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Wakeup Call: The purge continues

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Brief and to the Point …

>> My Friday column applauds the Steelers’ cuts and gets greedy for more.

>> Point of discussion: Would you be in favor of cutting Casey Hampton, given the $5 million that can be saved?

>> Kris Letang has another concussion, and the NHL has another player getting off scot-free for it.

As I wrote last night, Eric Nystrom should not have been suspended, fined or even penalized for his hit, based on the current rules. But it’s the current rules that are the problem. A head shot should be a head shot should be a head shot. I don’t care about initial point of contact. I don’t care about anything other than taking head shots out of the game.

Let me spell this out again: In the NHL, a player is responsible for his stick. If his stick comes up and clips an opponent, even by pure accident, he gets a minor. If there’s blood, it’s a double-minor. No gray areas. The player is responsible for his stick.

Apply this to head shots.

This isn’t complicated!

>> Interesting stuff from former ref Kerry Fraser on the same hit.

>> Not sure how A.J. Burnett breaking his orbital bone on a foul bunt became a referendum on Clint Hurdle’s propensity for bunting, but it sure is silly. Burnett’s a pitcher. With men on base, it’s almost always a good move to have the pitcher bunt.

Not sure if there are even a handful of pitchers you’d let swing away: Carlos Zambrano, Dontrelle Willis, Brooks Kieshnick … anyone else?

You have to teach pitchers to bunt. Spring training is where you do that.

>> If Burnett can’t start the season, I still can’t see it affecting the opening-day nod. Hurdle and Neal Huntington both prefer to make that choice based on matchups, not prestige.

With the Phillies up first, you’ve got to go with the lefty, Erik Bedard.

>> This was yesterday’s chat transcript. Thanks to all, as always.

124 Comments

  1. I’m so depressed I can’t even stand it. And puzzled. Completely puzzled that the NHL refuses to take clear-cut action on this issue. All this crap about intent, was anyone injured, repeat offender, blah, blah, blah. And I know they’re probably trying to figure out how they can draw a line against head shots while still allowing fighting. The answer is, they’re the NHL. They make the rules. They should just do it and don’t worry about the hypocrisy of it right now. Sort that out later.

    All I really know is that it’s looking like my team is going to be done long before they should be this season because some guy got reckless and made a stupid hit. Isn’t it natural to want some retribution for that? *sigh*

  2. Exodus? How about purge? These guys aren’t leaving on their own.

    DK: You’re right, David. Just changed it. Never let it be said you guys aren’t running this place.

  3. DK, PgherinLev: You know what they say about “the inmates…”

  4. Translator = word geek. Guilty as charged.

  5. Personally I’m glad to see the Steelers cleaning house. It’s been a long time coming. I would still like to see some other big name players released Harrison for one. I understand his importance to the team, but I think Worilds proved he could step up. I for one would like to see a much younger quicker defense. It’s imperative we keep Wallace and I think we should keep Cotchery too. Keeping Cotchery is as much having a true veteran as much as his play this past season. Wallace’s importance speaks for itself. I think Dwyer could split carries with Redman if he is healthy. Getting a veteran running back seems like the Steelers smallest problem.

  6. Three words: Spring Training. Fundamentals. If JoJo Reyes had fouled a bunt into his eye, would there be the same level of outrage? And didn’t anyone complaining about bunt drills read or hear Burnett’s excitement about being back in the NL because he gets to go back to the plate? And does anyone want to go back to the John Russell era when the 9-hole was a perpetual empty out? Should the Pirates pull Neil Walker from infield drills on the odd chance he breaks a bone in his throwing hand? Better keep McCutchen out of the cage…he could strain an oblique!

  7. Also, here is a headline you won’t see anywhere:

    Bucs Pennant Hopes Dashed By Burnett Mishap

  8. Forget even about the Pandora’s Box of trying to legislate intent (Shanahan’s own intentions appear to be good, and his effort to be forthcoming and transparent is admirable and refreshing compared to other sports, but still, we’re where we are), another frustrating aspect, as Bob Pomp and Paul Z touched on last night, is how much a player’s history of behavior affects the suspension (or lack thereof). If Matt Cooke makes the SAME HIT Nystrom does, he probably gets at least a couple games — mindboggling!

  9. Bedard opening day?
    OMG!

  10. Mark, you’re wrong on the Cooke thing…he doesn’t get a couple games, he gets banned for the rest of the season and the playoffs. I’m so sick of Shanahan I could puke. Grrrrr!

    Leah, I feel your pain. I’m a die hard Pens fan, and this has me really upset. I was trying to be optimistic yesterday, but now our hopes for a decent playoff run are pretty much crap. I just don’t see this team doing it without Tanger.

    The Steelers needed to do this. It’s time to sort out what is not working and add in where needed. It’s tough and it stinks but it’s gotta be done.

  11. “DK: You’re right, David. Just changed it. Never let it be said you guys aren’t running this place.”

