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Morning Java: Write-your-own-column Tuesdays!

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> I generally have Mondays off, and I’ve been feeling a little guilty about that. So I’ve come up with what I hope is an idea to mitigate that here on the blog, all without my really doing much of anything.

That, of course, is to put you to work.

I’ll pose three questions up here every week, almost always on three different sports or issues, and ask you to put together your own — preferably brief — opinions on each or on just one, if you’re more comfortable that way. Let’s put it this way: If you’re over 150 words, you’ve gone way too far.

Type your entry right down below here in the Comments section.

Here goes …

1. The Steelers are 3-6 and only two games behind the 5-4 Other Jets for the final wild-card spot. Should this be the focus in favor of more future-based concepts such as playing more Jarvis Jones and other youngsters?

2. What, if anything, should the Penguins do about Evgeni Malkin’s slump?

3. Play devil’s advocate with the National League MVP finalists and make a case for either Paul Goldschmidt or Yadier Molina to win it. Don’t fake it. If your best case isn’t good enough, that’s fine, too.

All entries will be judged by our self-appointed panel in the commenting section — figure it out amongst yourselves — with results tallied up by a designated tallying person.

I’ll run the best entry — in its entirety — in the next day’s Morning Java.

And yeah, the check will be in the mail.

There isn’t anything of my own to showcase here on the blog, and I’m not covering anything, either.

>> I love Mark Kaboly’s weekly Steelers Film Session, if I haven’t already said that a million times. The man watches the game in person, then talks to the athletes and coaches, then watches it no fewer than three more times to break it down.

A little offensive balance never hurts, by beat writer Alan Robinson.

Neither does a healthy attitude, by Ralph Paulk.

Here’s our full Steelers coverage, including an update on Ramon Foster.

Here’s Lions news from the Detroit Free Press.

Here are official game highlights from NFL.com.

And here are TribLIVE Radio’s morning team of Ken Laird and Guy Junker talking some football yesterday …

One other Steelers item: Watch NFL Network tonight at 10:30 for a 15-minute, NFL Films-produced piece on Charlie Batch. I’ve seen a preview thanks to locally born producer Keith Cossrow, and it’s worth it.

>> Beau Bennett plans to carry the puck more and, in turn, carry more of the slumping Penguins’ scoring load. Beat writer Rob Rossi has it.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Flyers news from the Philadelphia Daily News.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com. In there, unfortunately, is the grisly broken leg sustained by Steven Stamkos. Hard to tell how long he’ll be out, but it’s hockey’s loss, not just the Lightning’s.

>> Paul Chryst looks ahead to North Carolina. Will his players still be looking back? Jerry DiPaola reports.

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>> Moving photo essay of Sharon High School’s first game after tragedy last night, by Andrew Russell. Here’s the news coverage of same by Kevin Gorman.

>> Neal Huntington, the Pirates’ GM, took second in Executive of the Year voting. Travis Sawchik reports.

Jay Bell is headed to the Reds, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. No great loss there. As I wrote in the Oct. 10 column just after the season, he helped no one.

The vote for National League Manager of the Year will be released tonight. I had a ballot for this award, and I’ll share it with you right here:

  1. Clint Hurdle, Pirates
  2. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves
  3. Don Mattingly, Dodgers

If anyone takes issue with Pittsburgh guy picking Pittsburgh manager … you can’t imagine how little I’ll care.

>> I’ll appear on MLB Network today at 2:30 p.m., live from PNC Park, to discuss that very topic.

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 more, including 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 top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

455 Comments

  1. Over the summer, Evgeni Malkin promised a return to form, a form that’s saw him be the only current NHL player to have MVP titles in the playoffs and regular season.

    This season, though, has been a frustrating start for ‘Geno.’

    With only three goals to his credit, one has to wonder where the struggles have come from, especially considering, on any given day, Malkin can dominate games like no other.

    Maybe it’s the fact his wingman, James Neal, has only played one game. Or, maybe, he’s been on the perimeter too much, or a refusal to want to dump the puck into the offensive zone and chase after it.
    Neal offers different avenues for Malkin: more ice to create opportunities, and a physical game, more so than Malkin’s, which occupies defensemen.

    Forty-six shots through 17 games doesn’t suffice, either, it’s less than three per game. Don’t shoot, don’t score.

    DK: Dude! One hundred and fifty on the button! If only Malkin could hit his target with the same precision!

  2. Saying Evgeni Malkin is in a slump is a major misnomer when one considers all of his starts. He is a notoriously slow starter and production will not be an issue with him soon enough. Also of note are his adjustments on the other side of the puck. At points, his work in his own zone has been vastly improved upon from where it was in the past. While he still commits mistakes (wish we could all just pretend that goal in NYC didn’t happen …) he is making an effort to make himself a more complete player, which is too often overlooked. Important to note is that Sidney Crosby =/= Evgeni Malkin. Sometimes, similar cap hits make people forget this.

