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Wakeup Call: A brawl beyond the backyard

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Friday column looks at Todd Graham and Dana Holgorsen, the new coaches at Pitt and West Virginia, and their mutual disdain. Could bring a whole new dimension to the Brawl.

Thanks to both gentlemen for offering one-on-one time earlier in the week.

>> One reason why coaches and managers in sports are leery of making depth-chart declarations too early before any season is that, as they love to say, some things just play themselves out.

And so it was with the Steelers’ final preseason game, as Charlie Batch became the very, very clear No. 2 on the QB list at age 36, largely because of Byron Leftwich’s ugly injury but partly because he flat-out outplayed Dennis Dixon. Right guard looked just as unsettled, but Doug Legursky stepped up again last night. And the wide receiver depth chart became a blissful blur of players performing so well that the only fitting answer was Bruce Arians’ decision last night to go five-wides on the opening series.

Roster issues remain, though most are on the fringes. The one I’ll single out here is Mortty Ivy, and not just because he’s a fellow Gateway grad. From day one in Latrobe, all he’s done is make plays, many of them in the backfield. He’s not big at 6-1, 239, and he’s not Usain Bolt, but kid displayed a great nose for the ball, which you’d think would help on special teams as much as any of the more tangible traits.

>> If you think the Pirates hung tough with the Dodgers based on the 6-4 final yesterday, you weren’t one of the, oh, 4,000 or so fans at PNC Park.

Getting mowed down for eight innings by Dana Eveland is inexcusable.

Ryan Doumit’s lock-up after the passed ball was the same.

Chris Resop walking Eveland to load the bases in the eighth … you get the idea.

I’m not anywhere close to making one of those boisterous statements about the team quitting, but I am quite comfortable in saying there’s no life at all in that clubhouse. And that sort of thing almost invariably is the manager’s domain. We’ll see how Clint Hurdle handles it.

>> I’ll be covering college football all weekend, with the usual game threads going up here. Would love to hear from those of you who are into the game in our comments section. I’ll chime in when summoned.

>> Thanks to all for participating on the chat yesterday.

26 Comments

  1. Wakeup Call is a fitting title, since that is exactly what the Pirates need. It does seem like several Bucs have quit for the year and those that Hurdle perceives as quitting should be benched in favor of those playing for positions on next year’s team. If they’re giving up the ship, let them walk the plank…..

  2. No life in the clubhouse… hmmm… how ’bout, no “character” in the clubhouse… no “leadership” in the clubhouse… no “professionalism” in the clubhouse… no “heart” in the clubhouse.

    Call it what you want, or avoid these intangible things altogether. I can take losses due to a lack of talent. I can take losses from an opposition’s superior performance.

    I cannot take lack of character, professionalism, leadership and heart. This loss had nothing to do with talent. It had everything to do with a sour collection of weak characters.

    Picked off by Dana Eveland…? There’s your all-star.

    Jogging after a passed ball and taking your time getting rid of it while a runner goes from 1st to 3rd? There’s your 5 year veteran catcher.

    A shouting match in the locker room… someone stepping up to call out an underachiever… whatever it takes, act like pros… act like you care… act like you’re earning a paycheck rather than collecting one.

  3. JAL’s Dark End of the Street 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/

  4. 4 McEffect

    August 31 James McDonald Pitch F/X

    http://www.mceffect.com/2011/09/august-31-james-mcdonald-pitch-fx.html

    5 Rumbunter

    Soothsayer Matt Diaz Still a Mystery

    http://rumbunter.com/2011/09/01/soothsayer-matt-diaz-still-a-mystery/

    Joe Dirt II: Pirates Calling Up Brian Burres
    http://rumbunter.com/2011/09/01/joe-dirt-ii-pirates-calling-up-brian-burres/

    6 Three Rivers Burgh Blog

    Pirates Game Day 137 – Dodgers 6, Pirates 4

    http://threeriversburghblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/pirates-game-day-137-dodgers-6-pirates.html

    7 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Rock Bottom, Part 32

    http://raisethejollyroger.com/2011/09/rock-bottom-part-32/

    8 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates Dominated By Dana Eveland, Lose 6-4

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2011/9/1/2399031/pirates-dominated-by-dana-eveland-lose-6-4

    9 Ohio Valley Athletics

    Burres Expected to Make 2011 Debut Against Cubs

    http://www.ovathletics.com/home/burres-expected-to-make-2011-debut-against-cubs/7168

  5. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES

    11 Chicago Daily Herald

    For Cubs fans, here’s what to watch in September

    http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110901/sports/709019690/

    12 LA Times

    Dodgers beat Pirates; Casey Blake and Juan Uribe face surgery

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-0902-dodgers-pirates-20110902,0,5961454.story

