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Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: 87 + 66 = We’re all spoiled

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My extra Tuesday column is about Sidney Crosby’s remarkable comeback, a night that no follower of the Penguins is likely to forget.

>> Really, this is worth a second bullet point. Amazing night.

I covered Mario Lemieux’s comeback game, and I’ll say that there was more drama attached to this one because, unlike Crosby, the fan base really did accept that Lemieux was done and never coming back. Seeing him on the ice that night was surreal.

But this will find its own special place.

>> Found this comment from Brooks Orpik to be interesting, regarding Crosby: “I think everybody in the room would be lying if they said they weren’t wondering when Sid was coming back. He’s been with us in practice for so long now that I think everyone was kind of wondering. We didn’t have any more information than you guys had. So, it was kind of one of those things that you let it be and when it happens it happens. I think everybody was … definitely ready for it to happen. I guess that’s how we’ll put it.”

I’ve said it before: The man’s as honest as they come.

>> Ben Roethlisberger’s thumb is going to be a hotter topic than now by week’s end, but it’s difficult to digest that it could keep him from playing in Kansas City if he’s ready to throw right now. Sounds like they’re just being cautious.

On the other hand, the Bears found out yesterday that their QB, Jay Cutler, needs surgery on his broken thumb and could go to IR.

>> Just because the Pirates lower the bar doesn’t mean the arguments should follow suit.

If you think Clint Barmes is an upgrade over Ronny Cedeno, a strong case can be made for that. If you think Barmes is the caliber of shortstop who’s good enough to help this particular team clinch a playoff spot, with a pitch-to-contact staff, that’s a much harder case to make. And if you think Barmes is worth $10.5 million over two years, then you’re probably beyond reason.

If you want to set fair expectations for the Pirates, look around, not within.


  1. TJA says:

    As I posted earlier: this is going to be one of those nights that we will talk about for a very long time. A special, special night at Consol! Welcome back, indeed, Sid!

  2. Arriba Wilver says:

    Let me slip this in before you get inundated with Crosby comments.

    1. You wrote this from Consol?

    2. I agree 100% with your last statement about “look around, not within.”

    3. I don’t think Barmes is good enough to help them clinch a playoff spot, and I think most of the moves so far, and the ones to come, will be a demonstration that they don’t expect to win in 2012, and probably not 2013.

    4. I don’t understand the comment referencing our pitch to contact staff in relation to #3. From what I’ve seen his UZR was one of the best at SS last year. I know he’s not Ozzie Smith, but from what I’ve read (not from the all trades are good crowd) he is an above average shortstop defensively.

    5. The comment about is he “worth” 10.5 mil over two years is a bit more dicey, even recognizing it was probably mostly said in jest. We argue all the time that the Pirates have to pay over market value to get free agents to come here, and that they wait around and get the scraps instead of targeting the player they want and paying for it. Seems that, whether one agrees with this particular target, they did target the guy they wanted and paid what it took to get him. That part of the approach seems like it is at least a step in the right direction. (I know, this isn’t horseshoes). And further, they have lots of room salarywise, with all the options not picked up.

    6. They should have gone after JJ Hardy last year.

  3. Dan1283 says:

    As a sports fan, it’s easy to become jaded and cynical sometimes. It’s even easier if you’re spoiled rotten like us Pittsburgh fans are.

    Then a moment and a night comes along like this that takes you back to being a giddy 10-year old kid all over again.

    Goosebumps city tonight, ladies and gents. And a reminder of how lucky we ALL are.

    But that feeling is superseded by my happiness for Sidney Crosby. I really feel for the kid, after all he’s been through this year, most of it coming in private moments that we don’t even know about. His sheer joy on his face following his first goal (marked by a classic Crosby on-ice expletive) brought me back to that feeling that late December night back in 2000 when my personal hero returned to the ice.

    It was a feeling that, finally, a great wrong had been made right. And in an instant, the frustration, the hand-wringing, the tragedy of his whole situation was immediately left in the dust.