    Don’t worry … just be patient, 71 never disappoints.

  3. Raise your hand if you think the Steelers would beat the Bengals or Colts on the road. What, no hands? Yeah, me neither. Why do I pick those two teams, you ask? Because that is who they’d play if they were the No. 6 seed and the playoffs started in the next week or two.

    What, did you think the playoffs were going to be easy?

    Repeat after me … THIS. IS. A. REBUILDING. YEAR. So the Steelers, should … you know … REBUILD.

    Rebuilding now, in the middle of the season after the trade deadline, means playing guys like Jarvis Jones. It means not getting Ben killed and Troy hurt. Rebuilding means finding out what you have in men like, oh I dunno, Markus Wheaton. It means … deep breaths now … angling for draft position.

    Good teams try to win all the time. They never give up. Fine, but let’s admit that the Steelers aren’t a good team. The only question left is ‘Are they a smart team?’

  4. #1: If you look at the math regarding the Steelers, it’s very intriguing. They’re only two games out of the wild card, and most of the teams ahead of them (Browns, Dolphins, Titans, etc.) absolutely stink. I don’t think the Steelers have a great chance to make the playoffs, but they should keep fighting until they lose at least one more game. Then go ahead and play the young guys.

    #2: Nothing.

    #3: I’m going off the board. The MVP this year was Clayton Kershaw. I do not believe in giving pitchers the MVP unless they have an absolutely incredible, borderline-historic season. Kershaw did exactly that. An ERA of 1.83 – that’s astounding! It was the lowest ERA by a left-hander in MLB in 35 years. Opponents batted .195 against him and he even led the league in strikeouts. That’s exactly the kind of historic domination that normally results in a pitcher winning the MVP.

    I know it’s not all about the numbers with Cutch, since his defense, speed and intangibles were big assets. That said, your numbers at least have to be somewhat competitive, and his were not. In most years, if you tried to argue that a player with 21 HR and 84 RBI should win the MVP, you’d be laughed out of the conversation – especially when there’s another guy out there (Goldschmidt) who hit 36 HR and 125 RBI.

    MVPs don’t hit 50 points higher (fifty!) with the bases empty than with runners on. MVPs don’t go 0-for-the-series in a key late-season matchup with their archrival. MVPs don’t place third on their own team in both HRs and RBIs (behind Alvarez and Byrd.)

    I would love to see Cutch win an MVP someday, but he doesn’t deserve it for what he did this year.

    • I think you missed a lot of Cutch’s numbers, Scott. He was Top 5 and Top 10 in a lot of categories.

      I don’t disagree that Kershaw is also worthy of the MVP.

      As for Goldschmidt, his offensive numbers were staggering. But, he is not near the baserunner that Cutch is, he doesn’t play an important defensive position, and he is not as good at his position defensively as Cutch is at his. Plus, he wasn’t in a playoff chase. I think all those things need to be considered.

  5. #2. Needs more “I’m score.”

    DK: Are you Howie Mandel or Paula Abdul?

  6. First, let me point out that I grew up in Pittsburgh, but I have lived in Phoenix for the past seven years and change. I also work for MLB.com doing pitchf/x during the season at Chase Field, so I understand what Paul Goldschmidt means to the Diamondbacks. His 36 HRs tied for the league lead. He lapped the NL field in RBIs. Batted .302 with an OPS of .952. Plus, he only made five errors playing a full season at 1B. Without his monster season, a D-backs team that lacks great pitching and power at most other positions easily finishes with 100 losses. Yes, Andrew McCutchen is a great player, but he played for a team that pitched its way to a winning season and the playoffs. His numbers were simply very good, and that’s why Goldschmidt should beat him out for NL MVP.

    • Goldschmidt had an amazing hitting season for a mediocre team. If the award were just about hitting, he would deserve it. Cutch is far better at baserunning and defense, while also playing an important defensive position. Goldschmidt plays a position that is so unimportant defensively that Big Papi was put there in the World Series simply to keep his bat in the lineup. You don’t do that with Centerfielders.

  7. The Steelers 23-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Heinz Field was reminiscent of a game the team would have played during a Super Bowl season.

    Just like the days of old, the Steelers allowed an inferior team to hang around for almost three quarters despite winning the battles at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

    Just like the days of old, Dick Lebeau devised a gameplan that left a rookie quarterback flustered and confused.

