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Wakeup Call: More baseball, not less

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> Amid the breathless hyperbole late last night that Major League Baseball had “its greatest night ever,” as the national types fairly shouted, let me throw out that these are a lot of the same “purists” who deride the wild card. They also deride Bud Selig’s stated goal of adding another wild card to each league.

It’s the wild card that created last night. In theory, it would cause fans in two more cities had a chance to become fully, emotionally invested in their teams, though neither really applies here. St. Louis already is as invested as you get, and the Tampa Bay area never will care about baseball. But the practice of adding hope, of adding relevance to games … who can be against that?

If you are against that, then don’t pretend you enjoyed what you saw last night.

>> I have a feeling Kirk Gibson is going to win National League manager of the year, if only because of the peculiarly accepted notion that the greatest turnaround should get the award.

The manager of the year is Tony La Russa.

The Cardinals had every reason to fold, from all kinds of injuries to an 8 1/2-game deficit with a month to go. They had that ultra-painful loss right here in Pittsburgh, too, on Sept. 12, when the Pirates scored three times in the ninth capped by Pedro Ciriaco’s two-run walkoff double.

>> Not expecting to hear anyone say today that the Central Division stinks.

>> The 125th season of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club, which moved many people to reflect with some outstanding memories on my Twitter account last night, ended with Pedro Alvarez looking at strike three in Milwaukee. If you can think of a more fitting ending, I’m all ears.

>> I spent the morning over at the Steelers’ place, and I heard almost nothing to indicate they’re planning to do anything more on offense than throw downfield. I’ll say it again: There just has to be more to it.

Fellow columnist Joe Starkey opines on the offense this morning.

>> An absolute must-read about Sidney Crosby’s recovery, by Sports Illustrated’s David Epstein and Mike Farber.

>> I’ll be over at Heinz Field tonight for Pitt’s Big East opener with South Florida. The Bulls entered the year with the most respected defense in the conference, and they come into this one having the No. 1 offense at 523 yards per game.

No, I haven’t written the column already.

>> Our weekly chat is today at noon.

Comments

  1. Skip says:

    Last night was yet another example of what an incredible game baseball still is. It just can’t be beat for pure drama.
    And it’s so impressive how the Rays keep finding and developing players while also piecing together their big league roster after losing so many free agents.

  2. Skip says:

    Pedro Alvarez is clueless. He never made any legitimate adjustment all year. His swing sucks, and until he changes that, he will never hit big-league pitching. Anyone who thinks he just has to “get his head cleared” or get in better shape is as clueless as he is. It’s all about the mechanics of his swing and his hitting approach.

  3. pensfan says:

    Link to an excellent article about the alternative treatment of Crosby’s concussion…

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1190863/index.htm

    DK: Thanks very much for that. It’s outstanding.

  4. Bill says:

    On August 31 on this very blog Dejan wrote: “Jack Wilson was traded last night to the Braves. So, in addition to Wilson getting his wish to play in the National League again, he’ll also get to play in the playoffs for the first time.”

    I note this only because a) It shows what a lock the Braves were considered at the time and b) Jack Wilson is cursed.

    DK: It also shows that the Pirates will eventually hit, that the Steelers will crush the Ravens …

  5. MikeS says:

    DK – Do you think that adding one more wild card team to each league would have made the games last night pointless? No matter who won or lost, the Rays and Sox both would have made the playoffs if there was an extra wild card team, right? So would the Cards and Braves for that matter.

    Unless MLB put in a rule that there could only be one wild card team per division, last night would have been anti-climactic.

    If I’m wrong, let me know.

  6. Thundercrack says:

    DK,
    I loved everything about last night and the past week or so – in regards to the Wild Card teams.
    But I am against adding another wild card team to the playoffs. It rewards another second place team.

    And I know that if you just look at this year it would be a small sample size. But if there were 2 wild card teams this year, wouldn’t the Rays, Red Sox, Cards and Braves have clinched the spots earlier in the week? There would be no interest or drama.

    (and to Bill : thank you for digging up that quote about Jack Wilson & the playoffs. :-)

  7. JAL says:

    JAL’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes Morning Links

    Pirates Prospects

    Jameson Taillon is the Top Pitching Prospect in the SAL

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/09/jameson-taillon-is-the-top-pitching-prospect-in-the-sal.html

    Gerrit Cole’s Instructional League Debut

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/09/gerrit-coles-instructional-league-debut.html

    Instructs Day One: Allie, Holmes, Burnette, Gift

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/09/instructs-day-one-allie-holmes-burnette-gift.html

    Game 162 Recap: Season Ends With Loss and 3 HRs Allowed

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/09/game-162-recap-season-ends-with-loss-and-3-hrs-allowed.html

