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Sunday column: Call him the Pirates’ ‘glue’

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Sunday column from PNC Park does the exact opposite of what we so often get accused of doing in journalism: It won’t sell a single paper, it isn’t sensational, and there really is no special hook to the story.

All it does is credit one outstanding performer on these Pirates who doesn’t get nearly enough.

And here’s a little more from my video ambush of Tony Watson this weekend …

Game coverage of the 2-1 edging of the Cubs is by Travis Sawchik.

Here’s our full Pirates coverage from Rob Biertempfel, Karen Price and Sawchik.

Here’s Cubs news from the Chicago Tribune.

Here are official game highlights from MLB.com.

Also, tonight at 11:35 p.m., WPXI-TV’s Subway Final Word will be front-loaded with baseball, but we’ll also have segments on the Steelers and Penguins. I’ll be joined by Alan Robinson, Mark Kaboly, Mark Madden and Alby Oxenreiter.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

Comments

  1. Brendan says:

    It finally hit me a few weeks to month ago that Watson had been really good for sizable stretch of time.

    Perhaps this was easy to miss in his two previous full season he’s been an average to slightly below average reliever. Perhaps this was because he’d not had a particularly good April and May–whereas Melancon was excellent from the outset. So it took a while for the perception of Tony Watson to catch up with the performance.

    Since June 1 however he’s been nearly as good Melancon. A few of the numbers, prior to tonight:

    June

    Watson: 14 IP, 9K, 3BB, 1.93 ERA
    Melancon: 11. 1 IP, 14K, 2BB, 0.79 ERA

    July

    Watson: 10.2 IP, 8 K, 2 BB, 0.84 ERA
    Melancon: 11.0 IP, 6 K, 3 BB, 0.82

    Aug

    Watson: 12.1 IP, 11 K, 0 BB, 1.46 ERA
    Melancon: 9.0 IP, 8 K, 1 BB, 1.00 ERA

    Sept

    Watson: 4.2 IP, 1 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA
    Melancon: 5 IP, 7 K, 0 ERA 3.60 ERA

    In the first two months of the season Watson’s GB% was below 35%, since then it’s well over 50%.

    DK: Outstanding post, Brendan. Thank you.

  2. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    No question that Tony Watson has been a massive unsung hero.
    It’s one of those things that might be best to not overly talk about.

  3. Nate83 says:

    What is amazing is this story about a player that has contributed to the Pirates winning season could and in many cases has been written about 10-15 players. Unsung, unexpected heroes has shown up all year some for a few weeks, some for a few months and some all year. Gomez, Locke, Liriano, Martin, Mazzaro, Wilson, Watson, Morris, Grill, Melancon, Marte, Mercer and even Tabata are all players that you couldn’t really put a finger on how good they would be or how much they would contribute. They all have been important parts of this team. Thanks for doing a story on maybe one of the more underappreciated members of that list.

    It really does take an entire team effort. I didn’t even mention AJ, Cutch, Alvarez, Byrd, Morneau, Wandy or Walker who all have a large role in the success this year because we kind of knew what to expect from them.

  4. Ghost says:

    I was going to say something myself, on the Watson piece, but I like this observation more. So I’ll just chime in with a ++.

  5. Baywatch says:

    Here, Here! a++ to Nate & Ghost BOTH! And good going, DK!

  6. Ghost says:

    The Say Bay Kid,
    What’s the new job everybody’s congratulating you on?
    (And congrats on it!)

  7. Ghost says:

    DK (or anybody): If Cole closes out the season in the same strong fashion we’ve been seeing of late, does he move into legitimate consideration for Rookie of the Year? Or does it remain a two-man race between the Marlin’s Fernandez and Yasiel Puig?

  8. cmat0829 says:

    Cole is plenty good, and these big starts on a big stage certainly raise his national profile, but to me, these awards always have a little ‘popularity contest’ to them… I’d be shocked if Puig doesn’t win this going away, with Fernandez #2. I do see Cole getting plenty of votes , but not even sure he’ll be third (Matt Harvey will get some votes I think).

  9. Ghost says:

    I would agree if I were a voter. I think it’s no less than awe-inspiring how much Puig has picked up that once moribound Dodgers squad.