    However, let’s be realistic. This team is as far from the glory days as any team in the last decade. At 3-6, there is virtually no path back to what coach Mike Tomlin calls “relevance” for this 2013 group.

    The Steelers would have to go 6-1 down the stretch with a schedule that includes games against Green Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Detroit if they hope to have a shot at a playoff birth.

    Can anyone see a team that lost to the hapless Minnesota Vikings and the helpless Oakland Raiders going on such a run?

    I know I don’t.

    For that reason, it is now time to label this season what it really is: a rebuilding year.

    And, by extension, a team in a rebuilding year should let younger guys like Jarvis Jones play through their struggles.

    I know the Steelers love Jason Worlids, but how does playing him over Jones benefit you?

    The Steelers drafted Jones to be a game breaking rusher off the edge. As the Steelers know, these types of linebackers often take a while to get acclimated to the NFL.

    James Harrsion got cut umpteen times before he finally latched on with the Steelers and developed into a prolific pass rusher. Lamarr Woodley had just four sacks in 13 games during his rookie year in 2007. Even Joey Porter finished the 1999 season with just two sacks, albeit in limited playing time.

    The last comparison is the most telling. The 1999 Pittsburgh Steelers were out of playoff contention by the end of November. Subsequently, Porter’s playing time increased, and he showed flashes of dominance much like he did during that preseason, when he led the team in tackles and looked like a ball hawk.

    Sound familiar?

    The same logic applies to playing Markus Wheaton. Now that Wheaton is healthy, there is no excuse for benching him like the Steelers did on Sunday after he ran the wrong route on Roethlisberger’s lone interception.

    If the Steelers want Wheaton to eventually develop into a Mike Wallace type receiver, he has to get involved in the offense in any way possible.

    Maybe Wheaton should be the third wide receiver on third down and long yardage situations instead of Jerricho Cotchery. Or better yet, maybe Todd Haley should open up his playbook and call some more plays with four or five wide receiver sets (even though he won’t).

    And therein lies the problem. These Steelers are too set in their ways to adjust strategies.

    To the Rooney’s “rebuilding” is a word that ought not be spoken.

    To the coaching staff, letting younger guys play through mistakes and struggles for the sake of their development is wrong even if the team is 3-6. After all, “the standard is the standard.”

    But, what the Steelers fail to realize is by not taking the time to evaluate and develop the talent of the younger players in the locker room, they run the risk of putting a substandard football team on the field for years to come.

    DK: Juuuuuuuust a bit over 150 words.

    • To play devil’s advocate… Cincy, Baltimore and Detroit aren’t all that imposing (plus two of those three are at home). The Green Bay game is the only one that really looks unwinnable, but that could change depending on their QB situation.

      The New York Giants once won six straight after starting 3-7, narrowly missing the playoffs. Given how dreadful the AFC wild-card contenders are (aside from Denver), the Steelers are really not out of this race. So that’s how the coaching staff is going to approach the rest of the season, whether we want them to rebuild or not.

    • Who is Marcus Wheaton?

  8. No.

    Nothing.

    Impossible.

  9. Agree about “no big loss” with Jay Bell going to the HATED Cincy Reds. However, I am concerned if Pitching Coach Jim Benedict gets that job with the Phil. Phillies.

    Does anyone know if that position is anny closer to being filled??

  10. Different Drum Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys Written by Mike Nesmith

    JAL’s Different Drum Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3Nq48sHF8M

    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 MLB Important Dates

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/schedule/important_dates.jsp

    BLOGS and such

    4—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Neal Huntington Deserved the Executive of the Year Award

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/11/first-pitch-neal-huntington-deserved-the-executive-of-the-year-award.html

    Who Are the Best Bounce Back Free Agent Starting Pitchers?

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/11/who-are-the-best-bounce-back-free-agent-starting-pitchers.html

    Getting a Good Look at Catching Prospect Jin-De Jhang

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/11/getting-a-good-look-at-catching-prospect-jin-de-jhang.html

    AFL: Dickerson and Hanson Reach Base in Loss

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/11/afl-dickerson-and-hanson-reach-base-in-loss.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Reds to hire Jay Bell

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/11/11/5094036/reds-to-hire-jay-bell

    Neal Huntington finishes second in Executive of the Year voting

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/11/11/5093850/neal-huntington-finishes-second-in-executive-of-the-year-voting

    6 Rumbunter

    Marlon Byrd Rumors: Mets Have Made Contact

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/11/11/marlon-byrd-rumors-mets-made-contact/

    7 WHYGAVS

    Jay Bell, Jim Benedict, and other things that have been happening lately

    http://www.whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/october-2013/jay-bell-jim-benedict-and-other-things-that-have-been-happening-lately.html