    I don’t think I’m over-blowing this, but if I had to simplify Sidney Crosby down to one phrase, it is that he as big a star as I have ever seen in my life. None of us should be surprised at his performance tonight. He simply wouldn’t have it any other way, and he has the talent and the will to make it happen in the biggest moments under the brightest lights. Athletes like that don’t come around but once a generation. It is a joy to watch him play every bit as much as it was to watch Mario.

    Good for Sid. Good for his family. Good for the Penguins. Good for the fans. All involved have a lot to be thankful for at the dinner table on Thursday.

    Welcome back, Kid. Now let’s go get ‘em.

    DK: Nicely worded, Dan.

  4. Thundercrack says:

    “If you think Barmes is the caliber of shortstop who’s good enough to help this particular team clinch a playoff spot, ”

    Who has said that?! All that I’ve seen written is that some people think he is better than Cedeno.

    Barmes is a good enough shortstop to help this team clinch a playoff spot…but he’ll need help from a power hitting first baseman, a much improved Pedro, 2 quality starters, and an MVP type year from the center fielder: “Mr. Cool who lives Downtown”

  5. Nate says:

    Gotta love the kid. I must have jumped five feet off the floor on his first goal. Just amazing and makes you remember the beauty, innocence and pure joy of sports.

    DK: The timing’s pretty good in that regard, huh?

  6. Matt_newport says:

    Regarding Barmes, on Baseball Reference, the 10 most similar batters are:
    1.Khalil Greene (942)
    2.Bobby Crosby (936)
    3.Angel Berroa (926)
    4.Mark Lewis (924)
    5.Pokey Reese (919)
    6.Stephen Drew (917)
    7.Andre Rodgers (917)
    8.Pat Meares (916)
    9.Dale Sveum (914)
    10.Adam Everett (913)

  7. Kevin_W says:

    What a great night tonight was. My son was two days old when Mario made his last comeback in 2000. We sat on the couch tonight and marveled at Sid’s returned. He sat in disbelief as I described how Mario made three separate comebacks and still dominated. This is not a night that I’ll soon forget.

    DK: And yet, all of these comebacks, including Mario’s many, are so different.

    How, for example, do you compare anything to having a final chemo treatment in the morning, then flying across the state and scoring a goal in Philadelphia with hair still falling out of the helmet?

  8. Drew71 says:

    Arriba – Holy crap. (Just getting religious on you.) I have rarely read a SIX POINT post where I have agreed with EVERY ONE OF THE SIX POINTS. Which only means we’re both a coupla idjits.

    And yes, we have been screaming for the Pirates to overpay a bit to get some decent players in here. (Point 5) So I will NOT turn it around and scream about them overpaying a bit. Better for them to overpay for decent than overpay for Overbay.

    And Thunder, I agree and I will take it further…

    Dejan, NOBODY that I have read has written that Barmes is a playoff caliber shortstop. That is a straw dog argument that you have set up in order to knock over and thereby refute essentially yourself.

    On Saturday I wrote something to challenge the MANY who opposed the signing…that Barmes is better than Cedeno; and better does not mean great, better means better, and that’s it. Or something like that. MOST were posting that he was not worth it. The few who were posting that it would be a good signing were saying essentially the same thing…better than Cedeno, not better than Ozzie Smith.

    Maybe you are receiving emails that are way out on that limb, but most of us posters have either been opposed or, in my case, saying that it would not be an exciting signing. Just better. And that’s IT.

  9. pghboyinca says:

    Crosby is from another planet, that amount of talent yet humble and team oriented. The Pens are absolutely loaded, if they stay healthy they are the most talented team in hockey an din my view very close to being the best Pens team ever. No team including the two first how this much high end talent and depth. Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, Letang, and Neal? The supporting cast of Dupius, Kunitz. Cooke, Mihalik, Orpik, Sullivan, Kennedy, etc……are you kidding me? Enjoy this it is very special….

    The Pirates suck and I won’t even waste an ounce of energy discussing that joke of a franchise. Consider the Pirates as our punishment to even things out for having the pleasure to have the Penguins and Steelers call Pittsburgh home. It is small price to pay, just ignore them.