  10. Ghost says:

    FWIW, I just saw in a Sawchick piece on Cole that Fernandez has been shut down for the season. So his stats are locked in, though the “out of sight, out of mind” factor might come into play (?)

  11. diehard says:

    Since ROY has is more about the individual than the team, I think Fernandez definitely deserves it. He’s been up all year, is top 20 in wins, top 10 in K’s, has a 0.98 WHIP (#3), and a 2.19 ERA (#2).
    But Puig plays in LA, so he will probably win. (And yes, Puig is having quite a season, but I think Fernandez’s is better).
    Both those things said, Cole has been amazing and at least deserves some recognition for it.

  12. Brendan says:

    Thanks DK. Great piece.

    Off topic, but regarding another guy who you’ve recently cited as under appreciated, Clint Hurdle.

    Hurdle’s often criticized for his tactical decisions. In part I suppose that’s the nature of coaching/managing, the decisions that ‘fail’ are stewed over and picked apart. The decisions that ‘work’ are forgotten as fans exult in the triumph of the moment and spend little time examining what may have allowed the moment to occur.

    Certainly, I’ve been critical of Hurdle’s in game tactics. But as read Travis’s piece (also excellent) it struck me he deserves an enormous amount of credit for embracing a radical and aggressive defensive shift that eschews traditional baseball thinking. The tactic doesn’t work if the manager doesn’t embrace it and sell it to his staff and players.

    Clint Hurdle looks and sounds like the baseball lifer he is. He doesn’t have the thick rim glasses or the wine collection of Joe Maddon. But he’s far more complicated than the reductive ‘old school’ caricature that’s often applied to him and paints him simply as a stubborn traditionalist.

    Yes, he bunts more than I’d like, and there are times when I wish he’d be more apt to use his best relief pitcher in a high leverage situation even if there’s not a save to be earned. But to be fair he’s shown an increasing willingness to be flexible with his bullpen usage specifically and the way he thinks about baseball in general.

    He might not be Joe Maddon but he’s much more open to new ideas and ways of thinking than many of his contemporaries.

    It’s rarely mentioned that Hurdle passed up a scholarship to Harvard to play Major League baseball. Now, Harvard isn’t a metonym for intelligence. There are plenty of very thoughtful and very bright people who went to far less prestigious institutions, not to mention many incredibly intelligent people who never went college at all. So I offer that not as evidence of his intellect, but rather just to point how that Hurdle is less easily defined and more complicated than he’s often given credit for.

  13. Ghost says:

    I do happen to take the Harvard scholarship offer as an indication of Hurdle’s intelligence. That school always has been and always will be impossibly selective in its admissions. So no knuckle-dragger is Clint.

    Harvard notwithstanding, I’ve long been a Hurdle fan. I also happen to be a fan of the bunts with this low-scoring, low run-allowing team we have in 2013, among other facets of Hurdle Ball. (And NO, I’m not a ‘Hurdle-can-do-NO-wrong’ inveigher that Hippo is leery of. But I do think Clint’s does a darn good job.) The revelations on Hurdle’s embrace of the Pirates’ cutting edge defensive strategies — along with pretty much ALL the revelations Sawchick delivers in that piece — were fascinating to learn. When I was reading it, I saved the piece to my hard drive before I even finishing it, it was that good.

  14. John Lease says:

    +1

  15. John Lease says:

    Dodgers always get the ROY, it’s Puig’s.

    Sad to say. Cole is deserving.

  16. Tom P. says:

    With 14 games to play, the Pirates magic number to clinch the second wild card spot is 7 (vs. Nationals), to host the wild card game is 12 (vs. Reds), and to win the division is 15 (vs. Cardinals).

    I will add this observation. The Pirates are now tied with the Dodgers and Cardinals for the second best record in the National League. So, the Pirates magic number to clinch home field advantage in the first round of the division playoffs is also 15.