    8 The Green Weenie

    Monday Notes

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/11/monday-notes.html

    9 City of Champions

    Pittsburgh Pirates should hire Freddy Sanchez as hitting coach

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/11/11/pittsburgh-pirates-hire-freddy-sanchez-hitting-coach/

    10 Pirates Site

    Hurdle should be no-brainer as top NL manager

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/pit/clint-hurdle-should-be-a-no-brainer-as-national-league-manager-of-the-year?ymd=20131109&content_id=63805944&vkey=news_pit

  11. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Rant Sports

    Pittsburgh Pirates’ Top 10 Prospects: No. 6 Tyler Glasnow

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/11/11/pittsburgh-pirates-top-10-prospects-no-6-tyler-glasnow/

    12 IS Sports

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Heroes and goats from a postseason to remember

    http://isportsweb.com/2013/11/11/pittsburgh-pirates-heroes-goats-postseason-remember/

    13 Sports on Earth

    National League Award Preview

    http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/63827526/

    14 LA Times

    Why Angels’ Mark Trumbo is so coveted

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-angels-mark-trumbo-erick-aybar-cardinals-20131110,0,7929341.story#axzz2kQlyTuZM

    15 Bleacher Report

    Is 2013 Rookie Class’ Rapid Rise to Stardom a Sign of Things to Come?

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1842798-is-2013-rookie-class-rapid-rise-to-stardom-a-sign-of-things-to-come

    16 Grantland

    When the Fall Is All There Is

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9957752/bud-selig-alex-rodriguez-baseball-legacies-steroid-era

    17 St Louis Post-Dispatch

    Bird Bytes: What to do with Freese?

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklasz/bird-bytes-what-to-do-with-freese/article_9200f6ad-ab99-5744-9e61-98b3859550b2.html

    18 Minneapolis Star Tribune

    Searching for baseball treasures in the Arizona Fall League

    http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/231306321.html

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    Internet Baseball Awards NL Manager of the Year

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22215

    20 Fangraphs

    Troy Tulowitzki, At What Cost?

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/troy-tulowitzki-at-what-cost/

  12. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Character (Ac)Counts: Or Does It?

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/11/11/5090948/character-ac-counts-or-does-it-pittsburgh-steelers

    Jerricho Cotchery: Solid, dependable

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/11/11/5088866/jerricho-cotchery-solid-dependable

    22 Steelers Gab

    Even Though It’s One Win – Is It Truly A Turnaround?

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2013/11/11/even-though-its-one-win-is-it-truly-a-turnaround/

    Soccer(football)

    23 US Soccer P

    Klinsmann Calls 23 Players for World Cup Preparation Matches against Scotland and Austria

    http://www.ussoccer.com/news/mens-national-team/2013/11/131111-roster-rel-scot-aust.aspx

    24 World Soccer Daily

    November 11, 2013 – all the stories you need to read

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-the-stories-you-need-to-read-november-11-2013

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Pens Points Monday: Should the Pens Call Up Despres?

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/11/11/5090436/pens-points-monday-should-the-pens-call-up-despres

    Pittsburgh Penguins sign tough guy Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond</b?

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/11/7/5078570/pittsburgh-penguins-sign-tough-guy-pierre-luc-letourneau-leblond

  13. Yadier Molina should win the MVP because he is the best catcher in baseball. The Cardinals are not the same team when he is out of their lineup. WAR of 5.7.

  14. I clicked on the link to the Cinci newspaper that DK provided.

    There is a video with two of the paper’s baseball writers.

    The reason the Reds didn’t acquire Marlon Byrd last season is pretty clear now: money. They didn’t have it to spend. Plus they have a lot of deferred money on a lot of contracts.

    • Wow. They must have really been short. Wasn’t Byrd’s total salary 700,000? And for a little over a month of that pro-rated? Pocket change in MLB terms.

      • Monopoly money?

        :-)

      • You’re right AW. I did a quick search on that trade and I think Byrd was just owed $130 K….and the Bucs may have gotten money in that deal.

        The two Cinci reporters were going on and on about money and how so many players were having deferred money. And the only way they could have any hope of resigning Choo would be to trade Phillips. And I got the impression that part of the reason they want to trade Phillips is because he is an aging player that is going to make a ton of moeny….and he’s a jerk.

      • Ok, so how do they excuse not claiming him?

        That’s all they had to do, right. NOT let him get to the Pirates.

        I’m sure the owner could’ve taken up a collection.

    • And, so they still fired Dusty a year before his contract expired. Right? So, they’ll be paying too managers – even if they got the new one on the cheap. They must have really wanted him gone badly.