    What would you ever do without us??? =)

  12. JAL’s Daydream Believer Morning Links

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

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

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

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

    3 Yahoo Free Agent Tracker

    http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=AvN8KLXkNW0TcRjzSCagLIMBbgM6?slug=jp-passan_ultimate_free_agent_tracker_baseball_110211

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/st2012

  13. PIRATE BLOGS

    5—Pirates Prospects

    Evans Hopes to Click with New Organization

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2012/03/evans-hopes-to-click-with-new-organization.html

    Gerrit Cole Seeing the Downside of the Late Signing Deadline

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2012/03/gerrit-cole-seeing-the-downside-of-the-late-signing-deadline.html

    Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Spring Training Roster

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2012/03/pittsburgh-pirates-minor-league-spring-training-roster.html

    6 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates: The Bench & the Farm / The Rumbunter Podcast

    http://rumbunter.com/2012/02/13/pittsburgh-pirates-the-bench-the-farm-the-rumbunter-podcast/

    Video: Daniel McCutchen and Garrett Jones on Intentional Talk

    http://rumbunter.com/2012/03/01/video-daniel-mccutchen-and-garrett-jones-on-intentional-talk/

    March Madness: Pirates Burnett Will Have Surgery

    http://rumbunter.com/2012/03/01/march-madness-pirates-burnett-will-have-surgery/

  14. 7 Bucs Dugout

    A.J. Burnett’s Broken Orbital Bone Not the First

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2012/3/1/2836599/burnetts-broken-orbit-not-the-first

    Will Salvador Perez’s Contract With Royals Be Influential?

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2012/3/1/2835126/salvador-perez-contract-royals-pirates

    8 McEffect

    Pittsburgh Pirates Could Set a McRecord in 2012

    http://www.mceffect.com/2012/02/pittsburgh-pirates-could-set-mcrecord.html

  15. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES

    9 Washington Post

    Together again, SS Barmes, manager Hurdle set to push Pittsburgh Pirates forward

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/together-again-ss-barmes-manager-hurdle-set-to-push-pittsburgh-pirates-forward/2012/03/01/gIQAuiM3kR_story.html

    10 USA Today

    Spring preview: Pirates invigorated by 2011′s success

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/pirates/story/2012-03-01/pirates-spring-preview/53325792/1

    11 Bradenton Herald

    Pittsburgh Pirates getting ‘street cred’ from 2011

    http://www.bradenton.com/2012/03/02/3912755/2011-giving-pirates-street-cred.html

    12 CSN Chicago

    ‘Give ‘em hell’ Sveum is keeping it real with Cubs

    http://www.csnchicago.com/blog/cubs-talk/post/Give-em-hell-Sveum-is-keeping-it-real-wi?blockID=661634&feedID=10336

  16. 13 Baseball Prospectus

    NL Central 2012 Preseason Preview, Part I

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16078

    NL Central 2012 Preseason Preview, Part II

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16119

    14 Philadelphia Inquirer

    John Smallwood: Playoff expansion spells nothing but excitement

    http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/john_smallwood/20120302_John_Smallwood__Playoff_expansion_spells_nothing_but_excitement.html

    15 Chicago Tribune

    Good news: Baseball’s playoff plan isn’t as stupid as Selig’s 2013 idea

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-01/sports/chi-new-playoffs-not-stupid-by-comparison-20120301_1_playoff-plan-division-title-new-playoff-format

  17. Steelers Blogs

    18 Behind the Steel Curtain

    The Impending Release of Hines Ward Makes the Steelers’ Intentions Clear

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/3/1/2835323/steelers-release-hines-ward-mike-wallace-free-agency-jerricho-cotchery-nick-toon

    Welcome to Behind The Steel Curtain’s YouTube Channel

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/3/2/2838604/welcome-to-behind-the-steel-curtains-youtube-channel

    19 Steelers Depot

    - Mike Wallace Will Get 1st Round Tender if not Signed by March 5

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/03/no-surprise-mike-wallace-will-get-1st-round-tender-if-not-signed-by-march-5th/

    20Steelers Gab

    Hines Ward: A Photo Gallery Of the Steelers Best Ever WR

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2012/03/01/hines-ward-a-photo-gallery-of-the-steelers-best-ever-wr/

  18. PENGUIN BLOGS

    25 Pensburgh

    Ides of March: Pens Face Tough Schedule Ahead

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2012/3/1/2835545/ides-of-march-pens-face-tough-schedule-ahead

    Soccer (or football as the rest of the world calls it)

    26 BBC Football

    Netherlands defeat shows FA must act quickly

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/philmcnulty/2012/03/netherlands_defeat_shows_fa_mu.html

    27 Washington Post

    Soccer Outsider: U.S. Soccer vs. Italy match diary, player ratings

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/soccer-insider/post/soccer-outsider-us-soccer-vs-italy-match-diary-player-ratings/2012/03/01/gIQApoZIlR_blog.html

  19. Title song Daydream Believer, Monkees, 1967. Written by John Stewart the Monkees took it to number 1

  20. JAL….Daydream Believer….wow, brings back the memories…thanks! =)

  21. Kudos to Tomlin and the Steelers for making these tough choices on fan favorites and big name players. Could you only imagine if baseball had something like a “cap” and say, oh, the Yankees or Angels or Red Sox or…had to make these choices? Still love the beauty of baseball, but football is doing it right with “forcing” teams to make difficult decisions. I like the balance in the sport.

  22. DK, I have to agree with you in regards to the Steelers, they have been old for awhile and it is time to make some changes that have an impact. The only issue I have with any of these cuts is that they lose a lot of veterans’ presence on and off the field. I think it was Joe Starkey who said yesterday that it would be hard for Ward to be a leader from the bench, and I agree, but these other guys are starters. My only other issue is yes we are saving cap room but to do what? Just to sign Wallace to an extension? Will the Steelers be active in free agency (seems like a long shot)? What is the plan?