  17. JAL says:

    JAL’s Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5wkLnpJkL8

    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 Pittsburgh Pirates Stats

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsjN0zO-DxI0dHVOMzdPYm9wUEJtdVJ0WWUzVWhFc2c#gid=0

    BLOGS and such

    4—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: And Now There’s No Doubt About Cole in the Playoffs

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/first-pitch-and-now-theres-no-doubt-about-cole-in-the-playoffs.html

    Byrd, Tabata Homer to Lead Bucs Over Cubs, 2-1

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/byrd-tabata-homer-to-lead-bucs-over-cubs-2-1.html

    Pirates Notebook: Morton Not as Electric against Left-handed Batters

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-morton-not-as-electric-against-left-handed-batters.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Cole leads Pirates to a 2-1 victory

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/9/15/4732008/cole-leads-pirates-to-a-2-1-victory

    6 Rumbunter

    Gerrit Cole: Solid As A Rock

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/09/10/gerrit-cole-solid-rock/
    7 WHYGAVS

    Game 148: Pirates 2 Cubs 1

    http://www.whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/september-2013/game-148-pirates-2-cubs-1.html

    8 The Green Weenie

    Cole and the Gang Top Cubs 2-1

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/09/coles-and-gang-top-cubs-2-1.html

    9 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Pirates 2, Cubs 1

    http://raisethejollyroger.com/2013/09/pirates-2-cubs-1/

    10 City of Champions

    Gerrit Cole, Marlon Byrd push Pirates past Cubs and into first-place tie

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/09/14/gerrit-cole-marlon-byrd-push-pirates-past-cubs-first-place-tie/

  18. JAL says:

    NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Alexandria Town Talk

    Marcase: Pirates finally ending two decades of futility

    http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20130915/SPORTS/309150034/Marcase-Pirates-finally-ending-two-decades-futility

    12 Chicago Tribune

    Baker shines in Cubs’ 2-1 loss

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-spt-0915-cubs-pirates-chicago-20130915,0,125172.story

    13 Beaver County Times

    McCutchen a strong MVP candidate

    http://www.timesonline.com/sports/pirates/mccutchen-a-strong-mvp-candidate/article_3ed28b98-b88f-5009-b2f0-a3f3076015de.html

    14 Cincinnati Enquirer

    Votto, Choo lift Reds over Brewers 7-3

    http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130914/SPT04/309140077/Votto-Choo-lift-Reds-over-Brewers-7-3

    15 Washington Post

    Nationals lose to Phillies, 5-4 and drop to 5 1/2 games out in race for second NL wild card

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/nationals-lose-to-phillies-5-4-and-drop-to-5-12-games-out-in-race-for-second-nl-wild-card/2013/09/14/f3f8f8be-1dae-11e3-8685-5021e0c41964_story.html

    16 CBS Sports

    Pirates v Cubs Game Preview

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/gametracker/preview/MLB_20130915_CHC@PIT/cubspirates-preview

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    No rally by Birds this time

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/no-rally-by-birds-this-time/article_40844435-0c1a-50a4-ad09-ebce30204e30.html

    18 PBC Site

    Pirates top Cubs, move into first-place tie

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_09_14_chnmlb_pitmlb_1&mode=recap_home&c_id=pit

    Notebook: Still in pain, Wandy shut down by Pirates

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130914&content_id=60588622&notebook_id=60589000&vkey=notebook_pit&c_id=pit

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Sweetspot

    McCutchen clear choice for NL MVP

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/40354/mccutchen-clear-choice-as-nl-mvp

    20 Fangraphs

    Chapman, Rondon, and Two Types of 100

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/chapman-rondon-and-two-types-of-100/

  19. JAL says:

    Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime Korgis 1980

  20. 21sthebest says:

    Buster Olney seems to think Fernandez is a lock for the award.

  21. 21sthebest says:

    Good column DK. Here’s hoping the Kovacevic jinx is just a myth.

    Can’t believe I beat Drew to that.

  22. Arriba Wilver says:

    +1

  23. Drew71 says:

    But where’s the hook? Where’s the sensation?

    Don’t those people know how to sell newspapers?

  24. Arriba Wilver says:

    I figured you were watching reruns of the Alabama-Texas A&M game.

    I also liked the column, as well as the comments here about it.

  25. Drew71 says:

    Monday’s column: the Pirates’ assistant trainer.

    The horse who makes the glue.

