whether you agree with the NCAA's ruling that five Ohio State players, including Terrelle Pryor, will be suspended for five games next season for selling their Big Ten title paraphernalia, it's a joke that Tressel knew about the issue for months, did nothing and was only suspended for two games next season.
      Someone tell him that's not edible.

      He is supposed to be a teacher to these kids, yet he enabled them to break the rules. It doesn't matter that the rule is stupid. It's a rule and he needs to enforce it if he's aware of any violations.

      I don't buy for one minute the story Tressel is selling. He told media that he didn't punish the players in the 2010 season because benching starters would have raised other questions.

      No, benching starting players would have raised one question: "Why didn't these guys start today?"

      Tressel didn't want to have to answer this question and was hoping everything would blow over. If you read the story, he never apologized once in his press conference for concealing information from the NCAA or Ohio State. No, Tressel wanted to win games and maybe a National Championship, which he couldn't do if he benched the players in question.

      The biggest joke of this violation is Tressel is only getting two games, while his players get five. Tressel is making millions per season. That $250,000 fine and two games against Akron and Toledo are nothing.  His punishment should match his players'.

      I get that they made the original mistake, but Tressel was alerted to it and did nothing. He could have sent the right message by upholding the rules of the NCAA. Instead, he is sending the message that it's OK to ignore a problem and hope it goes away.

      The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace of God

      Tuesday, March 8, 2011

      David Steckel sucks

      By Jeff

      In case you can't tell, I don't have much to talk about right now.

      I missed the Pens game Saturday, so I can't tell you how awesome if appears to have been (No DVR. Sorry), I have yet to see a Pirates spring training game, and the constant NFL news regarding the CBA is really boring.

      So I could have had a post about how the Pens will be getting some reinforcements soon, how Bob Smizik is a Debbie Downer, or how the Pittsburgh Power season kicks off soon. But all that stuff has been played out and there is nothing new I can contribute.
      Not seen in this photo is Steckel clocking this kid
       in the head as Steckel runs out the door for chicken nuggets.

      Instead, I was browsing and looked at the stats page. It was then that I really started missing Sidney Crosby and felt cheated of the spectacular season that David Steckel destroyed.

      Despite missing 26 games this season, Crosby is tied for eighth in points with 66, is fifth in goals with 32, and tied for fifth in power play goals with 10.

      Just to put that in perspective, Crosby was on pace for 132 points, 64 goals and 20 power play goals this season. Wow. The points would have been the most by a player since Mario Lemieux went off for 161 in the 1995-1996 season.

      Damn you, Steckel.

      Carbon Leaf - Life Less Ordinary

      Thursday, March 3, 2011

      Reilly takes NFL owners to task

      By Jeff

      Rick Reilly isn't always right, the perfect example is his column bashing the male wrestler from Iowa who refused to wrestle a girl because of his beliefs. But you can never say that Reilly pulls his punches. If he doesn't like what someone is doing, he pulls no punches in telling them.

      His latest column rips the owners of the NFL. You can read it here.

      The best point he makes in the column is how a lockout will affect stadium employees and the economies of cities with NFL teams. It's a very interesting read.

      Aerosmith - Eat the Rick

      Pens send league message

      By Jeff

      That message is not that the team is in deep trouble if Sidney Crosby doesn't return this season. While that may be true, you will never hear the team surrender or say they can't win without their star.

      No, the message the Pittsburgh Penguins are sending their critics, both in the NHL and outside of it, is that Matt Cooke is an important part of their team and they don't care what anyone thinks of them for employing him.
      Any player who does this to
      Alfredsson is OK in my book.

      The proof is in the letter on Cooke's jersey the past two games. Cooke has been wearing the "A" after Brooks Orpik was knocked out for four weeks with a broken finger. The team is already without their captain (Crosby) and one of their alternates (Evgeni Malkin). Orpik, Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz were then bearing the "A", but Orpik and Kunitz are out, so Cooke gets it.