    Bucs Dugout

    Pirates Lose, Brewers Clinch Home-Field Advantage On Last Day Of Season

    2012 MLB Draft Order

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2011/9/29/2457310/2012-mlb-draft-order

    WHY GAVS

    What do the Pirates have in Alex Presley?

    http://whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/september-2011/what-do-the-pirates-have-in-alex-presley.html

    A brief interlude for baseball

    http://whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/september-2011/a-brief-interlude-for-baseball.html

    PBC Site

    Doumit savors what may be final days with Bucs

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110928&content_id=25346478&notebook_id=25348404&vkey=notebook_pit&c_id=pit

    Beaver County Times

    Newsbreak: Pirates wrap up better than expected — around here, anyway

    http://www.timesonline.com/news/local_news/newsbreak-pirates-wrap-up-better-than-expected-around-here-anyway/article_70dbe86c-ea0a-11e0-9da1-0019bb30f31a.html

    USA Today

    Some parting gifts for the also-rans of MLB

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/lopresti/story/2011-09-28/lopresti-season-awards/50594346/1

    Bleacher Report

    Most Disliked Player in the History of Every MLB Team

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/870405-most-disliked-player-in-the-history-of-every-mlb-team

  8. John Lease says:

    The only good thing about September was that the Pirates managed to finish ahead of the Cubs. 4th place isn’t good, but it is better than 5th, or 6th.

  9. Bob Apjok says:

    Not saying a thing for or against the wild card, but just commenting on the logic in the blog. If 2 is good and 3 is better, then why not 5 WC or 10 WC? That would give fans in more cities something to follow and get excited about too.

  10. bdubb says:

    If they aren’t/won’t throw downfield that means they don’t trust their offensive line and need to get the ball out quickly. Another reason to find some help.

    And didn’t the Steelers, just a year ago, lead the league in plays over 20 yards? They did for a majority of the season I believe.

  11. Drew71 says:

    I agree. Always about unexpected turnarounds. That’s why Chuck Noll never won COTY in the 70s but guys like Chuck Knox, with 9 wins following, say, 4 the prior year, win every time. Then go one-and-out.

    So I am fine with La Russa. But Joe Maddon deserves a mention, don’t you think?

    Unlike the Cards, which were one of the teams in the NL Central mentioned in March as a maybe-possible team in Pujols potential walk-off year, this was supposed to be, according to many national predictions, the Rays’ step-back year. Traded Garza. Lost Crawford. Plenty of AA and AAA help on the way but NOT YET READY. (They still aren’t.) The ugly belly flop of the Manny signing. And NO offense.

    So how about a little love for Maddon and the Rays?

  12. Drew71 says:

    And of COURSE Tampa won’t support the Rays. They are not IN Tampa. They play in St. Pete. And not even in the heart of it. Tampa will NEVER be St. Louis, but build a good stadium in Tampa (in REAL Tampa) and SOME will come.

  13. Dave G in Mason, OH says:

    So… Jack Wilson doesn’t get to be a winner… yet Lyle Overbay does.

    I’d say there was no justice on this planet were it not for the fact I’m ecstatic that the Red Sox choked miserably, and that Atlanta fans can now relate somewhat to the pain of what happened to the Pirates in 1992. Welcome to the losers’ club!

    Karma can be sooooooo cruel…

    Let’s go D’Backs and Rays!

  14. Chuck Snow says:

    I would be all in for the wild card if the Pirates ever come close again in my lifetime :) Otherwise I have no opinion because I never have a dog in the fight.

  15. Dave G in Mason, OH says:

    Drew: you are exactly right. I lived just north of Tampa for over three years…

    If the baseball stadium was in Tampa, near the fairgrounds or by the Buccaneers’ football stadium on Dale Mabry instead of 45 minutes away in St. Pete, they would have huge crowds.

  16. radio wave says:

    As others mentioned above, two additional wild cards eliminates last nights drama. Also mlb got it right by ending mid week. On an nfl sunday, this all would have been second fiddle. As a Red Sox fan, this morning is awful. Now I don’t know who I want in the WS, except I automaticlly eliminate the Yankees. And if mlb insists that the Astros go to the AL west, creating inter league play everyday, to me, that would be an even bigger mistake than adding two more wild card teams.

  17. Milo Hamilton says:

    Just wanted to share my NL Rookie of the Year Ballot :

    1. Alex Presley
    2. Michael McKenry
    3. Josh Harrison

    Thoughts ?

    DK: Beat you to that one yesterday on Twitter. You’re stealing my material.