    Dana Eveland makes it a return to remember in Dodgers’ 6-4 win at Pittsburgh

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dodgers/2011/09/dana-eveland-makes-it-a-return-to-remember-in-dodgers-6-4-win-at-pittsburgh.html

    13 Centre Daily Times

    Kingham for a day

    http://www.centredaily.com/2011/09/02/2898298/kingham-for-a-day.html

    14 Washington Times

    Bands pitch their hits at ballparks

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/sep/1/bands-pitch-their-hits-at-ballparks/

  6. Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Pittsburgh Steelers Win Preseason Finale Over Carolina Panthers, Final Roster Spot Decisions Only Made Murkier Thursday Night

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2011/9/2/2399840/pittsburgh-steelers-panthers-result-roster-cuts-news

    -Steeler Depot

    Final 53 Man Roster Prediction

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2011/09/2011-steelers-final-53-man-roster-prediction-5-0-final-edition/

    Pitt Blogs

    Pitt Blather

    Expansiopocolypse Intrudes Into the Season

    http://www.pittblather.com/2011/09/01/expansiopocolypse-intrudes-into-the-season/

    Cardiac Hill

    Big 12 Expansion: Big East And Pitt Affected By Texas A&M SEC Intentions?

    http://www.cardiachill.com/2011/9/1/2396897/big-12-expansion-texas-a-m-am-big-east-notre-dame-pittsburgh-panthers-football

    Pitt Basketball: Reaction to the Conference Slate

    http://www.cardiachill.com/2011/9/1/2396947/pitt-basketball-schedule-big-east-uconn-huskies-2011-big-east-schedules-notre-dame-fighting-irish

    PENGUIN BLOGS

    —Pensburgh

    Goaltending Depth: Do the Penguins Have It, And Do They Need It?

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2011/9/1/2395596/goaltending-depth-do-the-penguins-have-it

  7. Why should anyone on the Pirate’s roster be concerned about a wake-up call? Why worry about playing for a position? There is nothing much available that can force any of these players out. Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of this baseball season is how this squad was in first play near the all star break.

  8. Regarding Hurdle, you write, “I am quite comfortable in saying there’s no life at all in that clubhouse. And that sort of thing almost invariably is the manager’s domain. We’ll see how Clint Hurdle handles it.:….

    Havent you seen enough in the past two weeks? How much more time are you giving this guy to show something with regards to the team quitting or no life in clubhouse…Youve been prancing around this subject for weeks dropping hints that the clubhouse is being lost or are they players quitting but stop short of saying it…

    I will say it – the manager has lost the clubhouse….

  9. Graham/Holgorsen will certainly be a big change from Wannstedt/Stewart.

  10. The Cubs can catch the Pirates for fourth place by the end of action on Sunday. Will it happen?

  11. Interesting column. The “spirit” between these guys enhances a nice rivalry.

    And I like their styles. Not just referring to the type of play. But rather the type of leadership.

  12. The Pirates have clearly quit on the season. The question is why? A team which appeared to have so much character and belief in itself only weeks earlier is now again the dregs of baseball. Brings to mind “Operation Shutdown”. A team that quits is showing a clear lack of respect for it’s leadership. I’d love to know what’s going on in the mind of Neil Walker on this subject.

  13. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time understanding how a person or persons priveleged to play a kids’ game for 6 or 7 figures, even for a few years would ever quit on anything. Those of us who work 2 jobs and knock down less than 50K for a year’s work have a hard time with that. I know these are young guys, some immature, but it seems crazy to me. We never even quit in a church league softball game in my day.

  14. To post #15:

    I think the term “quit” in athletics is a bit of a misnomer (and, Dejan, correct me if you think I’m wrong). I don’t think anyone literally QUITS. Obviously, they are out there playing. But I think the difference in skills and luck is razor thin, so team’s win or lose on the margins.

    So a supremely talented guy playing at 95% may be on par with a marginally talented guy playing at 100%.

    Maybe that doesn’t change your opinion of athletes “giving it all”, but personally I can’t criticize. Hell, every minute I spend on this blog is me not giving 100% at MY job, so I certainly can’t suggest that I go 100% all the time!

    It’s painful to watch, but I don’t completely blame the team if it has in fact slacked off a bit (my euphemism for “quit”). These guys were playing in games that mattered just 4 weeks ago, and now they’re tired and playing in meaningless games. I would have a hard time maintaining focus, too.