      If this team had any concern what the league thought of them for employing Cooke they wouldn't give him a leadership position. But Cooke is an important part of the team and head coach Dan Bylsma and owner Mario Lemieux don't care that the rest of the league thinks Cooke doesn't belong in the league.

      It was the right choice for the Pens. Cooke was a captain for the Vancouver Canucks for a bit when he played up there, and is a leader in the Pens locker room.

      You could also argue that there is no one else on the team worthy of the "A". After Cooke, there are not a lot of players who have been on the team more than a year or weren't just called up from the AHL this season.


      It's a good way to show Cooke the team supports him despite all the hate that has been thrown his way the past year.

      UFO - Lights Out in London

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011

      Reviewing Charlie "Winning" Sheen's career

      By Jeff

      Everyone is talking about Charlie Sheen nowadays. The man may be certifiably insane. He has a wife, well until May, yet has two live-in girlfriends, one of which is a porn star. He parties like crazy and has a god complex, and he doesn't give a crap what anyone thinks of him.

      Many men probably view him as a hero, while women probably despise him, unless they are in his presence, then they instantly realize he is a winner and they can be winners too.

      That's all I'm going to say about his personal life, because you can go anywhere to get opinions on that. The rest of this post is going to be looking at his film career. Why? Because he made some awesome movies in a career that has basically spanned my lifetime. And until the past couple years, I never knew he was such a drug-crazed loose cannon. I mostly look at his major films because he made a lot that I never even knew about, but appear to have sucked.
      Reports say Sheen didn't need any makeup
      for his scene in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".

       IMDB was used to get his filmography.

      "Red Dawn" (1984): Sheen started his career off with a bang. This classic starred Sheen and Patrick Swayze as brothers in high school who led a band of guerilla fighters against a Soviet invasion. It was all kinds of awesome. The remake will probably suck unless Sheen makes an appearance and gives a pep talk to the guerillas about the importance of winning. Wolverines!

      "The Boys Next Door" (1985): Sheen's character and his buddy graduate school and then go on a road trip that includes assaulting and/or killing a bunch of people. Nothing to see here. But how was he supposed to follow up a classic like "Red Dawn"?

      "Lucas" (1986): OK, the movie pretty much sucked. Corey Haim was a nerd that fell in love with a hotty (Kerri Green, and then got crushed in a football game because the coach put him in and he took his helmet off to try and make a catch. Anyway, Sheen was in it and hooked up with Green's character. These are pains all actors go through. It's rare to show up on the scene and only get awesome gigs. Then again, can you get lower than co-starring in a movie where Corey Haim is the lead? Maybe Sheen had not developed his winning gene yet.

      "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986): Sheen just made a cameo in the police department. Awesome movie, but not because of him.

      "The Wraith" (1986): Never saw it. Never will after reading this IMDB description. "Jake is killed by neighborhood thugs, and returns as a mystical figure (The Wraith) to gain revenge." Seems like Sheen was firmly in his drug habit at this point and had completely lost the ability to say no.

      "Platoon" (1986): How the hell did Sheen go from "The Wraith" to this, one of the greatest war movies out there. Sheen was great in this a young recruit faced with the horrors of the Vietnam War. The best scene of the movie was stolen by Willem Dafoe running through the jungle with what seemed like the entire Viet Cong shooting him, but you can't hold that against Sheen. Although, you could say this was kind of like Sheen trying to be like his father, Martin Sheen, who starred in the greatest Vietnam movie ever made, "Apocalypse Now". Either way, it's good and it was Sheen's big break.

      The next four movies were all terrible movies that didn't rate above six on IMDB. Hmm. Maybe "Platoon" wasn't the big break. I'm thinking 1986 was the year he really got hooked on drugs and just couldn't say no to anything in this timeframe.

      "Wall Street" (1987): And he's back! I've never heard anyone say anything bad about this movie. But once again, Sheen's performance was overshadowed by his co-star, this time it was Michael Douglas telling us about greed that stole the show.