  10. lasedog8 says:

    My five year old son plays Timbits Minor Hockey here in Erie. He and I watch most Pens games together until it’s his bedtime. Before every game he asks “Dad is Sidney Crosby playing?” Yesterday morning, before leaving for work I explained the Sid would be playing, but I would be working late and he would have to watch and let me know how the game was going.

    I checked my phone around 8 and I had several excited text messages from my wife informing me that my son refused to go to bed because he needed to tell me how fast Sid was skating and that he was scoring goals. She couldn’t believe how excited he was to watch that one player on the ice. I imagine there are many young guys and girls who were equally excited to watch their favorite player last night. It was a great night for hockey!

  11. Sec.143RowMSeat24 says:

    As far as Clint Barmes is concerned, the Pirates paid what is market value this offseason for middle infielders so far. He’s better than Mark Ellis and Jamie Carroll, and he got paid as such. An argument can be made that maybe they should have picked up Cedeno’s option, but maybe they were glad to pay the extra money for a guy that wouldn’t bunt with the bases loaded, or bunt with no outs and runners on first and second in the 7 spot.

  12. JAL says:


    6—Pirates Prospects

    Pirates Agree to Terms With Clint Barmes

    Clint Barmes Conference Call Notes

    7 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Find Their Mr. Right Now in Clint Barmes

    8 Green Weenie

    Barmes Signed, FA Arb, Top Ten Prospects, 2015 Lineup

  13. JAL says:


    9 Mansfield News Journal

    Wilkins: Plan beyond sports

    10 Houston Chronicle

    Pirates agree to 2-year deal with SS Clint Barmes

    11 Baseball America

    Top 10 Pirate Prospects

    12 Centre Daily Times

    Spikes set schedule for 2012

  14. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    Pitt Blather

    Muted Start to Brawl Week

    Cardiac Hill

    Backyard Brawl Week: A Look at West Virginia’s Offense

    WVU Blogs

    Metro News

    Coach Holgorsen On Brawl Week

    WV Illustrated

    Quotes From Coach: Backyard Brawl



    Sidney Crosby’s Night: Two Goals, Two Assists in Return as Pens Win 5-0

  15. stan capper says:

    Regarding Mario’s comeback from the radiation treatments…

    Got my girlfriend Pens tix in Dec. for that game in Philly. (We live near DC.) This was before Mario was even diagnosed. We lucked out and were there at the Spectrum that night. Still the most magical live sports memory of my life, and I’ve been to countless games. When Philly fans game him that prolonged standing O before the anthem…wow, even this incurable cynic had wet eyes. Their then booing him throughout the entire game was beautiful and appropriate.

    And yes, we could see the missing hair from our seats in the highest balcony behind the net.

    DK: Welcome back, Stan. Where have you been?

  16. Curt says:

    What an incredible night. When he hit the ice for the first time it was electric.

    Did anyone else feel like there is no way anyone will stop us on our way to the Stanley Cup? (if everyone remains healthy)

    And DK, Any way we can steal the “Hockeytown USA” phrase from Detroit?!?

    DK: I kind of like ‘Hockeytahn,’ but I don’t think the Penguins do.

  17. Jandy says:

    When Sid hit the ice…the crowd erupted. The hairs went up on my arms and goosebumps ran down my legs. When he scored that first goal, I yelled so loud, I scared my dog. She growled at me. (Seriously). When Sid did his little celebration and said his Sid expletive, I looked at my husband and said, “it’s official, Sid is back!”

    As the game progressed, you could see all the guys were pumped, and elevated their games. Shut out for Fleury. Michalek had a good game back too.

    I’ll remember last night’s game for a long, long time.

    When do we play the Flyers???

  18. Jandy says:

    One more thing, I felt sorry for the Islanders’ AHL goalie having to play in that game. That was just wrong.

  19. TheSaltyRogue says:

    No one says Clint Barmes is going to take the Pirates to the playoffs – he’s just better right now than starting a season with d’Arnaud and Ciriaco as your only two options, and IIRC he’s not prone to mind blowing mental gaffes on a weekly basis.