  18. Karen22 says:

    Last night’s insanely WILD wild card night of drama has left me completely bleary-eyed this morning! I particularly enjoyed the late innings exclamation mark on Atlanta’s colossal September collapse for obvious reasons! But the equally improbable Red Sox September swoon and 9th inning disintegration after two quick outs, followed three minutes later by 12th inning delirium (well, as “delirious” as Rays fans can get) down south after an IMPOSSIBLE comeback just completely STUNNED me. I’m in love with baseball again (the Pirates had me for a minute there—but that now seems like two decades ago, not months). How…HOW do the playoffs top these last-game-of-the-season dramatics?? I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a baseball night like this!

    AWESOME! And, yeah, at least the Pirates spoiled bratty Braun’s bid for the batting title…a smidgen of poetic justice. But, Pedro Alvarez??…uh…nope—can’t write a more fitting bad omen ending. UGH!

  19. JAL says:

    JAL’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes Morning Links

    Pirates Prospects

    Jameson Taillon is the Top Pitching Prospect in the SAL

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/09/jameson-taillon-is-the-top-pitching-prospect-in-the-sal.html

    Gerrit Cole’s Instructional League Debut

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/09/gerrit-coles-instructional-league-debut.html

    Instructs Day One: Allie, Holmes, Burnette, Gift

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/09/instructs-day-one-allie-holmes-burnette-gift.html

    Game 162 Recap: Season Ends With Loss and 3 HRs Allowed

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/09/game-162-recap-season-ends-with-loss-and-3-hrs-allowed.html

  20. JW says:

    Unfortunately Jack Wilson is a big reason why the Braves WON’T be in the playoffs as he booted a crucial, fairly routine double play ball late last night. I’m not sure how much of a curse that is…

  21. SeanAY says:

    Tack this one on to the list of articles written on Crosby, this one from Grantland.com:

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7023310/sidney-crosby-lost-year

    It’s just a timeline of what happened with tiny doses of commentary sandwiched in-between. May not be breaking news kind of stuff, but a handy reference.

  22. SirLochsby says:

    An opposing thought, in favor of adding a second Wild Card team: it rewards the division winners by making it tougher for a Wild Card team to win. It’s only one game, but the play-in means that you need to use your best pitcher (theoretically) and you don’t get that little break between the grind of the regular season and the playoffs.

  23. TJA says:

    As Skip suggests in his reply…baseball cannot be beat for pure drama. The greatest of sport indeed. At my workplace today…my boss is from Boston and we are the City of Bridges here in Pittsburgh, and trust me, he’s looking fo the closest one! Baseball…a beautiful game!

    One other point…I’m a National League fan, but I love what the Rangers have put together over the past couple years. I say Rangers/Phillies in the “title round”…

  24. TJA says:

    Another thought…the Pirates over the past two decades have written the book on losing…any way possible to lose, the Bucs found it…BUT, this season (this September), the Red Sox perfected it.. For our Bucs..Plus 15 and 4th place…not too bad…

  25. CWalton_67 says:

    Thanks very much for sharing the SI story on Sid. It is indeed a must read for Pens fans. And possibly for the U.S. Armed Forces, which are struggling to help Soldiers/Marines with mTBI.

    Agree with expansion of MLB playoffs-would exponentially enhance the game.

    Pretty sure that what Pedro Alvarez needs is a good old fashioned a** chewing. Too many people handling that guy with kid gloves. I bet Jim Leyland could get him turned around.

    Go Pens.

  26. Milo Hamilton says:

    @DK

    Sorry about that, not a twitter-er.

  27. Naje says:

    I’d have no problem with 10 of 30 mlb teams making the playoffs… I’d really prefer 28 teams and 150 (or less) games and another playoff spot in each league.

    Really, we had to sit through a month of some of the worst baseball from Atlanta and Boston just to have a night like last night… I understand the heightened drama of elimination games, but we go all ga-ga over one night of games after a month’s worth of terrible baseball from those two teams.

    Karma. Fate. Curses…whatever you want to call it, I’ll enjoy NOT having to watch Papelbon and his two-minutes-between-every-pitch routine. Talk about Ohlendorf-esque… I’d hate to be a die-hard Sox fan with that guy as my closer.

  28. JoeBucco says:

    After watching all three games in Milwaukee this week, I’m proud of how this team finished up. Even last night, with Pedro batting in the 9th, down by four runs, every single guy was on the rail of the dugout, fully invested in this team. And after the third strike, the guys were there for a while, staring at the Brewers celebration. Guys like Xavier Paul and Alex Presley down and dejected, looking like they just lost game 7 of the NLCS, when in fact they only lost game 90 of another losing season.

    I don’t think teams in years past were as affected by losing, and I’m glad. I think this team is close. I know they are a lot closer than last year at this time. The attitude is changing, and that is step 1. I think this team was genuinely disappointed that the season was over. And that is a good sign.