    DK: Some possibilities are mentioned near the end of the column.

  23. I couldn’t agree more about Steelers cuts. I have been telling people the same thing when it comes up. You have a lot of old, and some injured players who can go. I don’t see anyway Hampton is ready to play opening day next year. Do you cut Mendenhall if he is truly gone for all of 2012?

  24. I see where Burnett’s injury is being exploited for support of the DH in the National League.

    It could have happened to anybody—INCLUDING a DH.

    (NO designated hitter for me, thanks…)

  25. Does anyone remember Kip Wells bomb that hit about halfway up the batters eye at PNC.

    Still one of the most impressive shots I’ve seen hit in a decade at the park.

  26. @DK-

    I’m sure you’d let Micah Owings hit… probably for any of the 7-8-9 hitters (and last year, even the 6 hitter) for the PBC…

    Nice job on today’s column, though I’m not concerned about how the Steelers handled any of the personnel moves from Arians to Ward to Smith, Farrior, Kemo, Foote. Yes, Ward’s a legend, but there is no rule book on how to handle a guy in this situation.

    DK: Yes, Owings can hit. Shouldn’t have forgotten him, obviously.

  27. You’re absolutely correct concerning the problem being the current rules, not the hit. I debated with my father yesterday for about an hour (almost as heated as Milbury/Roenick) that the hit was clean based upon the current rules, as well as Shanahan’s video explanation of them.

    The NFL is a great example on this front. They are protecting players who are in a vulnerable position, especially their stars that drive ratings/revenue/interest. The NHL doesn’t protect a player who is in a vulnerable position, and says that it is his fault for putting himself there. Wonder why the NFL is the most popular league in the land?

    Stars drive interest. Taking head shots out of the NFL hasn’t reduced interest, it’s increased it. The NHL should take a lesson from this. Otherwise, they might not have any stars to play any of these games. They’ll all be recovering from “concussion like symptoms”.

  28. Micah Owens was always a good hitting pitcher. Not sure where he is now though.

  29. DK, I don’t disagree with you often, but there is no way the Steelers should do more than tender Wallace with first round compensation. Wallace may be the fastest guy in the league, but he still has yet to show that he is anything other than that “one-trick pony” that Tomlin saw before us all. Wallace has also struggled to even be that deep threat too. How many deep balls that were within reach did he fight for? He has not shown consistent ability to compete for balls in the air and has relied solely on his speed. That is not a guy who deserves to be one of the highest paid players in the league. I want him to stay, but offering him franchise tag type money would be foolish. Not only that, if someone were dumb enough to give up a first round pick for him the Steelers could use it to replace someone from the purge.

  30. I’d let Brad Lincoln hit.

  31. Good column. It had to come. Sad, but it had to come. I would have cut Hampton and Kemo last season, but the rest of those guys….

    JAL, I echo Jandy on that song. Extremely nostalgic on those of us from that era. Heard it the other day after he died and nearly broke up. Thanks.

  32. @Captain

    Taking head shots out of the NFL is a good thing. But at the same time, the NFL is taking physical play out of the league. And I will wager that the NFL’s popularity will not increase much longer if we don’t see some changes to allow defenders to really defend.

    As for the NHL, when the guys running the league are entrenched in or come from an era when goon behavior was accepted, they’re not going to stray far from that mentality.

    I stopped watching NFL pre-game shows years ago when ex-players shouting at each other became the norm. I can’t even think about watching ex-NHL players discussing player safety. Either they’ve had too many hits to the head, or they’ve never had much of a brain to begin with. It certainly seems that player safety and the things that may well accompany player safety (a larger rink, rule changes, etc) are the last things on the agenda of the NHL hierarchy.

  33. Dejan……..you need to lay off of the “Steelers should’ve let Hines know sooner” barrage.

    What part of “We’re gonna get you your 1,000 catches anyway we can before the year is up” didn’t you and Hines understand?

    If not, you and Hines were the only two in Pgh that didn’t know he wasn’t coming back. The only reason I saw being written as a reason to bring him back was ‘We owe it to him’. He definitely didn’t have anything left. In fact, if not for the 1,000 catches, I doubt he’d have even gotten into some games.

    I loved Hines and I wish he was still productive.

    Otherwise, I completely agree with your article.

    Btw, how do you feel about the Pirates history of developing SS’s? :) :) :)

    Over the Hill Too Foo

    ……..

  34. ‘anyway’ should be two words in Post #32. My English Teacher would kill me if she ever found out. :) :)

  35. Dejan,

    Your column today really hit the nail on the head. I think Casey Hampton’s play last year was “below the line” considering the nearly $5 million he makes. That is a logical next step. The great thing about all this is that they haven’t hurt the football team with any of these moves. Now if Wallace goes, that will hurt the football team.

  36. They should absolutely cut Hampton. Who cares if they don’t have a good replacement? The Giants, Patriots and Packers proved that defense is almost irrelevant these days in the NFL. Offense is what wins championships. Spend his money on an offensive lineman.

  37. Pirate Countdown

    1 Day Until First Spring Training Game
    34 Days Until Opening Day

    107 Days Until Mike Milbury’s 60th Birthday (For those here who may want to send a card)

    Thirty-four days until TBA takes the bump at PNC.