    It is somewhat unfortunate because there are still a lot of questions to be asked for next year, and hopefully what we see in September is the best representation of the answers to those questions:

    1) The Bucs need a catcher in 2012. Can that guy be Ryan Doumit?
    2) Is there an internal answer at 1B? (whether it’s Lee, Jones, Hague, Clement, etc.)
    3) Who is Pedro Alvarez — the slugging 3B prospect or one of the team’s worst draft picks ever?
    4) Can Chase D’arnaud be a starting SS?
    5) Can the Pirates win in 2012 with an outfield of Tabata, McCutchen and Presley?
    6) Was Charlie Morton and Jeff Karsten’s 2011 for real?
    7) Do we still have reasons to have hope in Ross Ohlendorf and Brad Lincoln?

  15. Re: the quit debate

    I think of it as not being “All In”. As that famed philosopher Yoda said, “Do or do not… there is no try.”

    If you felt your bosses were not All in, even with all of their lip service to the contrary, would you go All in at your own jobs?

    If Hurdle has lost the team, I cant help but wonder if it relates to the lack of reinforcements before the deadline and the uninspiring moves on July 31st.

    These guys are obviously playing out the string now, and I cant say I blame them. The best F1 driver in the world knows he isnt winning a race in a Ford Festiva. This team knows they dont have the talent (horsepower) to win over 162 games.

    This is going to be the most important off-season of NH’s tenure.

    Will All In be a BS catchphrase in 2012, or will the Pirates actually push all their chips into the pot.

    Miyagi: Now, ready?
    Daniel: Yeah, I guess so.

    Miyagi: Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later
    [makes squish gesture]
    Miyagi: get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,”
    [makes squish gesture]
    Miyagi: just like grape. Understand?
    Daniel: Yeah, I understand.
    Miyagi: Now, ready?
    Daniel: Yeah, I’m ready.

  16. 1) The Bucs need a catcher in 2012. Can that guy be Ryan Doumit?
    I don’t believe so. I’d go with McKenry and Jaramillo. Doumit really belongs in the AL where he can DH and be a utility player. Also hope that Sanchez can bounce back next season and make it up to AAA.

    2) Is there an internal answer at 1B? (whether it’s Lee, Jones, Hague, Clement, etc.)
    Given our recent history with acquiring someone to play 1B, I’d almost rather see Jones man the position with maybe Hague or Clement as a backup on the big league club. Still kind of think that Pedro ends up there some day. Why not now? Keep Harrison at 3B and let Pedro man 1B.

    3) Who is Pedro Alvarez — the slugging 3B prospect or one of the team’s worst draft picks ever?
    I think that Pedro gets it together for next season. I think that this past year will go down as an anomaly in his professional development, and that he just needs to get healthy and put in the work in the off-season.

    4) Can Chase D’arnaud be a starting SS?
    Probably will be. Don’t see the Pirates being big players in the FA market, so it will likely come down to d’Arnaud and Wood for next season. It’s a shame we missed out on acquiring JJ Hardy last offseason.

    5) Can the Pirates win in 2012 with an outfield of Tabata, McCutchen and Presley?
    I think that you can. PNC isn’t built for power but is built for speed. Those 3 could make for an excellent defensive outfield. Also given how Starling Marte tore up AA ball this year, I’m wondering if it won’t be too long before we see him. If he comes up to AAA and hits just as well, maybe we’ll see him next June.

    6) Was Charlie Morton and Jeff Karsten’s 2011 for real?
    I think that Charlie is a yes, but I think that Karsten’s 2012 won’t be quite as good as his 2011.

    7) Do we still have reasons to have hope in Ross Ohlendorf and Brad Lincoln?
    I think that both will be in the mix for a starting spot in the rotation come spring training. Lincoln has pitched pretty well in his starts and had a good season in AAA. There is still hope that Ohlendorf will come around, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not with the club come April.

  17. You got answers, I got more answers! :-)

    1) The Bucs need a catcher in 2012. Can that guy be Ryan Doumit?
    I don’t believe so. I’d go with McKenry and Jaramillo. Doumit really belongs in the AL where he can DH and be a utility player. Also hope that Sanchez can bounce back next season and make it up to AAA.

    If we go into 2012 with McKenry and Jaramillo, you can put 90 losses on the books right now.

    2) Is there an internal answer at 1B? (whether it’s Lee, Jones, Hague, Clement, etc.)
    Given our recent history with acquiring someone to play 1B, I’d almost rather see Jones man the position with maybe Hague or Clement as a backup on the big league club. Still kind of think that Pedro ends up there some day. Why not now? Keep Harrison at 3B and let Pedro man 1B.

    Pedro can’t hit. That, not his defense at 3B, is his biggest problem. Why would you want to ask him to learn a new position when he needs to focus on laying off curveballs in the dirt?

    4) Can Chase D’arnaud be a starting SS?
    Probably will be. Don’t see the Pirates being big players in the FA market, so it will likely come down to d’Arnaud and Wood for next season. It’s a shame we missed out on acquiring JJ Hardy last offseason.