    And FWIW, I’ve not given up on Pedro. If and when he figures things out, he is going to be something else. Just watching his batting practice display of power (and I know, its only BP), but there is still something special about that guy. Dude put one half way up the scoreboard in center before the game last night. Not the signage, but the lit up scoreboard. Ball had to be hit 500+ ft. You don’t get that from anyone else. We just have to hope he figures it out. And as bad as he hit this year, his defense was better than I thought it would be at 3rd. Even in this series, he made some nice picks and plays that are tough for any 3B to make. He seemed to be getting comfortable out there, and despite the hitting struggles, he kept grinding and managed to stay as positive as can be.

  29. JoeBucco says:

    If there was one more wild card, then Atlanta, Boston, Tampa, and St. Louis would have clinched long ago and there would be none of the drama that we saw last night. It just so happened that things worked out this year, but would it make more or less excitement? I’m not so sure. You play 162 games to figure out who is best. Expanded playoffs is about selling more tickets to games, trying to make more of those games meaningful. It will work some years and not work other years. It’s not the magical savior of baseball by any stretch. I’d rather see 15 team leagues, constant interleague play to account for that, and getting to see every team in your park every year (or at least every other year). That would sell more tickets I think.

  30. Naje says:

    JB-
    Good points, all. And I agree that 162 games makes things shake out the way they do… but with 140 or 150 games and/or two less teams, I think an extra playoff team in each league could add to the mix. The Angles would have been in the thick of things as well as San Fran with another playoff team.

    I’m all for balanced leagues (15 teams in each), the PBC in the NL East, and two teams (at least) playing interleague ball all the time. I’m not for the phony inter-city rival games that do precious little for the league except continually tout those teams, and those cities as more special (perceived as more important) than the rest of the league’s teams.

  31. Sarcastic Sword says:

    So Dejan – will you be the first Pgh reporter/columnist to expand on the SI article and call Ted Carrick a quack? Im guessing no one in Pgh will have the stones to do so..

    It sounds like the placebo effect could be in play here – Carrick’s patients all seem to be at the end of their rope and want to latch on to anything that might give them hope..

    I was hoping that someone at the Crosby press conference would have pressed Carrick for how he was treating Sid – Im sure he would have been vague but at least he would have had a chance to provide some detail

  32. Naje says:

    @SS-
    Placebo effects work often. Just as gloom-and-doom reports from doctors work often in the opposite manner (make people feel worse than they are or, at the very least, allow people to latch onto their doctor(s) as their only hope to survive).

    While there may be no “real doctor” documentation or authentication for what Carrick did with Sid, there’s plenty evidence in the alternative medicine world that real doctors don’t always need to be summoned to heal someone.

  33. Milo Hamilton says:

    @JoeBucco

    Glad you survived the last 3 days. The atmosphere looked tremendous. Kinda like a Penguin game or Steeler game. Or even a Bucco game this June & July.

    You said you were “proud” of the way they finished. They lost 46 of their last 67. That’s .313 ball. Being upset about losing at an historical pace is nothing to be proud of. Not folding like a house of cards at the 1st sign of adversity is something to be proud of. I just don’t understand the free pass on the last 2 months.

    Let’s make it like youth soccer & just give everyone a trophy.

  34. The only thing worse than losing is not playing.

    Today is worse than yesterday!!!

  35. JoeBucco says:

    @Milo – I meant attitude-wise and effort-wise, not results on the field. This team wasn’t the same team we put on the field in June and July. I think we used 9 catchers this year. We were without a lot of our starting rotation in the last couple of months without Correia and Maholm, and some time off for Karstens and Morton. We had 4 rookies in our lineup on many nights, after having about 4 rookies in our lineup much of last year. So this is a very young team that kept grinding and playing hard every night.

    Xavier Paul’s throw from left field to gun down Betancourt at 2nd base last night, and seeing the other guys’ emotion and truly being fired up, even long after the play back in the dugout, tells me that we have the right group of attitudes. It wasn’t long ago when guys were ripped for caring that much by “leaders” such as Jason Kendall and Brian Giles, right? So yea, I’m proud of the way these guys finished. We’re not that far away.

  36. JMB says:

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/09/29/the-indians-will-raise-payroll-significantly-for-2012?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    The Indians will raise payroll “significantly” for 2012

    With the 330k bump, will the Pirates do the same?

  37. JMB says:

    Looking at the Rays, I still can’t see how Nutting chose to keep FC & NH in their jobs.

    There are better options out there, and, if Nutting was truly serious about winning, he would have pursued alternatives.

    Four straight 90 loss seasons means something should have changed for 2012.

  38. Milo Hamilton says:

    @JoeBucco

    Your passion is surely appreciated. I’m with you on the effort side of things & losing 40% of your rotation. You see what that did to the Braves & Red Sox.

    I think this will be the most important off season in the brief history of this ownership. Time to put up.

 
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