  20. Naje says:


    –Great moment; terrific coverage; glad he’s back. Looked like a completely different brand of hockey than the rest of the league plays.

    –I’ve looked around and all I see are SS lists with Reyes/Rollins clearly at the top and Barmes and others behind them. A significant dropoff from those two to all the rest. Here’s the list:

    Clint Barmes, Yuniesky Betancourt, Orlando Cabrera, Ronny Cedeno, Craig Counsell, Rafael Furcal, Alex Gonzalez, Jerry Hairston Jr., Cesar Izturis, John McDonald, Nick Punto, Edgar Renteria, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Ramon Santiago,
    Jack Wilson.

    Not sure if you’re being cryptic about who else to find… maybe there’s a AAA guy (or few) out there that would fit the bill??? I don’t know. But the PBC had to move away from what they had in Cedeno… he might have made a few spectacular plays, but he also made some severely bad ones. Blunders. Plays that made you ask, “How can that guy be in the major leagues? What is he thinking?” You know, the crazy bunt attempts, the lackluster efforts on certain plays, the terrible job he did running the bases… the one thing the PBC does not need is a guy that you’d characterize as “Ronny being Ronny.”

    Those types of questions and that type of example for all the young infielders on this team just isn’t what they need. Sounds like Barmes fits the bill as a guy who’s fielding stats were better than Cedeno’s, as well as someone who will help the young guys adjust to the major league game.

    And no, I don’t think Barmes is worth the 2 year, $10.5M contract they’ve given him. Is some of that money the price you pay for going after someone in November rather than January? Is some of that money the money being redirected from paying draft picks over-slot to the veterans?

    Maybe they get 200+ starts out of him at SS for the next two years and a guy who will help groom Mercer/d’Arnaud/Ciriaco/Harrison/Walker (not that Walker needs much) in the process. Maybe he’s a veteran insurance piece in addition to being a starter in that he might take a few starts at 3B or be a short-term fill-in if Alvarez gets injured or has a rough month.

    I look at that list and think there might be one or two guys (other than Reyes/Rollins) that would be better for a playoff team (Gonzalez, Furcal (injury prone) or maybe Cabrera), but I’m not sure how much better, in total, they would be. Perhaps there are other reasons behind the Barmes signing that out-weighed what others could offer.

    All that said, it’s a marginal upgrade that may pay dividends through the development of other players. Yeah, that’s a weak argument, I know. But the team had to change that position profile completely from what had been there. Ronny was capable of the spectacular and prone to the sublime with his lapses in judgement. Not a steady hand and not a good example for your team in your starting SS.

  21. Drew71 says:

    “I don’t really have good words for it,” coach Dan Bylsma said.

    Me neither.

  22. Bizrow says:

    The next time this FO gets some talent for the SS position, will be the first.

    Barmes is not someone that is going to make a difference, we’ll finish below 500 next season with him or with Cedeno.

    I think that is all people are trying to say, not a difference maker, just older and more expensive.

  23. Bizrow says:

    And when we talk of 66 and 87, for us old dirts, do not forget 21

  24. Naje says:

    Fair point, Biz… probably more accurate than the 500 word treatise I wrote above. Thinking the biggest difference is that Barmes will provide a steadier, veteran presence for the young guys.

  25. John A says:

    Cedeno’s combined WAR in 2 1/2 years as a Bucco is 2.9, Barmes WAR last season was 3.1. It ain’t the most exciting pickup, but its a clear upgrade and you are going to have to pay for a guy that was in demand as the 3rd best SS available. FA value is about $4.5-5 million per WAR, Barmes will be a 2-3 win player, $5 million a year is good value. Barmes is better defensively than Ronny by any metric and his bat is even a bit better. Those things also don’t measure baseball IQ, where Ronny scores about -100. He won’t be the difference maker taht so many are longing for, but he’s clearly worth alot more than Cedeno.

  26. JMB says:

    I dont see this upcoming Pirates season being any more than a punt. Barajas and Barnes are big time blah busts to be.

    Maybe NH trades Hanny and Cutch this year, and we just are told to wait for 2015 to see NH’s brilliant (mega sarcasm/) strategy come to fruition.