    Maybe Sano will be ready to come up next season. Oh, wait…

    7) Do we still have reasons to have hope in Ross Ohlendorf and Brad Lincoln?
    I think that both will be in the mix for a starting spot in the rotation come spring training. Lincoln has pitched pretty well in his starts and had a good season in AAA. There is still hope that Ohlendorf will come around, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not with the club come April.

    Dejan’s been big on trumpeting his correct predictions recently. My best prediction was criticizing Ohlendorf for his off the field activities. While everyone was lauding him for how amazingly intelligent he is working for the federal government in the offseason, I wrote months ago that I’d prefer my ballplayers to be working on baseball, not cattle hurding policies. I was dead on right.

  18. Jimmy,
    Good points, all, but I get tired, too, and my season is not 7 or 8 months. When I was 25, I could stay after it all day, every day. Even now, pushing 60, I can dig down. I know the term QUIT is harsh, but some of the stuff we do every day seems meaningless (you ought to work a state job), but we push on for our families, bosses and out of respect for ourselves. I like the Karate Kid analogy of JMB. No half-hearted efforts, just give it ALL. Thanks for the insight.

  19. The Backyard Brawl doesn’t really need the coaches to dislike each other, plenty of disdain from the players and fans. Still, unless it has changed for the worst, it is more fun than nasty.

  20. If anyone says they are ‘ok’ with d’Arnauld at short or Wood at third base or McKenry catching, you are then saying you are ‘ok’ with the status quo and watching the Pirates remain a losing ball club.

    Honestly, who on this team gives you the sense that they WANT to win right now? Where is the passion?

    Without tangible significant improvement, NOTHING is going to change. And it has to start on the field and it has to start RIGHT NOW, because if this team is allowed to tank with these guys this year, they will tank with them next year.

    NOW is the time to put out or get out. NOW is the time you find out who came to play and who wants to win and who will give 100 percent daily. Manager included.idiotic

    Ryan Doumit’s apathetic effort on the passed ball yesterday is the perfect example of what is wrong with this team right now. Their heads are not into the game.

    I’d bench Doumit for a week.

    Someone needs to light a fire under their major-league-priviledged butts. It’s time—actually, it’s PAST the time—that Hurdle locks the door and makes the big speech.

  21. …. pardon my editing on ‘idiotic,’ for not deleting…

  22. Too late to send Doumit a lesson by benching him. He is what he is and he is a cancer on this team IMO. If they sign him for next year, he’ll make the same lack of effort and lack of talent defensive mistakes he’s made since he got to the Majors.

    The backyard brawl would still be the backyard brawl if you had high school coaches coaching the respective teams. But I still maintain Graham/Holgorsen will be different than Wannstedt/Stewart.

  23. Dejan: Still not understanding why the lack of criticism of Andrew McCutchen, he continues for the most part to fail to deliver at crunch time. I think Wednesday evening I was dreaming when I saw one of the most pathetic efforts to run out a ground ball on a strange sort of double-playball by Cedeno kind of looked like alligator steps to me. But I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO SAW IT. MUST HAVE BEEN A DREAM! Agree totally with all your points above. As a fan of about 52 years who last year watched probably 97 to 100 of the 105 losses this current streak is more brutal and has been much more difficult to watch. This from somebody who make no mistake about it bleeds Pirate black and Gold “Don’t back up from it nor apologize for it! Not to Joe Starkey, Bob Smizik, Ron Cook or anyone else. I’ll be there rooting for this team if Nutting doesn’t spend a penny, I do disagree with one one point although it is probably just to save face and that is; Neil Huntington’s Regime “IT’S TIME TO PULL THE PLUG.” Let me add I will always be grateful for the decision to strip this thing down to the foundation. One last thing, Indianapolis take those who will never be useful to the major league Club and begin to weed them out. Guys like Steve Pearce also time to cut ties with Ohlendorf unless you want to try him in the bullpen. One last thought the season did not turn on the 19 inning game in Atlanta and the “Meals deal” but the Sunday game in Philly where it was Veras being Veras! A win there in a game that shold have been won and I believe your a .500 ballclub. That’s the one the club never got over.

  24. We seem to have these same discussions every year about this time. Every year, we single out a couple guys that appear to be getting lazy. Every year we start to hear how important it is to have a “leader” in the clubhouse. Every year we talk about how important it is for the manager (whichever one has the job) to get control of his clubhouse.

    And every year we watch as this team quits in August. Yes,….the word is QUITS. We can debate it all you want, but when you don’t give your best effort, it’s called quitting.

    Hard to believe we had hopes of this year ending differently than the last 18. Doesn’t June and July seem like years ago?

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