    Countdown Comment: I hope everybody here and their families, cats included Groat, has a great weekend. Enjoy the fake games.

    BTW-JAL: 20-26 and 20-27 above. Well played.

    Oh, posts in the thirties and not even 9:00 CST.

  38. re: Nystrom’s hit on Letang

    First, I agree 100% with Dejan’s automatic penalty for making contact with another player’s head. I’ve held the same view for quite some time.

    Regarding Nystrom’s hit, I still think the on-ice officials made the right call; I don’t think a suspension was warranted. Yes, there was contact made with Letang’s head, but it was more a circumstance of Letang leaving himself in a vulnerable position. Letang saw Nystrom coming (this was hardly a blind-side hit), and Nystrom followed through in his intention to hit. Again, there is no rule in hockey that you have to play the puck. And, most importantly, Nystrom did not specifically target Letang’s head in the exchange.

    This wasn’t a dirty hit, it was an unfortunate one. As someone pointed out in yesterday’s comments, when you’re a player like Letang who risks leaving himself in a vulnerable position to make a big play, you have to expect that you’re going to pay the price sometimes.

  39. Dejan,

    You’ve been pushing this “they should have let Hines go sooner” argument quite a bit lately. I can see where you are coming from. But, I am also trying to see where the Steelers are coming from.

    Their off season plan seemed to be first re-structure and then release (except for McFadden and Battle). So, the question is, why?

    I can’t claim to know the details about re-structuring contracts, but is it possible that the Steelers would lose negotiating leverage after freeing up all that money? While they knew who they are going to release and what their financial situation will look like, the agents and players they were re-structuring with could only guess. As I said, I don’t know enough about these negotiations to say that they would or would not lose leverage, but it seems plausible. But it doesn’t explain why McFadden and Battle were let go early, though. Any thoughts?

  40. Hey Dejan,
    What are you: a union guy?

    First you criticize the management of the Penguins for not being more forthcoming on announcements about Crosby’s injury progress.

    Then you criticize Todd Haley for not giving Big Benny a Valentine’s Day call to tell him he loved him.

    Now you criticize Steeler management for not calling Hines earlier to tell him Bye-bye.

    Next thing we know, you’ll be writing a column criticizing Pirate management for something! Fortunately, the Pirates’ trading, drafting, drinking, public relations, hiring, spending, never-throwing-Neil-Walker-under-the-bus, contract negotiating, signage at PNC, and Stroll Inn activities are ALWAYS above reproach!! Nutting to criticize there!!

    When you have the Best Management Team in Baseball—if not in all of sports—even a union guy can’t find something to criticize.

  41. “107 Days Until Mike Milbury’s 60th Birthday (For those here who may want to send a card)”
    OshKosh, make sure you let Jeremy Roenick know ;)

    Great job with the countdown, you’re making Groat proud !!

  42. OMG Groat, you’re on a roll, and I’m dying here, hope I don’t get fired LOL~!

  43. AJ Burnett is out 8-12 weeks. James Harrison returned to illegally begin striking other helmeted humans’ heads with his surgically repaired head in 4 weeks. And he looked great …

    http://www.baltimorebeatdown.com/2011/10/7/2473449/steelers-james-harrison-is-one-fuggly-dude

  44. Burnett surgery done, expected to be out 8 to 10 weeks, some of that is time to get his arm back into shape.

  45. That should be 8 to 12

  46. Brad Lincoln anyone?

    DK: Meh. Not sure.

  47. James Farrior released by the Steelers. By the time free agency starts, they’re going to be about $20 million under the cap (if they cut Hampton, they will be). Basically daring someone to sign Wallace to an offer sheet.

  48. Grady Sizemore out 8-12 weeks. Scott Sizemore out for the year. AJ out 8-12 weeks. I hate training camp injuries.

  49. @Lucky

    Keep an eye on the sky today. I understand It’s going to get pretty rocky down there today. You know it’s bad when Cantore shows up.

    This is a great opportunity for Brad Lincoln. I hope he can beat out Correia. That’s better for the team in the long run.

  50. Yeah, one person you don’t want to see in your backyard is Cantore. Stay safe.

  51. Its hard to comprehend that the NHL continues to do nothing while some of the top stars in the league are being sidelined by head shots/concussions. I completely agree that, according to the rules, Nystrom’s hit on Letang was “legal”. Unfortunately, “legal” allows the NHL to hide behind its stance on these types of hits. Just as DK says, any contact with the head should be ILLEGAL thereby eliminating any “gray area” when determining the appropriate punishment.

    I have a question: What about fights in the NHL? I think they have a place in the game only because if you eliminate fighting at this point, what prevents “goons” from taking top-line players out?

    James Farrior released this morning…the bloodshed continues. I also agree that Hampton should be cut as well. However, it concerns me a bit because there is very little depth at the position.

  52. @Oshkosh

    Tom Sizemore will be spending the next 8-12 weeks with Dr. Drew.

  53. You are blessed with a tremendous quick wit, Milo!

  54. @ Kevin ~ I think the fights between 2 hockey players who mutually agree to fight should stay in the game. It’s the nasty hits that are knocking out our players, not the fights.