    I cant even get excited about the Pirates at this point, so I havent been posting.

    87 was awesome last night. We just need to make ourselves content that 2/3 great professional franchises is still better than many other cities.

  27. You have to hand it to Sid: his age continues to belie his maturity. He reiterated many times he wouldn’t return until he was confident he could play the game at his level. After his first goal last night, I understand how important a decision that was. In a game that fast, Sid couldn’t afford to take the time to second-guess himself. If he would have hesitated even for a moment, he wouldn’t have been effective and, quite frankly, he could have very easily gotten injured. Instead, he was able to go out there and just concentrate on playing the game. The results speak for themselves.

    Again, I have to give credit to Sid, those who advised him, and everyone who supported him within the Pens organization: they stuck with the game plan. I read a quote from Sid’s agent that Sid, on hind-sight, thought he probably shouldn’t have played against Tampa on January 5. It was a learning experience, for sure. For all the legendary anecdotes of hockey players playing through injury, concussions offer no latitude for bravado.

    Well done, Sid.

  28. Milo Hamilton says:

    How did we ever know who was or was not a good player before WAR ?

    I’ll ask it again, who is the mysterious replacement player ? I’ll bet he’s from parts unknown.

  29. John A says:

    In the words of Austin Millbarge – “we mock what we do not understand”

  30. Milo Hamilton says:

    @John A

    It is impossible, let me say that again, impossible to determine a players value in wins to any particular team on a computer or a piece of paper. I reject the notion out of hand. Especially with a secret formula devised by elitist sabermetricians who never once stepped foot in a locker room.

    C’mon, who’s the replacement player ?

  31. John A says:

    Its not secret in the slightest. The replacement player is calculated for each league each year based on the league’s run environment. There’s no magic to it. A common misconception is that replacement level is league average, it isn’t, its much worse. League average is a WAR of 2.0 at a position. A replacement level team (WAR=0.0) would only win 42-43 games.

    The formula for WAR is quite simple, the major caveats are that defensive value is really hard to assess. Fangraphs uses UZR which is the best we have and measures teh ability of a player to turn balls hit into his zone into outs with bonus points for turning balls outside your zone into outs. Baseball Reference uses total zone, a less advanced approach. Catcher defense is even harder to get at, at this point good defensive catchers are undervalued by WAR.

  32. Milo Hamilton says:

    @John A

    Leagues Run Environment ? Has climate change been factored in ? Here’s all I know. WAR tells me that Andrew McCutchen (5.7) is a better player than Albert Pujols (5.1). Please.

    As far as UZR goes, the only way to accurately assess a player’s defense is with your eyes.

  33. John A says:

    No it doesn’t, it tells you that McCutchen was a more valuable player than Pujols (in his worst season). Its alot harder to replace a very good hitting, running, and fielding CF than it is to replace a slugging 1B. WAR is positionally adjusted, its about value over replacement at your position. There are many more slugging 1B available than there are McCutchen-like CF. WAR is also not predictive, it measures what happened, not what will happen. If you look at offense stats like wOBA and wRC+ then Pujols is ranked much higher, but WAR takes in running, defense, and hitting.

    UZR uses those eyes to see if a ball hit to your SS is turned into an out or not. Its an attempt at objectivity over subjectivity.

  34. Milo Hamilton says:

    I can see this happening in St. Louis. If Albert leaves, they replace him with that nameless, faceless, mysterious replacement level player. John Mozeliak tells his fans that since they’ll get Adam Wainright back & Albert was only worth 5 wins, they’ll actually be ahead of the game. Sounds good when you say it fast, but that huge sigh of relief you hear is from the other 5 GM’s in the division.

  35. Arriba Wilver says:

    BTW—-“87+ 66 = We’re all spoiled” True dat.

    Think 20 years down the road, after 87, we may be looking at the Pirates from 1993 on. From the late 1950’s to 1992, we had 21, 8, 39 and 24.

  36. JAL says:

    Example of how weak the SS FA market is

    2012 MLB Free Agents: “Half Dozen Teams” Interested in Jack Wilson

  37. Bizrow says:

    @AW I’d like to suggest adding No. 9, that fellow was the best at his position, IMHO of course. 24 is eh, good and not so good.

