ST. LOUIS — I think Joe Paterno is on to something.
As punishment for a recent late-night brawl which involved a few players, Paterno will make the entire team clean up the trash at Beaver Stadium after every home game this season. Considering the Nittany Lions draw 110,000 for every game, that’s a lot of discarded cups and hot dog wrappers to gather.
Now, the Pirates have not gone on any midnight escapades (at least, none involving the police). But the way they blew a 7-1 lead Saturday against Arizona was damn near criminal. So, maybe everyone — including manager Jim Tracy — should have been issued one of those nuclear-powered leaf blowers the clean-up crews use at PNC Park.
Do that, and I betcha we would have seen some serious hittin’ the next day against Randy Johnson.
Then again, considering the size of some of the crowds at PNC Park this season — the Pirates are averaging barely 19,000 — it might not be much of a punishment. How much trash can there be, if the stadium’s half-empty? (Hmm … in that case, I don’t suppose Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt will be taking a cue from Paterno, either.)
Now, about that Saturday game against Arizona …
In the fifth inning, the Pirates were up 7-2 when Xavier Nady reached third base with one out. Pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, who had struggled in the previous inning, was due up.
I figured Gorzelanny was done. A team that’s struggled much of the season at the plate has got to try to pile on every run it can, right? Wrong.
Tracy opted not to use a pinch-hitter. Gorzelanny struck out. Nady was stranded at third. Gorzelanny pitched the sixth inning, then, turned the game over to the bullpen.
After Gozelanny’s whiff, I turned to Trib columnist Joe Starkey and said, “You watch, Joe. That’s gonna bite them. They’re gonna lose this game by a run.”
Why not burn some bullpen? Gorzelanny already was closing in on 100 pitches, and had lost his edge. At most, he was going to give them one more inning. Monday was an off day, so there was plenty of time for the relievers to rest up. Worst-case scenario: Tony Armas, who tossed just three innings in his final start two days before, makes a brief appearance.
It will be interesting to watch Tracy’s managerial decisions over the next few days, in the wake of the snafus against the Diamondbacks. No one in the clubhouse or front office has admitted — out loud, that is — that brining in Marty McLeary to pitch to Tony Clark was a gigantic mistake. However, there was a non-verbal admission of guilt the next day, when McLeary was demoted to Class AAA Indianapolis.
Good enough to pitch with the game on the line one day, not even good enough to play in the majors the next.
No to play Tuesday Night Quarterback or anything, but here’s an idea: Why not use Salomon Torres in that spot. As the closer, Torres is the guy the Pirates turn to when they absolutely, positively must have an out when the game’s on the line. Well, the game was on the line when Clark pinch-hit in the seventh inning.
McLeary gave up a game-tying grand slam. I’m guessing things might have gone differently with Torres on the hill.
This is not the 1927 Yankees. Sometimes, it wouldn’t hurt to think outside the box — I’m talking, a completely different zip code — when formulating strategy.