      I think the Reds may be doing things a bit differently going forward from a financial standpoint. They have been shopping Brandon Phillips because he is way overpaid. No takers so far. They are letting Arroyo go with no effort to re-sign him. They are allowing Choo to go with no effort to re-sign him. The Reds are bleeding financially, I would say. They couldn’t live in the $100 milion + per year range.

  15. Is anyone else seeing a new blog format today?
    It is almost impossible to read, and almost impossible to reply to posts.

  16. Look out your window this morning.

    94 DAYS UNTIL PITCHERS & CATCHERS REPORT TO PIRATE SPRING TRAINING!!!

  17. Or, as Rogers Hornsby was quoted as saying: “People ask me what I do in the winter when there is no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and and wait for Spring”.

  18. The decision was made when the five words were hung on the wall outside the Steelers locker room.
    “The standard is the standard,” they say, and these Steelers aren’t up to it.
    Not offensively, with a line that would have a hard time blocking tourists from trying to get into North Korea and the 7th –worst scoring unit in the league. Not defensively, where they were scorched by the Patriots for 55 and allowed the Bears to hang 40 under the North Shore ketchup bottles.
    Trailing the Jets by two games, the Steelers would have to make up room on a slate in which New York should expect to win at least four of their final seven matchups.
    At this point in the year, it’s time to do what the offense has done all season- punt.

  19. To address the tragedy of the Sharon High School players……..

    Years ago I used to work in Sharon. 2 ways to get into downtown Sharon………. go on State street, which is basically a red light every block, or go on Connelly Blvd, called “the Freeway”, which is 4 lanes, no divider (except for a rumble strip) with far fewer lights.

    The area of the accident, is the “speedy” part of the road, with no red lights, and specifically, that area curves under the viaduct. Drugs, alcohol, and texting have all been ruled out as causes of the accident. The only thing I can guess, is that the oncoming lights blinded the driver (which in that area happens a lot), and he crossed over the little rumble strip. If a Jersey barrier was in place there, this wouldnt have happened.

    Just a sad, sad story.

  20. Let me be the first to say that I think Huntington not winning Executive of the year stinks more than a huge steaming pile of horse crap. Talking with Milo last night, and he said it was voted on by Huntington’s peers, which one would think they would respect him more because it aint easy raising the dead.

    I wonder if the dreaded BOS/NY/LA media bias had an effect on the voters, because the TV is normally all Sawks-Yanks all the time. More head scratching is the fact the other GM’s knew the Pirates had a $66 million payroll, while the Sawks had 2.5 times more to work with. Just more phony popularity contests these awards are becoming.

    • Maybe the voters took the same stance that some have on this blog: What took him so long?

      :-)

    • Can’t agree that Cherington winning means it was a popularity contest. It’s not just about money. He inherited a mess, too. I personally would have voted for Neal, but with it being voted on by their peers, it kind of minimizes the Boston/NY/LA effect. And with them being friends, it wouldn’t surprise me if Neal voted for Cherington. And Cherington, if not the best choice, was certainly a very, very legitimate choice.

    • Well said, plan.

      Maybe a few of Huntington’s peers took exception to being fleeced by him the last few years!

      I think it is unconscionable that Cherington got the award over Huntington. The Hanrahan-Melancon trade alone should have sealed Cherington’s fate vs. Huntington. All Cherington did was open up the vault and spackle over his mistakes from the previous season.

      • That’s a huge oversimplification. He made tons of changes, like unloading $270 million in salary commitments and replacing the departed players with better alternatives. Easy to argue Neal should have won. Impossible to say it’s a no-brainer. The Hanny-Melancon deal is only one aspect. I’m not advocating for him to win it, just that it was a close contest.

        • I don’t have a big problem with Cherington winning the award. His team did win the AL East…and a lot of games.

          But he cleared those salary commitments in 2012. And it would seem a bit easier to rebuild that team with a lot of ‘cap room’ to spend.

          • In late August 2012, obviously for 2013. Guess that depends on your perspective on what the award covers. No question mo’ money helps a lot. But it’s like selling a stock. It involves two decisions, what to sell, and then what to buy with the proceeds.

        • And I’ll scream bloody murder if Clint doesn’t win. ;-)

        • Good points, Arriba. But, they also had the luxury of Victorino, Napoli, Drew, Gomes, etc. They never lose guys like Big Papi. They get to re-sign the Pedroias of the world. Essentially, they get to keep nearly every guy they really want to, and they still get to go out and fill holes through F/A.

          They signed Miller as closer the year before and that didn’t work. They caught a bad break with Hanny, but the fact is Melancon was due for a big-time bounce back and Hanny was slipping the year before. They got extremely lucky with door #3 as closer.

