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Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Was Graham sincere? Doesn’t matter

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> Much of the reaction yesterday to Todd Graham’s very public, very firm mea culpa centered on whether or not he was sincere.

I don’t see why that matters much in this case. The end result is the same.

Look at it this way: Graham is in his first season as Pitt’s football coach, and he learned within a month that this city doesn’t tolerate those who fail to own up. It’s been glaringly obvious to more than a few that Graham’s work in these first four games was not without its flaws. It was just as obvious that he was laying 100 percent of that on the student-athletes.

By standing up yesterday, whether it came from the heart or not, he still bit the bullet. He still took responsibility just by saying so.

That’s already far more than “Not My Fault” Walt Harris did at Pitt and, to re-cite my comparison from earlier in the week, than Jim Tracy did while with the Pirates.

>> My Wednesday column underscores the small results the Steelers have seen so far from big-money linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, including stuff from my talks with both Sunday night in Indianapolis.

They’ll come around. I don’t doubt that for a moment.

But the main reason I focus on this now is to further defuse this narrative that the Steelers’ old guys are their problem on defense. They’ve been the problem on the line so far, but not at linebacker and the secondary.

>> The Pittsburgh Baseball Club’s 125th season ends tonight. Call me a sap — or worse — but I really hate the last day of baseball season.

And yeah, for me, it’s always been exactly that. I don’t often find myself too interested in all the Yankees/Red Sox affairs that take place afterward.

>> I asked Alex Presley over the weekend if he was preparing to come to next spring training as an everyday player, and he gave exactly the right answer: “That’s not going to be my mindset at all. I’m going to have to come in here and earn everything I get.”

Best thing about Presley is that he goes 2 for 4 with a double, walk, RBI and steal, as he did last night, and it doesn’t seem at all out of the norm.

>> Admit it: While watching Prince Fielder slug those three home runs last night in Milwaukee, you wondered what those people will be like when he abandons them for $220 million after the Brewers offer him $200 million.

Take that one to the bank.


  1. I was really rooting for Ross Ohlendorf tonight/last night. He had a shutout for a while and I was hoping that for his last appearance in a Pirate uniform he could go out with a gem. He represents mental achievement as well as physical achievement.

    Unfortunately, brawn (or Braun) won out over brains as Mr. GQ, Prince Fielder hit the ball so far that computing the distance could appear on a SAT test——twice. And, Rickie Weeks hit one farther than that!

    Almost 1400 feet worth of three homers——4 runs in 5 innings——will be a bittersweet memory of Ross’ last appearance as a Bucco.

    Next time we see Ross Ohlendorf . . . dressed in an Astros uni??

  2. Curt says:

    Sorry Dejan I have stepped away and have not been very active since the school year and the soccer season started. I still read the Q and A’s and all your articles.
    Thank you so much for all your hard work throughout the entire season! I appreciate all the effort you put in so that us (fans) can have a great place to read and discuss the Buccos.
    Loved Alex’s quote. We need more standup guys that desire to work hard and better themselves and the team.

  3. Fat Jimmy says:

    Personally, I am quite happy that we have seen the last of Ross Ohlendorf in a baseball uniform. Now he can go back to electronically tagging cattle or whatever the #@%@ it is he does in the offseason instead of working out.

  4. leefoo says:

    Agree on Presley…………some comparisons to Dykstra (with a better pct) and McLouth (with a higher avg) may not be too far off.

    I wonder if we’ll ever see Paydro hit 3 HRs in a game? Of course, considering he only has 4 on the year, it is highly unlikely. But, at least he is in good shape.

    Not too worried about the Steelers or Woodley/Timmons. They have weaknesses, but so do other teams. And they always manage to win more than they lose, so I have no complaints.

    I am not a Pitt fan. I am more concerned about what’s gonna happen to WVU.

    I don’t think Ohlie is coming back. I think Cedeno will be back.
    Doumit or Maholm? Maybe Paul, but not Doumit, since he has that ‘2 yr option’.


  5. leefoo says:

    “Dykstra (with a better pct)”…….I mean “personality”.

  6. Dave G in Mason, OH says:

    17,779 at the Pens game in Kansas City last night vrs L.A.

    Looks like the fan base is there…

  7. Jandy says:

    Dave G – and how about Niskanen scoring in SO…who’d a thunk it?

  8. Milo Hamilton says:

    I’ll be curious to see with the prospect of being non tendered & having no guaranteed contract to fall back, will Ross Ohlendorf change his off season “routine” ?


    Dave G – Packing the house for an exhibition game is much different than filling the rafters for 41 games… especially if the team struggles. The NHL needs to really think carefully about where they place franchises. The last thing the league needs is to step in to save another team from demise.