      "Young Guns" (1988): Sheen's character was supposed to be the leader of the gang, but then Emilio Estevez showed up as Billy The Kid and stole the gang out from under Sheen. I wonder if it bothers Sheen that he was killed off while Estevez went on to star in the sequel. Well, I've seen "Young Guns II" and I think Sheen was probably more than happy to let his brother have the spotlight. It sucked.

      "Major League" (1989): The Wild Thing is one of the greatest sports movie characters of all time. The guy didn't wear sleeves on his tux! Can you be any more badass? I would say no.

      You'd think Sheen would follow this up with some solid flicks, but no, he went back to suck for the next seven movies. One of which was "Men at Work", which was not a biography of the Australian band of the same name, but a movie about him and his friend, played by his brother, who were garbage men that disrupt a crime ring.

      "Hot Shots" (1991): OK, this should go in the suck column. It tried to be "The Naked Gun" and it wasn't.

      "Major League II" (1994): Wild Thing had sleeves. Stupid.

      "Money Talks" (1997): This was the last good movie Sheen made. It's sad that a career that started off so promising went to hell because he just seemed to say yes to every movie that was pitched to him. Sheen and Chris Tucker were hilarious in this movie. The climax is incredible with lots of stupid, funny violence. Remember when Chris Tucker was funny?

      I'm sorry I didn't get in-depth on all 66 of his movies. I just didn't have the time or the patience to tear into the bunch of crappy movies I've seen and give the ridiculous plot summaries from IMDB for the movies I haven't seen. The man made seven movies in 1986 alone!

      Whatever. Sheen is awesome. He said so himself.

      Elton John - Tiny Dancer

      More bad news for Pitt football

      By Jeff just released a report that did background checks on all of the Division I football players from last season. They found that the University of Pittsburgh Panthers led the NCAA with 22 players on the team with criminal records.

      The full story is here.

      Penn State ranked No. 4 with 16 players with criminal records.

      The most interesting part of the report was that most of these colleges don't do any kind of criminal background checks or look at juvenile records. It's an interesting read and points out some major flaws in recruiting process.

      The Clash - I Fought the Law

      Tuesday, March 1, 2011

      Steelers don't dance

      By Jeff

      Hines Ward's decision to participate in this season's "Dancing With the Stars" is going to upset a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans. These yinzers think the 35-year-old needs to be training for next season, even if there might not be a next season.

      I'm torn on the matter. One side thinks that the yinzers are right and Ward shouldn't be wasting time on a reality television show. Especially when one considers that Ward had one of his worst seasons as a starter last year with 59 catches for 755 yards and five touchdowns. The 59 catches was the least Ward has had since 2000. And now he wants to go show off his dancing skills.
      I'd rather see Ward hit than dance.

      The other side recognizes that Ward has earned the right to do whatever he wants when he's not playing football. If the man wants to dance, let him dance.

      The uncertainty of next year's season also is a factor. If there is no season, then no one should have a problem with Ward tangoing or whatever it is they do on the show. It might be the only paycheck he gets in 2011.

      But then there is the symbol of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can you imagine Mean Joe Greene or Jack Lambert dancing on a reality show? As funny as that image may be, it would never happen. Steelers fans firmly hold on to the idea that the Steelers are held to higher standard than the rest of the league. The team is supposed to always do what is right and best for the team. These fans tend to shake off the James Harrison's domestic violence problem from a few years back, the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault accusations and other disciplinary problems some of the organization's players have had, but that's neither here nor there.

      The point is that many Steelers fans think the team is made of a different stock that should represent the city's blue collar identity. This identity does not include dancing for others' entertainment, so they are going to disappointed in Ward.

      While I'd rather Ward not participate, I can't blame him either. Of course, I'm also selfish and want him to lose as soon as possible so he is fresh for the season. If there is one.

      Bee Gees - You Should Be Dancing