    DK: That’s fantastic.

  26. Brotherhood of the Redus says:

    Thankful this Sunday morning for it to be too cold to check mlb standings and read you work on the porch. First time ever. Cheers…it’s just maxwell house but its way more scoops than the container recommends for 12 cups.

  27. Brotherhood of the Redus says:

    Also DK, are you and Keith Law on decent terms? I pay no attention to him…ever, but I get the sense that if you gave a homeless man a sandwich he would find a way to take a whiz on that…his Byrd comments were in pretty poor taste.

    DK: I have great respect for Keith and am proud to consider him independently a friend. His comments on Byrd were 100 percent factual.

  28. Jim S. says:

    Great post, Brendan. The thing I have been mentioning as the difference between Tony Watson of the previous couple of years and the Tony Watson of 2013 is control within the strike zone. He always had the great arm, and the much-needed talent of being able to pitch many games each season. But, I felt in the previous 2 years he has had a tendency to be going along well then all of a sudden leave a very hittable curve or fastball right over the heart of the plate. This year, his control has been pinpoint accurate a much higher % of the time, and I believe the proof is in the results. His consistency has been terrific. He can pitch to both lefties and righties, which is so important for a lefty reliever. It means he can close in a pinch.

    Can Watson sustain this control next year and beyond? That is the important question, but my feeling is this is the new Tony Watson and is here to stay. I believe he can continue be a dominant reliever.

  29. That game has gone out to all HS coaches around the country on how to emulate the solid defense played in the SEC.

  30. Jim S. says:

    Great post again, Brendan. I cannot disagree with a word of it. I. too, occasionally get frustrated by disagreements I might have with Hurdle on certain in-game decisions. For instance, my latest frustration is his insistence on having Morneau continue to hit vs. LHP in high leverage situations, when the evidence has been pretty clear for a few years now that Morneau does not hit LHP with much power any more. That Justin Morneau retired a long time ago. Sancheze, who should be used almost exclusively vs. LHP, used to play against all pitchers and now seemingly plays against none!

    But, that is just a small quibble I have with Hurdle. I try not to get all wrapped up in those sort of disagreements because, in reality, there are 20 of them per game, and it is not possible to agree on all of them. I actually do agree with most of Hurdle’s in-game decisions, though, and almost all of his day-to-day management of the team. I think he has done a terrific job this year, and I love how he has embraced some new ways of looking at things this year. In fact, a lot of us on this blog have credited him with making important changes in how he does his job this year. Travis’ article just cemented for me what I and others had already been pointing out. CH’s willingness to do this is the sign of a forward-thinking manager in any line of work.

  31. Jim S. says:

    Good question, Ghost. I would say he is going to have a tough time unseating one of the young Cubans. Cole has been terrific of late, but they have been terffic all along. Tough competition for Mr. Cole.

    Now, if he throws two shutouts in his last 2 starts …

  32. Eric Bowser says:

    Really enjoyed reading the paper (Trib) this morning and reading about a player from the City League that will be heading to Harvard.

    If you don’t have the paper, here’s the feature online

    http://triblive.com/sports/hssports/football/4650719-74/evans-scott-brashear#axzz2evJzjhWR

  33. Jim S. says:

    Tom, that can’t be. Can it? I thought the Dodgers were going to continue to win 80% of their games. I thought they were unbeatable. I thought they would beat the Pirates 15-0 in a 4-game series. I thought the Pirates would be buried in 3rd place in their division, at least 6 back of both the Cards and Reds by now.

    Wait, I didn’t think those things. I don’t believe everyone on ESPN, FOX Saturday games or the MLB Network.

    Thanks for the updates everyday, btw. I always enjoy them.

  34. Jim S. says:

    Nice line, Drew.

  35. Jim S. says:

    +++, Ghost.

  36. Excellent column and good interview. I like humility in a person. Tony seems to have it.

  37. Drew71 says:

    By That Game, you meant Kentucky’s, right?

  38. Jim S. says:

    I will say that, for selfish reasons, I will be glad when this Cubs series is over. That means I can get back to watching the Bucs on ROOT with our own announcing team – warts and all. DirecTV and MLB have this weird set of rules, and one of them is that if you live in a market, and your local team plays in another market, you only have access to your own local broadcasts … or something like that. So, I am forced to watch the Pirates on the Cubs broadcasts all weekend.