  55. No zing intended, Jandy, the guy is seriously good!

  56. Milo,
    Thanks. This is tornado alley, supposedly. We had hail stones the size of a pin head this morning. Moved up to pea size later. (No golf balls or footballs yet. I dislike exageration on that subject). Cantore can go back to Atlanta for my money.
    Lincoln will probably start in the pen, but it would be great if he had a breakout season. What a lift.

  57. JAL,
    I read your last night’s “never to be realized” threat this morning. I’m glad I didn’t read it last night . . . . . because you put a battery on your shoulder and dared us to knock it off. I’m not that mature . . .

    Look, as much as I truly love baseball, and enjoy hockey and college basketball and that Omar Kahn sport, I think the greatest sport I have ever witnessed is Youth Bible Quizzing. It’s amazing!! However, I don’t try to force-feed it to the residents here.

    You are certainly permitted to enjoy “the sport that must not be named.” Yet we are also permitted to ignore it or even have disdain for it.

    When I—or anyone—criticize or speak derisively about “the sport that must not be named” we are NOT being critical of you . . . . . . . you appear to be internalizing any criticism that anyone spouts about that sport. Don’t take it personal!

    I’ve been to too many matches of “the sport that must not be named.” I went to my daughter’s games AND practices. I went to a couple matches just a few months ago to show support to a couple high school kids who go to the same church I do. However, I disliked it then and I dislike it now.

    Just because I see no beauty in “the sport that must not be named” doesn’t mean you are not allowed to see beauty in it. Just don’t try to force me to enjoy it——and don’t take it as a personal affront when others don’t see “the sport that must not be named” with the same eyes you do.

    Now—take that battery off your shoulder——or I’m going to start making multiple posts about Youth Bible Quizzing! It won’t be pretty.

  58. OshKosh, the Zing was directed at Milo. He cracks me up Gotta love him. =)

  59. My bad, Jandy. :)

  60. Groat

    Battery gone :)

  61. M. Night Groat,
    Great entry. “Those we don’t speak of” really enjoyed it. I’ve been to those Bible Quizzing matches and I got more out of them than any soccer game at the same Christian school.

  62. Lucky’s gettin as bad as Milo ;X

  63. Good!!

    That saves me a lot of work——I was already starting to gather Youth Bible Quizzing videos!

    Now, let’s talk about that rotation . . . . as I said yesterday, I think Bedard is a better match-up against Cliff Lee, to pitch in game #2 rather than #1 against Roy Halliday. Bucs HAVE to at least split first two games.

    The Season Opener is not a Playoff Opener. Why would you suggest Bedard as Opening Day starter?

  64. Jandy,
    I consider that a compliment. Taking into consideration your disdain for law enforcement types (I just work for the state, not as a cop or an examiner), that’s good company.

  65. Lucky, it *IS* a compliment =)

    Oh did my disdain show that clearly? Don’t tell scapper! ;X

  66. Groat

    Personal preference, I want my best to go against their best, That maximizes the chance to win the game.

  67. Miss Jandy says, “I think the fights between 2 hockey players who mutually agree to fight should stay in the game.”

    I agree that I never leave the room to go to the fridge if two guys are squared off fighting. It’s entertaining. I also never leave the room when a baseball rhubarb breaks out . . . . I always stay to see if Don Zimmer gets knocked down.

    However, I do think that fighting is a distraction from the beautiful game of hockey, and it’s certainly not necessary. You never see fighting in the Olympics. You rarely, very rarely, see it in the playoffs. Those two venues show hockey at its very best.

    People (read: Canadians, thugs in Philly, and Maddon—I know, maybe I’m stretching it to call them “people”) say that hockey is such an emotional game that fighting keeps tempers under control. Bull diddley! Frequently the two combatants aren’t even the offended parties! Certainly when they drop the gloves in the first minute of play, or in the 3rd period when the score is 5-1, being offended in the moment has nothing to do with it.

    I think there are other ways to show your displeasure. A well placed slash, a perfectly timed cross check, even an unexpected slew-foot——Mario never fought (OK, once), yet he was the master of the slash when he took umbrage, and even more the master of kicking the skates out from under an opposing player.

    If we are going to ban head shots entirely—and I agree with Dejan that head shots should be treated like a stick penalty—then fighting should go.

    Here’s my proposed penalty: “Any fight leads immediately to a game misconduct. A fight in the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period leads to a game misconduct plus suspension for the next game.”

    With this rule, if a player really NEEDS to fight, he can consider the costs! And we become consistent with protecting the head.
    ——of course, NHL has not yet seen the need to protect the head, has it?

  68. Hey DK,

    It’s possible that the Steelers may be waiting to see who falls to them in the draft before making a decision on Casey Hampton. If Dontari Poe falls to the Steelers in the first round or Alameda Ta’amu falls to the team in the second round, then we may yet see 98 receive a pink slip.

    J_C_Steel

    DK: No, the deadline for this sort of thing is March 13.

  69. G2M2S ~ I respectfully disagree on the fights. I feel the MUTUAL fights help keep thugs in line. Quick, name me one player in the last 3 seasons who has had a concussion from a fight and missed considerable time. Don’t feel bed, I can’t name any either. It’s not the fights that area causing the problem, it’s the DISRESPECT in these deliberate cheap shots/head shots that could be avoided that are causing concussions. Fighting already carries a 5 minute penalty. I feel that’s fine as it is to discourage squabbly fights from happening. I agree the ones at the end of the game should carry higher penalties, as “sending a message” is crap.
    The downward spiral in fighting came after the Pens/Islanders fiasco which the league mishandled enormously. That wasn’t enjoyable and I wouldn’t even call it fighting. That was pure goonery/thuggery. A lot of those clowns should have been banned from ever playing in the NHL again. They embarrassed hockey players everywhere.

