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Wakeup Call: High-octane coach

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> Spent a good amount of time yesterday morning with Todd Graham, Pitt’s new coach, and I can assure you before the season’s first meaningful snap Saturday that this “high octane” stuff isn’t just for show. I’m the one walking around with a Starbucks cup in my hand all the time, and he’s the one who’s totally wired.

There’s a discipline in place that includes which is the in and which is the out door to the South Side eating area — coach’s orders — but it feels like it’s more about the pace. The same way these guys practice, very animated, very vocally, is pretty much the same way Graham keeps things off the field. He walks fast, talks fast, buzzes from door to door, and you can see a lot of the players doing the same thing.

I know it’s just Buffalo, but I am really interested to see how — or if — this plays out on the field. Teams do take on their coach’s traits, but this would be a whopper.

More on Graham in a column later this week.

>> My Wednesday column is about the Pirates’ goals for September. And no, it’s not just a flippant suggestion to flip the calendar.

>> The Pirates are no easier to watch now than in 2010. When you’re getting smacked around by the Brewers, that’s one thing. The Astros are a .333 team still on pace for 107 losses. This is awful.

>> That said, I’ll reiterate that I have no issue with the ticket-price increase. The Pirates’ prices currently are 33 percent lower than Cincinnati’s, 44 percent lower than Milwaukee’s and about 100 percent lower than St. Louis’. Those are market peers and, more important, those are divisional peers. It’s been a decade, and this was long ago overdue.

Now, let’s see what they do with it at the major-league level.

>> Are you OK with the Steelers resting a lot of guys for the final exhibition?

Ben Roethlisberger, for example, will go 15 days without taking a snap in anger by the time the opener arrives in Baltimore. I know this is how they always do it, and I know the risk of injury, but there’s a small part of me that thinks it wouldn’t hurt to push the ball once down the field in Charlotte tomorrow.

>> Speaking of Ben, our Scott Brown spent some one-on-one time with the QB yesterday.

38 Comments

  1. John Bowker has been traded to the Phillies, according to reports. Unclear who the Bucs get in return…

    Bowker will join the Philllies for tonight’s game, making him eligible for postseason play.

  2. JAL’s Bristol Stomp Morning Links

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

  3. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES

    10 Centre Daily Times

    High pick to join Spikes

    http://www.centredaily.com/2011/08/31/2895518/high-pick-to-join-spikes.html

    11 Houston Chronicle

    Astros 8, Pirates 2: Rookies lead the way in third straight win

    http://blog.chron.com/ultimateastros/2011/08/30/astros-8-pirates-2-rookies-lead-the-way-in-third-straight-win/

    12 Charleston Daily Mail

    Power concludes 2011 home schedule with loss

    http://www.dailymail.com/Sports/201108310002

    13 Bradenton Times

    Marauders Playoff Bound with 6-3 Win

    http://www.thebradentontimes.com/news/2011/08/31/sports/marauders_playoff_bound_with_6_3_win/

  4. SPORTS WEBSITES

    14—PBC Site

    Morton, Leroux falter in costly sixth inning

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_08_30_pitmlb_houmlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=pit

    Blass, Frattare on ballot for Frick Award

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110830&content_id=23953562&notebook_id=23959408&vkey=notebook_pit&c_id=pit

    Astros aim to complete three-game sweep of Bucs

    Astros aim to complete three-game sweep of Bucs

    15 Bleacher Report

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Why Roberto Clemente Is One of MLB’s Most Underrated

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/828480-pittsburgh-pirates-why-roberto-clemente-is-one-of-mlbs-most-underrated

    16-CBS Sports

    Pirates-Astros Game Preview

  5. One comment about the Big Ben question. This happens at the bye week every year as well. i dont mind him playing or not playing, but the bye week presents the same situation.

  6. DK,
    Nice article about the Bucs this morning. I agree with just about everything you wrote (except I don’t think they should bring Doumit back).

    Two points that I do take issue or question

    1) “And, given this management’s miserable track record with shortstops — they wouldn’t recognize Ozzie Smith if he did a backflip on Federal Street — I strongly recommend outsourcing the task.”
    WOW, you just won’t let go of that. It seems like you mention it once a week. And before you go and list the shortstops brought in here since 2008 (as you did last week during the chat), I believe most of those players were not brought in to be starters. It seems like Bobby Crosby was the only one brought in to play the most — possibly to split time with Cedeno.

    2) “especially if management is low-balling McCutchen as it did with the offer that Tabata stunningly accepted.”
    Do you know if the offer to McCutchen was a low-ball offer? Did Cutch classify it as such? Or were you just using that term in putting the offer in the same class as Tabata’s?

    I agree that Pedro has to go to Winter Ball or the AZ Fall League.

    DK: Someone brought in to play shortstop should be capable of playing shortstop, starter or backup. As for Cutch, the point of disagreement is money, so clearly it’s lower than the player wants. Since none of us outside the loop knows the precise amount of money, the “if” was used in the purest sense of the term.

  7. TC–I agree with your first statement, including not bringing Doumit back. I don’t have any problem with DK’s SS comment or comments relating to “lowballing” Cutch. On the latter, he said “if” they lowballed Cutch like they did Tabata (they did) then it’s understandable why they are far apart. That’s a fair statement. I also like the idea that signing Walker, too, would put some pressure on Cutch. Pretty balanced IMO regarding something we don’t know the details about. To add one little thing, DK seems to have a pretty good relationship with Cutch, so some of that reading between the lines thing may be in order.