    I feel like the Cubs TV team, led by Len Casper, always seems to dwell on the negative concerning the Bucs. Even now, with the Pirates at 86-62, they spent a significant amount of time last night talking about how Pirates #1 draft picks don’t pan out – even, amazingly, after admitting that Alvarez, McCutchen, Cole and Walker are all former #1 picks. They just can’t stop with the 20 losing seasons crap. I guess it’s not as if the team they work for has had about 35 losing seasons in the last 40 years, and hasn’t won a World Series that anyone currently alive can recall. Oh wait, it’s exactly like that. They criticize the Pirates for things that their employer wishes it did half as well right now.

    The night before, it was how it always rains in Pittsburgh. I sat in my house in Chicago, while it rained here (as it often does), listening to them complain about the 3 minutes of rain in PNC park, which did not even delay the game. Then, they talked about fatalistic Bucs fans not believing 81 wins was going to turn into 82 until it actually happened. You want to talk about fatalistic fans, Len? How about fans who believe goats and guys trying to catch foul falls in the stands cost their team pennants. How about labeling yourselves “Loveable Losers.”

    It will be a different set of topics today. I only mentioned a few from the last several nights. Ok, my rant that might only be interesting to me is over. Enjoy the ROOT broadcast today.

  39. Tom,
    1st off thanks for your continued posting of this countdown. But shouldn’t the magic number against St. Louis be 14? If both the Bucs & Cards finish the season on 14 game wins streaks the Pirates take the division via the 1st tiebreaker (head-2-head). I think…
    Is the 15 vs. Cards for an outright (division title)?

  40. Jim S. says:

    Did he tweet that from a Bosox-Yanks game, 21?

  41. Jim S. says:

    :-) Ditto, Lucky! This team seems to be full of humility.

  42. radio wave says:

    Drew: your thoughts on the college football day?

  43. kr70 says:

    it takes a village

  44. Jim S. says:

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Eric. Good luck to that young man. He has a bright future.

  45. Baywatch says:

    Ghost, Thanks! I’ve been hired by American Eagle Airlines (American’s regional airline) as what they call a “station agent” in Longview, Texas, about 45 minutes away. Basically, do it all but fly the plane: ticketing, baggage, load it, clean the plane when they light. I took the drug test last Tuesday, just waiting for them to get back with me on starting my training. This WOO-HOOily means I get to fly with American free, HENCE more trips to the ‘Burgh!

    Yesssssssss!!!!

    (still haply delivering the pizza pie in the meantime!)

  46. Jim S. says:

    Congrats to Paul Chryst and Pitt for their first win yesterday. I know it was not against a powerhouse opponent, but if you look around the country a lot of schools are losing to similar opponents. So, a nice bounce back win, and explosive offensive display by the Panthers. I continue to think the offense and overall program management is in good hands with PC. I continue to be concerned on the defensive side, however.

  47. Kevin says:

    Happy birthday to me and thanks for the gorgeous gift, pirates! FIRST place and 7 to clinch a playoff spot. Also a special thanks to the steelers for waiting a day to play and lose. :)

  48. Jim S. says:

    Good for you, Bay! Congrats!! :-)

  49. Baywatch says:

    Well put, Jim! I just read this to my wife (knowing we could BOTH relate to what you shared in your opening, about getting back to our own guys – warts and all – after we endured the Rangers broadcast team this week.

    Anyway, the wife says “some people are just NEGATIVE.” As I said before, I never noticed Len going on like that before, about our team. Guess they just feel like, after seeing a season of LOSERS, it might make the HOMETOWN crowd feel better to speak poorly of the opposition. Also gives them MORE to talk about. I’ll definitely enjoy the broadcast today. After our experience listening to those annoying Rangers guys (who were only complimentary to our guys, to their credit), I for one join in with Dorothy from Wizard Of Oz, clicking my heels and saying: “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.”