  70. G2M2s ~ Don’t let the NHL powers that be confuse you. They don’t care about players’ well-being. They only care about the almighty dollar!

  71. JAL,
    It’s a long season. Pirates goal should not be to win the Opener, but to win 82——then 92——games.

    Bedard is not as good as Halliday or Kershaw or Lincecum or probably Kennedy in Arizona . . . . 4 Aces Bucs will face in the first 4 series. Because I want to win 82 games—then 92 games—I don’t want Bedard or Karstens going against the Aces: I think I stand a good chance of winning with Bedard and Karstens going against #2s and #3s.

    There’s a different strategy for a whole season versus a playoff series. Early in the season, #1s usually square off before the schedule gets muddled. I want Bedard and Karstens to have success early on.

    If Burnett were here, I’d start him for the Opener. He’s not. Now, I start Correa, and let him prove himself ["He's our All Star, blah, blah, blah"] or later let Lincoln bump him. Burnett can slide into that spot when he arrives.

    I want to win 82 games—then 92 games—not just the Opener.

    Sure, it’s “manly” to start Bedard against Halliday and Lincecum and Kershaw——like it’s manly for Tyler Kennedy to fight George Laroque. But Tyler’s not winning many of those against Dancin’ George, and neither is Bedard.

    I want to win 82 games—then 92 games—not just the Opener.

  72. I think we have our slogan for the 2012 Pirate season: “I want to win 82 games—then 92 games—not just the Opener.” (Of course the FO will never acknowledge it because 82 is meaningless).

    OK, Eddie B is saying that Tomlin’s the guy who didn’t want Ward back, but the higher ups did. Sounds to me like that is a plausible reason for not offering Ward the minimum in answer to this question in DK’s column: “Maybe they really were agonizing all that time. But if you believe that, then good luck explaining why they never approached Ward with any offer, even for the veteran minimum.”

  73. Jandy,
    I can name you 3 fighters/enforcers who DIED in the last 9 months.

    Each of their brains were donated and studied—in Boston, I think—and they showed extensive deterioration from repeated concussions. If I remember right, all were in their 20′s.

  74. @JC Steel

    The only thing March 13th means is that you must be compliant with the 2012 salary cap by then. They can certainly wait for the draft before they make their decision. They can cut Hampton any time they want.

  75. Groat

    Took a good look at Bedard in part 1 of my 3 parts series, he is better than you think. It is a long season but a win is a win, a loss a loss. It is self-defeating to look at certain games as automatic losses. Over the past few seasons pirates have beaten some of the best and lost to some lesser pitchers.Halladay 3-1 against the Pirates, Lincecum 1-1, Kershaw 0-1 but have scored 8 runs off him over 4 starts.

  76. JAL,
    What 3-part series? Give me the GPS on it, please.

  77. Casey Hampton – you’re cut
    Larry Foote – you’re cut
    Ryan Clark – you’re cut, you got a big mouth and we think Ryan Mundy can fill your shoes just fine
    James Harrison – you’re cut, we’re tired of the suspensions and we don’t need you anymore because we’re switching to a 4-3

  78. Groat, good point on the three deaths. I still believe in keeping the fights in the games. You don’t see the traditioinal “enforcers” in it anymore. What you see now are the Ashams (who is hardly a huge hulking beast) and the Rupps (who is tall, but he doesn’t KO anyone). What I’m saying is that fighting has evolved and it’s not the same as it was in the ol’ Broad Street Bully days. I’m not belittling the effects of repeated concussions on the brain. I’m saying it’s different in today’s NHL. But hey, carry on!

    About that starter for the first game, I say give it your best shot, your best pitcher, and the Pirates may even surprise themselves.

  79. Jandy & Groat –

    First, thanks for the input.

    I agree with Groat that Olympic/playoff hockey illustrates all that is good in the sport.

    I just don’t see how the league can change given the current “mentality” of the players/coaches/etc. Like Aaron Asham’s article today – if you don’t stick up for your guys, other players will absolutely destroy them.

    Part of that goes to the fact that the league is slipping back into that clutch/grab style that only reinforces (or aggravates) the “goon mentality” of the players.

    Fighting does seem to ignite the teams at times as well…

    Awww, heck – I don’t know where I stand on the whole thing!!! But thanks for playing!

  80. @ kevin ~ hey, it’s a weird situation at best. But don’t kid yourself into thinking the league cares about player health and safety. Their god is the Almighty Dollar.

  81. Just in:

    Steelers to waive the Terrible Towel.

  82. Pirates tied the Pirates 4-4 with a 3 run homer by Tony Sanchez. Other extra base hits were doubles by Hague and McCutchen and triples by Marte and d’Arnaud

  83. JAL, Dejan, and Jandy,
    Bedard “is better than you think.”

    No he’s not. I think he is VERY good, good enough to be a #2 starter in the Bigs.

    Yet he’s NOT better than Roy Halliday, a multiple Cy Young winner. He’s NOT better than Tim Lincecum, a 2-in-a-row Cy Young Winner. He’s NOT better than Clayton Kershaw, the Triple Crown in Pitching winner last year who won 2011 Cy Young. He may not be better than Ian Kennedy, who went 21-4 last year.