    Jandy – Didn’t get to see the game, but Niskanen has been one of the biggest surprises thus far. In the game against Detroit he had the confidence, poise, and offensive contributions of a veteran puck-mover. If he can avoid being a liability in his own end, he may give the Pens the best shot from the point since Gonchar’s departure.

  10. JohninOshkosh says:

    I will miss dearly the baseball season-especially the daily joy/torture of following the Pirates. When DK was the Pirate beat reporter, he would take a picture of the yard on the last day reminding us that we would not enjoy that view/atmosphere/feeling for 6 more months. Always enjoyed those pictures. Now, it is time to face the winter and, in these parts, endure months of insipid Packer talk. It is weird, though, ending the season on a Wednesday.

  11. Milo Hamilton says:


    My condolences. Especially having to endure four months of the insufferable Aaron Rodgers.

  12. Arriba Wilver says:

    It is weird ending the season on a Weds. I guess the sabermetricians figured out that they would get better ratings (dollars) starting the Divisional Playoffs on the weekend.

  13. radio wave says:

    I too hate the last day of baseball season. But unlike most of you, I have another team to cheer for, my Red Sox. And let me tell you, it has been agony.
    But the thought that the Bucs won’t play a real game for 7 months is painful..
    The end to this Bucs season feels hollow and disapointing. There are many questions to be answered in spring training. But I think the worst is behind us, and this season was the first small step in the right direction.

  14. JohninOshkosh says:

    Another oddity about ending the season on a Wednesday-what would you put as the over/under for length of game between the A’s/Mariners starting at 10:10 Eastern time? Can they get it done in less than an hour and a half?

  15. FlizR6 says:

    The only way Ohlendorf is of any use to us would be to rediscover his fastball that used to touch 95-96MPH again. He has no “out” pitch, and I really felt bad for him after those 2 homers that traveled about a quarter-mile combined! Find that fastball again, and he is a serviceable middle reliever.

    Starting on the weekends (which is always overshadowed by college and NFL football anyway) is fine, as long as there are no 10-14 day layoffs between series and we can actually finish the World Series before Thanksgiving!!

  16. Milo Hamilton says:


    The Bucs not playing a real game for 7 months (actually only 6) is a blessing.

  17. Bizrow says:

    I totally understand Dejan’s thoughts about the end of the season, but lately, these last several years, the sadness is being replaced by well, we will be out of our misery till spring.

    This season certainly had some moments, but the way the season ended kinda was harder to swallow than the other 18 years. We had a taste of what baseball COULD be.

    The seasons seem to melt away so fast, but each off season seems deja vue. Gonna lose people, gonna have to rebuild, won’t spend $$, dumpster-diving again, sigh….

    One thought on Ohlie is it hurts to see him fail, the PBC lost another chip they thought they had,

  18. PhillyJake says:

    I really hate the end of the season this year.

    Living in a city where the home team is in the playoffs just isn’t fun when you root for an out of town team.

    Last year, really wasn’t such a bad thing. The Pirates were out of in on April 4th. This year, with the good run, it seems to hurt more. That knowledge that yes we can compete, even if it all fell apart.

    And, what’s worse, it fell apart here – the start of the 10 game losing streak was here, I was at game one.

    At the end of last season, I was in no rush for spring training to start, was just getting ready to watch the playoffs.

    This year, I want spring training to start tomorrow. We got a taste of winning. Even if it was a fluke early in the season. It’s still a nice taste. I want more of it.

  19. basballhabib says:

    I’m sure that I’m in the minority with you DK as I’ll sorely miss watching the buccos daily. I love following them, especially this year seeing the improvement of the club collectively as well as individually. Finally after 20 years, I think that the franchise has been “righted” and is on the upswing. Hopefully, the results continue to improve next year and beyond.

  20. JoeBucco says:

    Baby steps. I know we were teased by what we saw this year in July. But before the year, would you have taken a 15 or 16 game improvement, contending into late July and adding pieces at the deadline as a sign of improvement?

    Sure, it hurts to have had the collapse, but this was a good step. And considering the injuries thie team faced this year (I think Pagnozzi was our 9th catcher this season, right?) I am amazed that they gace us what they did.

    So I’ll be there tonight, front row behind the Bucs dugout, and will give them my appreciation for the most exciting season we’ve had in a long, long time. Sure, it didn’t end well. But it was a fun ride for sure.

  21. Milo Hamilton says:

    For those of you waxing poetic about the end of the season, and how the Pirates made great improvement. And that the franchise has been righted and on the upswing. And the future looks so bright. And how you wish spring training would start tomorrow.

    You do realize that ownership is not changing. The paranoid president is not changing. The GM that gave you 388 losses in 4 years is not changing. The $42 million payroll is not changing. And we’ll just overlook the fact that they lost 45 of their last 66 games. And nobody will be held accountable. Oh, I’m sorry. They might non tender Ross Ohlendorf.