  50. Wild Bill says:

    Jim, we won’t have the negativity toward the Pirates, but we will have a close up of every child in the stadium under the age of twelve, and we will have a close up of every one in the stadium who dances badly or has weird artificial hair, and we will have a close up of every fan who brings a sign that has Root in it in some way wanting to be on tv.

    We might also see and hear a little bit about the game.

  51. Wild Bill says:

    Let’s also get you a win later today, Kevin.

  52. Being overseas I see lots of Pirate games with the home team’s broadcast/announcers (via AFN). Several of them are very annoying; most for being blatant homers (not that the Buccos’ are any different), some for just watching a different game than the one being played in front of them. I gave up on the Cubs’ broadcasters a long time ago. The Atlanta crew floored me as they constantly complained about the home plate umpire’s strike zone being overly large when the Braves were at the plate. Apparently they had never seen a Greg Maddux pitched game.
    I was really impressed with Rangers announcers last week. Very good. But the best is listening to the Dodgers’. Vin Scully calls a fabulous game!

  53. I didn’t hear the same announcers as you…I was surprised at how complimentary the Rangers’ crew was to the Bucs team. I caught part of the Liriano game and all the Burnett game.

  54. Jim S. says:

    I should add, Bay, that Len is not one of those overtly negative guys. He just seems to like to jab at the Bucs for some reason. He does it in a folksy way. But, I get tired of it. I have not had to endure the Rangers TV guys, but I listened to the 9th inning of the 3rd game of that series on my way home from work, and whoever it was on here that day that called out their radio team for being bland and boring was right on the mark. Maybe that was you, Bay.

    Good luck with the new gig, BTW! Always nice to hear something worked out for someone on here. It is a tough job market right now.

  55. Jim S. says:

    You will get all that, for sure, Wild Bill. We don’t get quite as much of that on Cubs broadcasts, but if there is a Cubs fan attending in another city we certainly get to see that. I think all local broadcasts are that way.

  56. Wild Bill says:

    Have heard Scully only a few times, Rick, but certainly enough to know that you are exactly right. He’s the best, maybe the best ever.

  57. Arriba Wilver says:

    +1

    It might have gone on a little too long, but last night I actually enjoyed Walk talking about what it’s like to be on the mound when you give up a home run. It was informative and entertaining. Which isn’t always the case.

  58. Jim S. says:

    I’ve said that about Scully on here a few times, Rick. With the Extra Innings Pkg on DirecTV, I get to see a lot of the local broadcasts as well. I only recently came to fully appreciate the amazing Vin Scully. Not only is he great, IMO, at calling the game and letting the broadcast be about what’s going on down on the field, but the guy is pushing 90 and he does the broadcast by himself. Some on here have said that is because he refuses to share the booth at this point with others. But, you can listen to an entire game and the guy never struggles to find a word for even a second. Where he gets the energy to do that, and to keep track of everything at his age is beyond me. I have really come to appreciate his greatness.

  59. Jim S. says:

    Hard to argue with Fernandez’s stats, diehard. I also thought he got sort of a raw deal in that dustup with Atlanta the other night. I thought they acted as badly, or even worse than he did.

  60. Wild Bill says:

    Right, AW. It was insightful and amusing. That’s stuff about the Game.

  61. chethejet says:

    Wandy shut down is not good news for this year. Hopefully he can return to a peak performance next year.

  62. Arriba Wilver says:

    Gotcha. ;-)

  63. Arriba Wilver says:

    What did you think of Furyk’s 59?

  64. Brandie says:

    Brendan, Ghost, AW, and Jimster,

    In order for the team to evolve, those at the top of the food chain had to take a good hard look at themselves and the way they operate to be effective. Credit to CH, NH, NL, and others for seeing that baseball is a top down game that is constantly evolving. By top down I mean you can’t expect the players on the field to make the necessary adjustments to produce the wins if the top is unable to provide access to the tools (in depth sabermetric analysis) to make that happen. Gentleman, your reasoned responses, coupled with excellent articles by DK and TS just prove this point.

    That is not to say that there will not be disagreement with pitching choices and how/when some of the defensive shifts are employed, but that is to be expected. Clint Hurdle has done a tremendous job, grumpers and grousers be damned, or do we really want to return to the days of 57-105 records?