    Why take the chance Bedard goes 1-3 against those 4 when I think Bedard could go 3-1 against the #2 starters? I’m not “giving up” those games, but I think it’s just as likely that Kevin Correa would go 1-3 against those 4 Aces——but I would not expect Correa to go 3-1 against the #2s, as I would expect Bedard to do.

    For the Pirates to do well in 2012, they MUST have good seasons from Bedard, Karstens, and Morton. Morton will be a late arrival. I want Bedard and Karstens to start strongly. Bucs NEED them to start strongly. Having Bedard pitch his first 4 games against Halliday, Kershaw, Lincecum, and Kennedy is not a formula for success for Bedard.

    I’m not saying this is what Pirates will do. But it’s what they SHOULD do. Put Bedard and Karstans in the #2 and #3 spots of the rotation.

  84. The Pirates can’t even win their own intrasquad game.

  85. Do we count this as the Pirates reaching .500 already??

  86. You guys are killing me! =)

    And Dave G is coming in with his own ZING! (Just in: Steelers to waive the Terrible Towel.)

  87. A couple of things – The Hines Ward release. Look maybe you know more than you are letting on, but it strikes me, strikes me, that it’s another case of “Much Ado About Nothing.” The whole thing became prickly when Hines said he wanted to play this year no matter what team. Right there it puts everyone in a tight spot, because, lets face it, if last years numbers are truly indicative, then he is running on empty. Second, I disagree with you about Casey Hampton, he still has some chops. Lastly, I don’t know the rule off hand, but I do know, as I was watching the game and watched it over a few times via DVR, that Nystrom clearly hit Letang on the chin Clearly. And he clearly was going for the big hit. Clearly. I love hockey and I love hitting in hockey, but regardless, Nystrom was going for the big hit. The head? Honestly, he kept is arm and elbow down and in, so it wasn’t overly flagrant. Nonetheless…

  88. Groat

    My error, I thought you with the ones who think Bedard is a 4 or 5.

  89. One more thing, on your “Fleury’s not great” thing. There are only a couple of goalies in the NHL that if I had one game to win, Game 7, must win, whatever, would I choose from, Thomas, Brodeur (may be beyond his prime) perhaps the guy from Nashville, but clearly MAF is on that list. Over Lundquist, Price, Kipprisoff(sic). Definitely over the over rated Luongo. Stats are overrated, wins aren’t. Pens D has been suspect all year; can’t remember seeing this many odd-man rushes and breakaways. You play D Bylsma’s system, you will get burned at times. Can Fleury get out of position at times, or flop too much? you bet. But no doubt, in clutch, he’s money.

  90. Fleury’s name is engraved on the Stanley Cup.

    ‘Nuff said.

  91. Great reads, JAL, especially the one on the bullpen. Hard for us out-of-staters to get that kind of insight. Appreciate it.

  92. Lucky

    Glad you enjoyed. I am out of state too, DC area

  93. Heard so many times in football “build inside out”, “games are won in the trenches”, and I still believe this is true, even in this pass happy era of football.
    Wallace is great, but everyone knows the Steeler’s greatest weakness is the O-Line, and now the D-line as well (especially if Hampton is let go as likely it will and SHOULD happen and question marks opposite Keisel). If i can draft or sign a great Left tackle by letting Wallace go, i’m 100% in.

  94. There’s lots of intrepidation at the thought of the Pirates facing all of those quality pitchers so early in the season.

    I believe early April is the BEST time to face them, right out of spring training, while they are a bit more vulnerable, before they get settled in.

  95. Heading out, introducing Thomas Mallon who will talk about his new novel Watergate, everyone have a good evening

  96. JAL,
    Didn’t realize that you were in DC. Can’t tell by the writing. Guess I have no excuse to be uninformed, especially with the Morning Links, etc. and the blogosphere.

    Dave G,
    Is intrepidation a word or did you invent that? Good combo word.

  97. Lucky-

    Watching radar… Kentucky getting bombed. Let us know you’re OK.

    If you’re watching the storm situation, I live 6 miles north of the 275 ‘loop’ around Cincinnati, and along OH 129 just west of I-75. It’ll hit Cincinnati area within the next hour.

  98. My bad… should have been TREPIDATION:

    A state of alarm, excitement or agitation.

  99. It’s sunny and windy here, Dave. Radar is splitting this area, real time and projection. I see what you’re talking about where you are. I know that area well. It may split before it hits there, too. We pray it does. We’re NE of Nashville on the KY-TN border, almost in the middle of KY.

  100. Lucky…

    I’m in Louisville… about to go underground for the next hour or so… it is completely bonkers here. Violent clouds, huge storms all around and the wind whipping violently.

    Be safe… signing off for now…

  101. Too much trepidation down here. They let out schools, cleared all the milk and bread out of the grocery stores and spent the day in dread and fear. Of course, they cancel school with 1 inch or less of snow, too. No equipment like back home to care for the roads. My son is a teacher down the road from here and he stayed to do his planning for next week after school let out. He’s a northerner like us. Weather scares don’t bother him.

  102. It’s right on Naje. Hope he and fam are in the basement.

  103. Sorry, DK and all. Didn’t mean to make this a weather blog. Too many of those now.

  104. Tornado warning just to the southwest of me. I’d better turn my attention to the situation myself. Will check back in later…

  105. Storm is thru.

    Present and accounted for.