          Huntington had to make something out of nothing with a whole lot more brain work, in my opinion, than Cherington did. I’m not saying Cherington didn’t do a good job, but his job is infinitely easier than Huntington’s in my opinion.

          • Victorino didn’t have a good 2012 so I thought that was somewhat of a risky signing and something that Cherington deserves credit for.

      • A Hanrahan-Melancon trade would have been bad enough, but they threw in “The Olive” and an infielder also. I honestly think the glare of Cherington’s achievements in a major market got him votes. I also think if Huntington would have won, the outcry from said major markets would have been huge, and Sleepy Bud just cant make the major markets mad……..

        • plan,
          I disagree with your logic.

          What does ‘Sleepy Bud’ have to do with this offseason award? What would any market care who won or didn’t win GM of the Year?

          And don’t forget, the Pirates threw in Brock Holt.

          • Selig constantly wants the big markets to dominate the airwaves. Think Cherington would have won if he wasnt in Boston? Say he did this with Colorado………. he wouldnt have won. The way things are done now…….. i. e. contracts, no overslot signings, media coverage……. its all slanted toward the big markets. Fellow GM’s cant help but be swayed by that,….. I doubt Colletti follows what Huntington is doing on a daily basis…… just makes it a bit harder to get a fair opinion. Just thing if the Pirates got as much coverage 24/7 like the Sox-Yanks-Dodgers……… I think Huntington would have won.

        • That’s true, plan. They basically threw in Pimental. I really believe Huntington had a better idea of the potential of Stolmy than Cherington and his staff did – and that should never happen. He has not made his mark in the pros yet, and he could still be a bust as is the case for just about any pitcher. But, he was 23 this year, pitched well at AA, AAA, and in his short stint in the majors. Plus, he consistently throws 96 and sometimes higher. There is a lot to be excited about with Stolmy’s potential. The Red Sox are not exactly awash in power major league-ready arms, and they gave one up as a sweetener on an already bad deal.

          If Huntington had made a deal like that, he would have been crushed here.

          • I don’t think NH would have been crushed at the time the deal was made. Pimentel’s minor league career to that point wasn’t very good.

            • But, don’t you think it would have come up as the season went on?

              • What would have come up Jim? I got lost.

              • Well, you said NH would not have been crushed at the time of the deal since Pimentel did not have a great minor league career. I agree, but as the season wore on, the fans who were paying attention would have noticed that not only did they get taken to the cleaners by the loss of Melancon, but also that Stolmy had worked himself into a much better prospect. Boston, on the other hand, got a gimpy Hanrahan and a mediocre prospect in Brock Holt.

                And I didn’t even get to Jerry Sands yet! Ok, I’m kidding about that last part.

              • Dangit. I meant Cherington would not have been crushed at the time (from my 4:14 post).

      • It would’ve been different had the Bucs made it to the World Series or even won it.

    • First and foremost, Cherrington won the World Series. He doesn’t win this award if he doesn’t win the World Series.

      I don’t really think these guys care enough to look into the details of Huntington’s bullpen efficiency, under the radar trades, and directive to rely on shifts.

      Cherrington made a bunch of BIG moves (three separate free agency acquisitions largers than any in Pirate history) and won the World Series. That’s gonna win it 9 times outta 10, whether a better candidate existed or not.

      • National Mart of Records,

        The Executive Award is voted on immediately after the regular season, before any playoff games, including World Series.

        Cherrington’s biggest credit some give him, the big Dodger Dump, actually occurred in 2012 season.

        I wonder if some voted for Cherrington as a disgust vote AGAINST the dude who moved to the Cubbies. So many don’t like HIM.

    • This supports my theory that other GMs still don’t respect Huntington. I think they believe he got lucky with some of those signings last season. Nobody expected Liriano to pitch like an ace. I’m sure NH didn’t even expect that.

      And some guys might still be offended that he turned down their trade-deadline offers – you know, the ones where they were asking way too much. I get the sense that people around baseball just don’t think the Pirates (and their GM) are for real. They see a fluke.

      Success in 2014 is the way to destroy that belief.

      • I agree with this. Like the little brother always tagging along with his big brother, they might not consider Neal part of “the fraternity” yet. He showed some backbone at the trade deadline, and that might not sit well with all the GMs who were looking to fleece us.

        And a little jealousy, perhaps?

      • Success in 2014 is a way to destroy that belief if in fact that belief does exist. And I don’t think it does.

      • Good post, Scott. Might be some truth to that.

        • That post doesn’t make sense to me. I’m thinking that the GM’s understand that everyone is trying to do the best job they can for their team and that they all understand how business works. Plus, Scott seems to be assuming that GM’s across the board think that way about Huntington. I could see there being an outlier here or there but the GM’s as a group thinking that way? Doesn’t meet my common sense test.