    That is all. :-)

  65. Karen22 says:

    AGREE, Jim!!

    With everything you and Brendan have said about Hurdle. I do love the guy, but will surely continue to have my quibbles, too. All in all, though, he’s been a fantastic leader through the Pirates’ transition from losers to winners. Can’t ask more than that from a manager.

  66. Karen22 says:

    That is all GOOD, Brandie!

  67. Karen22 says:

    +87!!

  68. Karen22 says:

    Nice! Congrats!!

  69. Thundercrack says:

    +1

  70. Do they have a football team?

  71. Thundercrack says:

    I agree with you Jim S. regarding Fernandez, his stats, and that dustup.

    That kid has been awesome this year. And at this point is better than Cole

  72. Thundercrack says:

    Does Watson still throw the fastball changeup and curveball?

  73. Jim S. says:

    Nicely said, Brandie.

  74. Thundercrack says:

    • I love this one: Watson has inherited 25 baserunners from other relievers and allowed only six to score.

    I am not a stats geek. I tend to stick to the basic stats. But is this a good / excellent ratio for a pitcher? 24%. (and what about baserunners he inherits from starters?)

    And I realize that there are other factors that go into ‘inherited baserunners’, such as batters he’s facing, # of outs in the inning, what base the runners are on, etc…

    DK: It’s excellent.

  75. Jim S. says:

    I think “leader” is a great way to describe him, Karen. Some managers surely don’t do much leading, although that is the biggest part of their job. Hurdle is a leader.

  76. Jim S. says:

    ++, Thunder.

  77. Arriba Wilver says:

    Sounds like he doesn’t throw the curveball, but developed a slider.

  78. Jim S. says:

    That was stellar by Furyk. Every shot, from what I saw of replays, was pinpoint accurate. When he gets it going, he can put on a “tee to fairway to green” clinic.

  79. Arriba Wilver says:

    But what do I know? I didn’t realize that the 2 seam fastball and sinker were the same pitch.

  80. Karen22 says:

    I’ve been noticing Tony for quite a long while, but had no idea his numbers were this outstanding! Loved the column AND your post, Brendan! Glue, indeed!

  81. Drew71 says:

    To simplify: not much changed.

    If you look at the power teams from the power conferences which had at least some national championship buzz about them and came into the weekend undefeated, they all exited the weekend undefeated. I’m not going just by ranking. For instance Florida State, if they win out, including beating #3 Clemson in two weeks…well, it won’t matter that they were #10 this weekend, and Texas A&M was #6.

    If you look at the top: Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, Ohio State, Stanford, 1-5, all won. In my opinion, add Florida State to the list despite their ranking and you have a big six. All won or didn’t play.

    Yes, I have some sleepers beyond those six. But they really do not matter if two of the six are standing at season’s end.

    Yes, I am ignoring Louisville. I think they’re solid but their strength of schedule gives them NO SHOT even against a one loss team in the power conference. Remember Alabama’s one loss last season. Remember, computers don’t care about undefeated “purity”. They will note that Louisville will not play a top 30 team all season. Not their fault…they are pretty good. Just is.

    So look at the power schools’ results. That’s what I think of the weekend. All the other story lines are fodder for blogs and talk shows.

    Not much changed.

  82. Jim S. says:

    I also think Watson was a bit overlooked this year because, even though he has pitched great all year, for awhile near the start of the year his hits were clustered and he was giving up more runs than his stats would show. I believe his ERA is still in the mid-2′s, which is good but not near the level of which he is deserving. He could easy be in the mid-1′s with his “lights out” stats. He has a sub-1.00 WHIP.

  83. Jim S. says:

    I had a feeling it was going that way all along. He just wasn’t responding to rest or rehab. Also, they gave him the option of cortisone, but he didn’t want to do that because it was just a stopgap measure to get him back on the mound.

    That part, I really didn’t understand from Wandy’s standpoint. If it gives you a chance to pitch in the playoffs while not doing any further damage, why not go for it and still have time for an off-season conventional recovery? Maybe it wasn’t as simple as I understood from what I read.