  106. @Jandy, you said-

    “Don’t let the NHL powers that be confuse you. They don’t care about players’ well-being. They only care about the almighty dollar!”

    and

    “But don’t kid yourself into thinking the league cares about player health and safety. Their god is the Almighty Dollar.”

    I’m sure you’re not a stupid person, but that is a stupid thing to say. Sorry, I’m going off on a bit of a pet peeve here, but how the heck do you know what they are thinking and feeling? I know that corporate leaders today are portrayed as soulless, blood-sucking demons, but they are still real people and to make a blanket statement like “they don’t care about the players’ safety” is just stupid. I know it’s easy to make statements like that on the internet, but it doesn’t help discussion at all.

  107. Bagel boy,

    It’s stupid to call another’s comments stupid.
    “I’m sure you’re not a stupid person,” so maybe you can tax your brain and come up with another word or phrase to disagree with Jandy’s comments.

    And while you’re taxing your brain, list for us the rules or programs that the NHL has enacted recently to decrease this glut of concussions that are pervasive in this NHL season and last. Not only is Sidney Crosby, the “face of the NHL” not playing for the majority of his 2nd straight season, but Chris Pronger, an institution, is also out for the whole year, and players are missing in many other settings, including Toews for Chicago and All Star Letang for the second time.

    Since you are convinced that “they” care about players’ safety, list for us the variety of changes “they” have made.

  108. Dale Carnegie, chapter 5–How to Lose Friends and Repulse People–tell a valued member of the community that something they said is “stupid.” And then add that it doesn’t help the discussion; and saying something someone said is “stupid” helps the discussion how? Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine.

  109. Wilver Dornell,
    I smiled at your pet peeve.

    I want to win 82 games—then 92 games—not just the Opener.

  110. Dornel,
    You’re right. I had that stupid course many years ago and you’re right. Jandy is dandy, not stupid.

  111. aglebagel-

    I believe an apology to Jandy is warranted here.

    As always, you have the right to disagree—but tactfully, we would prefer…

  112. aglebagel:

    Certainly OK to disagree here. And I vaguely agree with the substantive part of your argument. But Jandy, and really all the women who post on this blog, have certainly forgotten more about hockey than I know. Jandy’s thoughts on this blog are always meritorious, even if I don’t always agree. Plus, she is very sweet to all of us.

  113. Just a reminder that I did give an “Amen sister” to Jandy about her comments…and I think her statement reflects a generalization of which many would agree (like myself).

    Naturally no one knows what “they” are thinking or feeling, but the NHL, NFL, MLB, etc. are all FOR PROFIT businesses – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!!

  114. First off, I really hate that “S” word. OK that is said.
    Second off, I REALLY am passionate about hockey. When chit happens, and happens, and happens, and there isn’t enough done about it to correct it, THAT is stupid. =)
    Third, I don’t think Aglebagel meant to offend me. He is merely being melodramatic…he is an actor, no? =)
    Fourth, thanks to all of you for being so sweet and sticking up for my…silliness.
    Fifth, I am glad you are all safe. Bad weather sucks, as @Suckmeter would say.
    Sixth, I stand by my opinion in that the NHL values money over the players safety or more steps would have been taken to correct this problem.

    How many more days till opening day????

  115. I love this blog. I really, really do. It’s the most cordial, safe space I’ve found to discuss Penguins hockey. In fact, you people are infesting me with other Pittsburgh sports! Pretty soon, I’m just going to have to move.

    Jandy, considering that attendance at Consol and ratings haven’t fallen off at all with Sid out, I’m inclined to agree with your assessment that it’s all about the money and that things won’t change until the league sees a change to their bottom line..

  116. Alright, alright…

    Clearly, I got carried away and knew I would get blasted the moment I hit “submit,” but unfortunately I had to go to work for the evening. I appreciate Jandy not being offended, even though she had a right, especially just a day after she took a personal interest in what I do for a living.

    Ironically, given my extreme response, it was my feeling that Jandy’s comment was extreme that I took exception to. I have personally known a number of professional athletes and others who are sometimes easy to vilify, so it just hit a bit of a nerve. I find it hard to believe that NHL execs don’t care for the health of their employees, but I certainly agree that it clearly hasn’t been enough to motivate them to action. I equate it to the feeling of some that “Bob Nutting doesn’t want to win.” I’m sure he has a desire to win, just not quite enough for him to make personal sacrifices.

  117. Ahhhh a good night’s rest….agle actor, it’s all good. No harm done…this ol’ lady is still comin’ around :)

    Leah ~ Yeah, these guys have me more interested in the Pirates now. I don’t know what to do about that tho, because the other half won’t let me watch them on televison, says it bores him ::eyeroll::

    And again, thanks to ALL of you, you make this blog a pleasure to visit and discuss things. =)

  118. TODAY IS THE DAY!!!

    The Bucs take the field to begin their glorious quest to .500!!!

    Tomorrow the Bucs will actually be on the radio. I love to listen to the Bucs on the radio! So . . . I will get to listen to maybe one inning as I am taking my Mom to a play at the O’Reilly—curtain at 2:00. Curses!!!

    I want to win 82 games—then 92 games—not just the Opener.

    Oshkoshb’gosh . . . . . how may days until Opening Day!?

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