    The losing in unacceptable. The status quo is unacceptable. But hey, if they win tonight, they won’t lose 90 ! For the 1st time since 2004 ! Awesome !

    No. Pathetic.

  22. Occasional Reader says:

    Re Graham & his insistence on his system. I submit that it is not clear whether the best coaches demand that their system be used or whether they fit the system to the talent. I have been unsure since Chuck Noll’s very first year as head coach. When he traded his best wide receiver (Roy Jefferson), Noll stated firmly that if the holdover players could not excel in his system, then he would find the players who could. Yet I have subsequently heard praise of other coaches who flexibly fit the system to the talent. This is how I suspect that the occasional highly successful small college coach prevails. College is a different animal in that the head coach cannot simply cut his QB and bring in Dick Shiner to try out. I respect Graham’s insistence on his system, especially since he has shown he will have success with it. However, in college it must be phased in over time. The one thing I just do not know is whether would be a good quarterback in some other system and not this on, or whether Sunseri is showing his limitations in any system. Graham clearly did the right thing by accepting fault, because once he does so, no one can argue over fault apportionment. The question then is only what will Graham do about it, in the future? Personally I trust that the man is thinking very hard about that question.

  23. Naje says:

    Love how 19 years of non-winning baseball gets dumped on a group who has only been part of it for four of those years.

  24. Milo Hamilton says:


    I never said 19 years. Never even referenced it .

  25. Bizrow says:

    Nage, I’ve been here the whole 19 years ;-)

    Nineteen years of same old, same old

    Nineteen years of promises? (unfulfilled, including the past 4)

    I don’t give a darn who’s mouth it came out of, to be honest.

    I don’t see the progress.

    Not to be critical, of course

    As some have noted here, maybe the 15 game improvement is also some smoke and mirrors, underachieved last year perhaps?

    Bottom line is here we are at the close of the season and we have tons of holes to fill and tons of question marks for 2012.

    I’m just sayin…

    Its tough being a Pirates fan

  26. Milo Hamilton says:


    Sorry for the misspelling.

  27. PhillyJake says:

    Wow, Milo.

    I see that the glass is not just 1/2 empty for you, but totally empty. And it will remain that way forever.

    No one (except Cubs fans) accepts our losing. No one accepts the status quo. Your line about payroll not increasing ignores a lot of things. First, it ignores the spending on the draft. Second it ignores the fact that at the trading deadline for the past two years, the team added payroll.

    And, finally, this team has won at least 15 more games than last year. Yeah, they’re still a losing team.

    Am I, as a fan, satisfied? No. And that’s why I want to start on next year. Now. I want to get better. Not in February. Today.

  28. Milo Hamilton says:


    My glass will only remain empty while inept management continues. When you finish last, you get to draft first. When you draft first, you spend the most. Spending the most on the draft is like buying the most expensive pack of gum at the grocery store.

    $12 million on the draft this year ? The Yankees have 7 players on their current roster making more than that this year. The Phillies have 6.

    Nothing is going to change until wins & losses are the bottom line, not how much profit Neal turns over to ownership.

  29. Naje says:

    Naje/Nage… it’s all the same…

    And I totally get the frustration of 19 years of losing…it stinks…I often marvel at the creativity of the stench as well… doesn’t matter how productive a player is or has been, because when they don that PBC uniform, the results are the same.

    Biz, you’re calling it like you see it… and I respect that. Sometimes the immediacy of the angst gets tied up with the most recent group and honestly, it should. But to be fair, Huntington (as you mentioned earlier this year) is fighting a brawl with one finger of one hand… he just doesn’t have the resources. So the complaints go up the ladder to Coonelly… and those are well founded. Even more well founded are the complaints about spending dollars on the major league product.

    Simply put, those dollars have to be spent now. Right now. And not foolishly. They have to spend it on impact players… not four or five (like they REALLY need), but at least one position player and one pitcher. Heck I’ll settle for two position players (no pitcher) or two pitchers (no position players). But they have to do it… do it well… and we all have to pray, meditate, hope that those new players, you know, actually have some success in helping the franchise win.

  30. Naje says:

    Addendum to the first graph:
    I also marvel, quite often, at the passion of the fans of this organization… the incredible, outrageous love, STILL, for the Pirates.

  31. Bizrow says:

    Naje, I think we are on the same page, just different perspectives.

    I’m worried that I’ll be feeling the same way about our PBC come same time next year.

    Its that hope but expect thing.