          • I recall reading an awful lot through 2012 about how Huntington drove too hard of a bargain at the trade deadline every year, and that he over-valued his players and demanded too much in return. He was often said to be “unrealistic” in his demands.

            Now, this was the national media baseball guys saying this. The Olneys, Heymans and the like. I assume they parrot what the large market GMs tell them, more often than not. So, I believe the prevailing wisdom among the big market GMs was that “This Huntington guy just doesn’t get it. Doesn’t he realize the Pirates are always supposed to be our whipping boy? We dictate trade terms, not him. He doesn’t seem to know his place.”

            I’m just trying to paraphrase what I inferred from some of the comments about Huntington prior to this year. When Theo Epstein milks every last bit of talent out of his trades, as he did this year and last, that is virtuous. When an upstart like Huntington does it, that pisses the establishment off just a bit. So, it might take him an extra year or two of doing a great job before he gets included in the club.

  21. About question #1 – the Steelers still have games remaining against most of the other 4-5 teams in the AFC – Ravens (1), Browns (2), Dolphins (1). They already beat the Jets who they are trying to catch. Titans just lost Locker for the year. The Chargers aren’t very good either. Keep pushing forward with your best players – if that includes Jarvis and other youngsters so be it. Most of the young players play already anyway. I haven’t given up hope yet….

    • If ever a 3-6 team was going to make the playoffs, this would be it, for all the reasons you cited.

      Still unlikely, but not impossible.

  22. RE: #2

    Teach malkin the definition of “patience” and concept of “creating turnovers” instead of committing them!

    15 words…boom! :)

    • I think Malkin creates turnovers, but I think your comment about patience and committing turnovers is a good one – they go hand and hand. Maybe it is because he feels the need to do everything himself, but often times he goes full steam ahead and tries to dangle the puck through the whole team rather than working with his line mates. Also when he gets stuck, he throws the puck into open space hoping a player will be there rather than dumping behind the net or making safer play. Malkin has to learn he doesn’t need to be spectacular with his playmaking all the time to be MVP-type player he was. Either way patience = less turnovers.

  23. About question #2 – The Pens don’t have to do anything yet about Malkin’s slump. They need to just wait and see a little more because there are no more excuses now. He showed some signs of improvement last game with Neal back, just give them time to get back in sync (and for Neal to get into game shape). No reason Jokinen-Malkin-Neal shouldn’t be a #1 type line production-wise. Start worrying if the slump goes into the middle of next week.

  24. Let me disclose first that I am a middle age man who, like most in my demographic, is somewhat adverse to change.

    1. Don’t care for the white background.

    2. Like the bigger avatars.

    3. Don’t like “recent comments” are no longer on the right side, but buried on the bottom of the page.

    4. I use both mobile and laptop. I guess of the two, I prefer the laptop presentation. Mobile stuff is garbled to the far right side after a few reply comments.

    Like the Greeks observed thousands of years ago, “nothing endures but change.”

  25. Put down your calculators, nerds, and step into the warm Arizona sun, because the math here is easy: Paul Goldschmidt should be the NLMVP. It’s as simple as 1-2-5: Goldy’s 125 RBI over McCutchen’s 84.

    Come out of your momma’s basement, SABR geeks, and get a load of this– Goldschmidt also outpaced McCutchen in homers, runs, TB, walks, SLG, OPS, and sacrifice flies. And no, I don’t care that McCutchen ranked first in the NL in fWAR (8.2) to Goldschmidt’s fourth (6.4). (WAR!–what is it good for? You’d have to ask a dweeb who cares.) My eyes tell me that no one was more valuable to his team than Goldschmidt was to the Diamondbacks. Would they have finished .500 without him?

    What did McCutchen’s DRS or UZR150 or baserunning get the Pirates? Two extra weeks of baseball and a revitalized fanbase? Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take the RBI.

    It’s not rocket science.

  26. Disappointed to hear you characterize Ian Rappaport’s NFL Network piece on Roethlisberger as ” utter nonsense”.

    Guys like Rappaport, Schefter, Mortensen dont go in front of the camera without some merit to their stories. He didnt make it up – he was told the info and he didnt just run with it without some level of trust to where the information was coming from.

    To totally dismiss it is irresponsible journalism.

  27. Per number 1, I haven’t seen many Steeler games this season as they haven’t been on as much prime time with the state of the team, but what I have seen, this team is still managable.

    Being only two games out of the WC chase, I believe they should continue to try to win every game with best available player at that position. They can expose Jones and the other young guys the way they are doing it now and still try to win.