  8. DK,
    Good piece on the remainder of the season. I like your Biblical reference on Meek inheriting the 8th. I pray he inherits more than that. A few holds would be nice. I think we should keep Doumit and Maholm somehow. They’re ball players, both of them. Cedeno should be somebody’s backup, not ours.

  9. Dejan—

    I agree with your September goals times eleven! I’ll continue to READ about the progress toward those goals, but hubby and I have not subjected ourselves to train wreck viewing for awhile now. I still cannot believe the monumental collapse. It’s as if the Pirates awoke from their dream, which just a month ago was actually reality, and morphed back into the nightmare of who they’ve been for two decades. It’s schizophrenic and surreal…and painfully disappointing.

  10. Shoot, now another reason why I can’t wait for work to be over.

    So I can get home and read Dejan’s article on the Trib ;-}

    Off the top of my head, the PBC has been horrible in getting SS talent, and of course they are going to try to lowball Cutch.

  11. And in some ways, this season has been far more disappointing than last. This season we had hope. Last season we did not.

  12. Arribba,
    What I don’t like is the reading between the lines part. Was it a low ball offer or not.
    I understand the use of the word “if” —-and if DK is going to use it then maybe he should include some extra info, such as “I don’t know if that is the case or not”.

    Plus the offer made to Cutch may be an offer that is not low ball, just not what Cutch wants at this time.

  13. Why wouldn’t they lowball Cutch? Walker, too. Isn’t that business in this day and age? Neal is probably a big fan of Pawn Stars and Auction Hunters.

  14. And, TC, if we knew the exact figures we might not agree on whether it was “lowball” or not. Seems like a fair statement in any event, merely by use of the term “if” (which many ignore) and the one fact we do know–Tabata’s contract. I think the main point was “keep trying” and there may be more opportunity once/if Walker signs.

  15. Sorry, but I’m not buying that this season has become as much of a disappointment as 2010. Look at the roster…it’s not that different from last year’s. Yet, even if they just win 10 of their last 27, they improve on last season’s record by 15 wins.

    I know they were in first place, but let’s be realistic.

  16. sadly, that’s probably about what they will do

  17. I consider this year to be worse than 2010. Since the All-Star break the Pirates are playing at a .318 pace — that is a 110 loss pace over a full year. I expected to see continued progression not such a serious regression. How can anyone think at this point that this roster is capable of achieving a .500 record, much less competing for a division title? More concerning, our farm system is rated in the bottom half or bottom third amongst all MLB clubs. Prospects are simply prospects, and since our top prospects are at very low levels, the risk is high that they will not attain success at the MLB level. A lot of money and the future promise of the organization is tied up in 5 players — Taillon, Allie, Heredia, Bell and Cole. Otherwise all we really have is more decent average, no-power outfielders. That is very concerning!

  18. http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/08/braves-acquire-matt-diaz.html

    Matt Diaz traded to the Braves, who apparently are assuming the full balance of the two-year contract.

  19. What will we do for home run power now?

  20. Yep, Diaz traded for PTNL or cash

  21. Neal Huntington should be fired for the Matt Diaz signing. He should be given an extension for finding someone to take that contract.

  22. The season is officially over now…Diaz was our last hope. He’s been holding back all season.

  23. Meg,
    The Braves people are saying the Pirates are giving them some cash, too. Go ahead and fire him. Forget the extension.

  24. Would love to know how much $$$ did they have to slide in Frank Wren’s pocket to take Diaz.

    The Bowker deal seems a little odd to me. Not sure I’d be willing to throw away someone that has shown a liitle pop from his bat.

    Don’t get excited, I’m not calling Bowker a future all-star or any such craziness. Just not sure why they would deal him.

  25. Ooooh, busy today. Who’s next? Cedeno for Reyes? Pearce for Fielder, or maybe Wood for Pujols? Alvarez for Cuddyer? C’mon Neal—wheel & deal! LOL!!

  26. Sucks the Pirates lost Matt Diaz. Neal just called me to see if I was available to play. He knows I’m a righty with zero power, but he was asking me whether or not I was a “Great Team Guy”. I said no.

  27. DK says, “No need, then, to see much of Ryan Ludwick, Xavier Paul or Matt Diaz.”

    As soon as the ink is dried, Diaz is gone!
    The pen is mightier than the sword!

    Now see what you can do about getting Bucs a Major League shortstop——I don’t think you have ever mentioned that need!!

    Of course, to continue your Biblical theme, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Jesus again) The Pirates don’t have problems giving players away, blessing others . . . it’s the receiving of real players in return that they haven’t mastered yet.

  28. “As for Cutch, the point of disagreement is money, so clearly it’s lower than the player wants.”

    But DK who is saying that the offer is “lowball”? Why use that term, even with “if”?
    IF you don’t know what the offer was then why put that tag on it?
    Maybe the PIrates offered Cutch $50 million and he is wanting $60 million. That wouldn’t be lowball in my book.

  29. @Groat
    Amen to that. That word “meek” actually means “quiet strength” in the Greek, which is the New Testament’s original language. We need some noisy strength in our bats. Cutch being a minister’s son provides some, but a nice Prince, as in Fielder would get many balls loudly wet at PNC next year. We can dream, right?

  30. Awesome in the Diaz deal. Too bad we couldn’t squeeze in at least one HR from that guy before he left. The fact that we got something for him is amazing, even if it is the worst prospect on Philly’s list.

  31. Sorry, meant Atlanta. Was confusing the Bowker and Diaz deals.

  32. The first half was an aberration. The Bucs are no better than they were in 2010. The losing streak continues.

  33. Tough S,
    The first half might have been an aberration——at least according to you——but up until July 25, it was the most fun I’ve had with a deviation from the norm in 15 years!

    Get ‘em next year.

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