  84. Karen22 says:

    Happy birthday to you, Kevin, and how about win #87 for you and for moi (hubby & my anniversary today)!!

    Do it, Frankie!!

  85. Drew71 says:

    I wrote after their thrashing by the Seminoles that I really don’t know how good or bad pitt will be this year.

    Different Week Same Story.

    Opposite but same.

    They crushed a bad team. After getting popped by a very good one.

    I’m taking nothing away from the victory, especially when they were so dominant. As JAL said yesterday (I’m paraphrasing), when you’re facing a no win game that pundits say you are supposed to win, it’s still better to, you know, win. The bigger the better.

    But still. No hidden slam. I just don’t yet know what to make of them after THESE games against THESE opponents.

  86. Jim S. says:

    Happy Anniversary, Karen!

  87. Jim S. says:

    I don’t, either. Offensively, though, I think they are in good hands in the long run. A lot of freshman played very well yesterday, which is good. But, the roster is still short on impact talent. He’s going to need to outsmart a lot of ACC defenses this year.

  88. Baywatch says:

    Rick, I just found the Rangers TV broadcasters’ voices to be annoying. That’s pretty much all. I’m funny in what I like in a broadcaster. Too much RADIO VOICE and I get turned off, but if the voice is just kind of regular, I don’t like that either! With these guys, the play-by-play guy sounds like someone doing bread commercials, and the color guy mumbled.

  89. Baywatch says:

    The Rangers radio guy, Eric Nadel, is in my opinion, the best in the business: great voice, plus super creative in describing the action. Nothing over the top.

  90. Baywatch says:

    Thanks, All!

  91. Brandie says:

    Happy Birthday Dude! :-)

  92. Brandie says:

    Happy and blessed marriage Ms. Karen!

  93. Thundercrack says:

    Can they be sure that pitching now won’t cause further damage.

    The fact that is still hurting can’t be a good sign…certainly not one that it is recovering.

  94. Arriba Wilver says:

    ICIT

  95. Brandie says:

    Hurdle has made that transition too. That is how he got the team to buy into what he was selling. The stats back that up. I commend Hurdle for taking the chance and not letting the game pass him by. If the game passes the manager and the other higher upos by, it passes the whole team by.Besides, I’m not sure the Pirates would be where they are with any other manager.

    Happy Days Jimster and Rarin’ Karen.

  96. Brandie says:

    BYRRRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDD MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNN!

  97. Wild Bill says:

    Sorry, outside for a while. What Furyk gets done with that funky swing of his has always amazed me. In some tourneys he’s not long enough off the tee to be a factor, but if it comes down to hitting irons close, few can hang with him.

    A great achievement at his age, especially.

  98. Brandie says:

    Come join me on the game thread!

  99. Wild Bill says:

    Congratulations, Karen!

  100. Jim S. says:

    I don’t know if they can guarantee it, Thunder. But, I assumed Andrews was acting in Wandy’s best interest when he suggested it.

  101. Baywatch says:

    Agree, Boys! And I watched the playbacks of that Fernandez homer, etc. Sure, Fernandez made a rookie mistake in pimpin’ the home run, but the Braves’ Johnson just acted like a PUNK!

  102. Brotherhood of the Redus says:

    Good to know…it seemed slightly contentious, but then again it’s difficult to discern intent. So essentially it’s safe to say that he was just yanking your chain, however I agree that his comments were definitely rooted in truth. It sucks that its a possibility but as you said…past tense. Thanks

  103. Brandie says:

    That wit sure is sharp, Mr.Drew-bador!

  104. Arriba Wilver says:

    BR–any links? Not sure what you are talking about. The stuff on Byrd so far has been 90+ % positive. Sounds interesting.

  105. Baywatch says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, Branj!

  106. Tom P. says:

    Rick,

    The magic number of 15 against the Cardinals is the outright division title. A one game playoff would be used to decide the division title in the event of a tie. The “Tiebreaker Rules” link on MLB.com gives this example of a tie in the NL Central: “For example, if the Pirates and Cardinals end up with identical records at the top of the NL Central, but both clubs would make the postseason regardless, the winner of their extra game would be declared the division winner while the loser would have to play in the sudden death Wild Card playoff game.”

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