    So a weak FA SS market means signing Barmes is ok?

    Wonder what $$ the other clubs were offering him?

  38. Milo Hamilton says:


    I’m with you on J.J. Hardy. Last winter the O’s got him & Brendan Harris for 2 minor leaguers while Neal was asleep.

    Then during the season, Baltimore extended him for 3 years / $22 million. Compare that deal to the one the Pirates gave Barmes, 2 years / 10.5 million.

    Now compare their production. Hardy (.269 31 HR 92 RBI). Barmes (.244 12 HR 39 RBI). And Hardy is 3 years younger.

    Remember 2015. That’s the target.

  39. John A says:

    Like or not, but Sabermetrics are here to stay. Our beloved PBC just posted two job openings on the fangraphs website for people with advanced degrees in statistics. They also employ a contigent of top Saberists that were hired after NH/FC took control.

    The internal evalation of players certainly is focused on these principles and you can see it in their 1st two targets this offseason. It also likely played a strong role in their correct conclusion that relievers are not that valuable and a bullpen can be built cheaply.

  40. Milo Hamilton says:

    @John A

    And it’s working oh so well.

  41. Milo Hamilton says:

    You know it didn’t take a “contingent of top saberists” or an advanced degree in statistics to know they needed a catcher & a shortstop. Maybe they should take the money they’re wasting on these inane hirings & hire some baseball people with an eye for talent.

  42. Bizrow says:

    I think they still need a catcher and a SS

    Anyone know whats up with Jeff Clement? I still think he might be who they are counting on at 1B this upcoming season, and yeah, I know he’s a minor league FA, just wondering if he signed with us or anyone else.

    I saw they signed J Fox to a minor league deal today (or yesterday)

    Early dumpster diviing

  43. JAL says:


    You would rather give the job to d’Arnaud? At least Barmes is an MLB SS. Not a WOW signing but better than doing nothing.

  44. Milo Hamilton says:

    I see that our buddy Ryan Braun won the MVP today. Albert Pujols finished 5th and Andrew McCutchen received no votes. Not one. Not even one 10th place vote. How can that be ? I thought WAR told us he was more valuable than Pujols.

  45. LuckyNKentucky says:


    Amen and double Amen!

  46. GlassHalfFull says:

    I’m confuzzed. Last night Sid got four points but is only a +3 in the stats. I thought +/- was based on how many goals you are on the ice for. Did Sid leave the ice after passing to Letang on Malkins goal? That goal I missed. I saw the Orpik goal and know he was on the ice for that one.

    If anyone can explain it, I would appreciate it.

  47. Bizrow says:


    No, I would have liked someone that is good. Not an older, more expensive Cedeno

  48. Milo Hamilton says:


    One of Sid’s points came on the power play. No plusses or minuses are given on power play goals. However, a plus or minus is given for a shorthanded goal.

  49. GlassHalfFull says:



    One other stat issue. Letang’s only point was on Malkin’s pp goal and he is listed as +2. Is that an error?

  50. Bizrow says:


    One must have been on the power play, PP goals do not count as a plus or a minus, although I think a shorthanded goal might

  51. Milo Hamilton says:


    No. You get a plus if you are on the ice when a goal is scored & a minus for a goal against. You don’t have to register a point to record a plus.

  52. GlassHalfFull says:


    Thanks 2U2.

  53. GlassHalfFull says:


    Aaaaach. I knew that. Stoopid me. Too much rum last night.

    Thanks again.

  54. Milo Hamilton says:


    Captain & Sprite ?

  55. GlassHalfFull says:


    Bacardi, Coke and lemon. I only say lemon to the bar keep to see if he/she is paying attention. Usually they want to give you a lime. A lemon results in a better tip from me. Many good tips last night.

  56. CWalton_67 says:

    I can think of only one word to describe Sidney Crosby–transcendent.

    Been reading your work for a long time, DK. Your column today matched Sid’s effort. A very fine read.

    DK: Thanks, Chris!

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