    This is the current FO’s club now and as you note, its time to spend

  32. PetroSteel says:

    Milo, The Bucs have made great progress. They are doing everything they can. Some guys don’t want to come here. Do you want to over pay and then they dont produce??? Many teams have examples of that. Do i need to give you examples. Every team has examples of bad trades that they have made. Do i need to give examples of that??? Do you think this is an exact science??? I’m old enough to know they pain of 19 years. I am also old enough to know that great progress has been made and and they are FINALLY on the right track.

  33. Naje says:

    I’m thinking that we’ll be in a similar position next year, but not quite as bad. Each year the problems seem to get more and more clearly defined. Right now, the need is production from 1B, 3B and Catcher… pretty clear. Probably another starting pitcher. As for the bullpen, well, the track record there has been decent with Huntington… really, you just got to find live arms that are “hungry” to get noticed for a big(ger) contract.

    Some problems can be fixed if Alvarez just hits the darn ball… I’d take .255 from him with 20+ dingers and 75 rbi… just a little something.

    But the hard part to deal with is the incessant losing… like all teams in sports: they’re never as great as they appear, nor as bad/horrible/awful as they seem. But over the 162 game season, and the 19 consecutive seasons, this perpetually bad team can just wear us down.

    The July/August/Sept swoon makes June’s successes seem so long ago…

  34. PhillyJake says:


    If you’re going to compare us to the Yankees or even the Phillies, you’re never going to come out ahead. They are the other extreme. The Pittsburgh region can not afford a $140 million payroll. Not enough cable TV watchers, or corporations to pay for the boxes and luxury suites. Or the expensive seats.

    And, really, this is what bugs me about your argument. If you’d compare us to Milwaukee or Cleveland, or even the Diamondbacks, then you’d have a better point.

  35. Milo Hamilton says:

    @Naje & Biz

    I think we are all on the same page. This will be a critical winter for this bunch, especially Neal.

    I don’t think I’ve mentioned it but I like Hurdle a lot. He certainly gave us a lot of things to scratch our heads about but it’s all outweighed by the wit. But seriously, I do think a manager makes a difference and almost none of it happens during the game. More of that stuff sabermetrics can’t quantify.

  36. Naje says:


    One other thing to point out when comparing Pittsburgh to Milwaukee, Cleveland or even Cincinnati: number of pro teams in your CITY… not your “market”, but your city.

    Milwaukee has the Bucks and the Brewers. Cincy has the Reds and Bengals.

    When comparing Pittsburgh to other markets one should definitely consider how difficult it is, has been and will continue to be to sustain an audience from Pittsburgh’s economy for 81 Pirates home games, 16 Steelers games and 41 (plus playoffs) Pens games. That’s a lot of dollars to compete for these franchises…

    For years the Pens and Pirates were on the short end of the stick… the Pens were nearly out the door. With the Bucs, you almost have to think like they just started the franchise, BRAND NEW, in 2007… from scratch… and without much, pardon the pun, scratch.

    But seriously, consider the factors that there are limited dollars in the region and very limited dollars in the PBC coffers… I think… at least, we’re led to believe.

  37. Milo Hamilton says:


    OK. Players making over that magical $12 million this year :

    Cleveland 1, Milwaukee 2, Cincinnati has 3 over $11.5. Arizona’s payroll in 2002 was $103 million. They spent nearly twice as much as we’ve ever spent – 9 years ago.

    The reason, Jake, that I compare us to the Yankees and Phillies is that’s who you have to beat to win a championship. That is still the goal, isn’t it ?

  38. 1buccofan says:

    Dejan: I too am sad to see the curtain lower on the 2011 season. My prediction of 72 wins still in tact providing we are unable to “RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER TONITE” My highlights for the season may seem odd. The X-man putting his head down and beating out a grounder to Albert Pulous I remember writing on my facebook page “We hustled Albert didn’t RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER! Andrew in New York beating out a routine ground ball to 3rd base. Hoping to take 1 from the Bosox and furious we didn’t sweep. 2010 expected to lose every game for the 1st 4 months everyone disappointed when we lost! Staying up 2:14 AM to have the name Jerry Meals branded to my soul. Watching Jose Veras kill any chance at 500 by a change up away to Raul Ibanez watching as it sailed into the left field bleachers.
    Realizing this is a better baseball town than most in the country give us credit for. Hurdle did a good job especially as a motivator. Alvarez a disappointment by anyones standard even a die-hard like me. But I will say the last five games he looks more comfortable at the plate. Like a golfer don’t let him think just have him react. Also let one person and one person only work with him. Let him clear his head and hopefully play winterball the second half but if he doesn’t I understand. Lastly I disagree with you on Huntington, although the idea to strip this thing down to bare bones in 2008 was a good one. The last two months he should be accountable for if nothing else to save face and maintain so good will among the fan base! Ready for the winter meetings and spring training. Hopeful for exciting playoffs and World Series! BOY I MISS THIS GAME ALREADY!

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