    Until they hit loss number eight, I feel there is a chance for the playoffs. Even with the depleted roster due to injuries and the aging vets we’ve all been reminded of daily, these are the Steelers. The standard is the standard. Play defense like it’s the
    Super Bowl, don’t lose the game on offense and play until the end.

    DK’s Monday column hit on Ben not quitting and I, for one, don’t want to see them quit on the season.

  28. The Steelers have a great, new attitude because they beat the Bills? Go ahead and read that again, and let it sink in for a few minutes.

    Eugenics Malkin will be fine. Anyone notice that 87 hasn’t been scoring much lately either?

  29. Thinking about writing my column. But who should I talk to first: Heinz Field, Consol Energy Center or PNC Park ?

    • Is the big duck still there? I bet it could quack really loud!

    • PNC Park is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League, Osh. No can do there.

    • Home run, Osh. Home run.

    • Oshkosh b’Gosh,

      Civic Arena? Nah, already taken.

      How ’bout Highmark Stadium? With capacity of 3000, there’s never very many patrons there for the Field to talk to/about. You might get isolated human interest stories.

      And not much action takes place on that turf, so plenty of time for the turf to give its observations of the view it can see of real fans/real teams visible across the river.

      Maybe you can interview the grass growing in the goal areas, and find out what it is like to watch grass growing while futbol games are simultaneously ongoing.

      An interesting perspective you could take is finding out from the grass what it is like to have women football players, the Passion, who are heavier than the traditional futbol prancers.

      Ah-h, you’re probably right———nothing exciting happens at Highmark Stadium to deserve interviewing it.

  30. Geno. We love him. He can be the most dominant, physical presence on the ice (especially when the Captain is unavailable). But then there are those times when he is sloppy and not so engaged. You know those times. Pass without looking. Skate slowly toward the action at the other end of the ice. Take the stupid penalty because a grinder jammed him up. But when he explodes, and he is score again. Really, we know it’s going to happen. Let him have some fun with Philly tomorrow.
    Not all of this is on him. The hockey gods have not dealt Geno a great start. Lazy and Sunshine are not on his wing to support him. It’s been a non-stop revolving door of wingers, game to game, shift to shift. Geno is still a big kid. Give him back his linemates for a couple of games and “look out Loretta”!

  31. Jarvis Jones has a ton of talent. There is no doubting that. Scouts said he was one of the most NFL-Ready players in the draft. Somehow it hasn’t gone as planed with injury and demotion frustrating him and the fans.

    Jones has started four of the eight games he has played. This, however, is not enough. He was drafted to start as right outside linebacker. So start the man. He knows how to rush a passer; he knows how to play this game. He just has to learn to execute it in game. Playing quality time as the starter will teach him best.

    Same goes for all players a team drafts that they believe are an actual part of their future. That means playing Jones’ fellow rookies Le’Veon Bell, Shamarko Thomas and Marcus Wheaton.

  32. Man I hated to see Stamkos go down with that kind of injury, but I guess we as Pens fans have already had our share of best players being out for extended periods of time. Stamkos is a good guy though and hope all goes well with the recovery.

  33. As to question #1………..

    I understand a team “plays to win the games”.
    I understand that basic pride in your craft says play your hardest.
    I understand that “tanking” is bad.

    But this team, as constituted just isnt good enough to gain a WC spot, see losses to Tennessee, Oakland, and Minny-sota. Young players should be played to see who will be playing next year. Hard decisions will need to be made as who to let go.

    More importantly, does anyone remember the 80′s? A string of 8-8, 7-9, 6-10 seasons that didnt allow the Steelers to go into rebuild mode, and the losses just kept coming anyway. Need to concentrate on getting a higher draft pick………… a miracle run to a WC berth will just delay the inevitable.

  34. In response to Question #3, Yadier Molina is a very worthy candidate for MVP on many levels. Although he plays the most physically demanding position on the diamond, he still hit .319 while slugging a robust .377. More importantly, his defensive prowess was such that he virtually eliminated the threat of the opposing team stealing a base. This invaluable ability prevented his staff from surrendering ‘manufactured’ runs, kept double plays in order, and in turn kept pitch counts down allowing the starters to remain in the game longer thus giving less exposure to what was an inconsistent bullpen over the year.

  35. Morning everyone. The new layout is like bright sunshine with snow cover.

  36. Holy Grandkids, Batman, Jandy changed her avatar!!!!

  37. Hey there’s a recent comments on the right YAY! Good job, Dejan and the trib :)

  38. Break for me, be back later on…be good ;)

  39. Tuesday Comment Column:

    * Considering the GM & Head Coach’s recent record of drafting in the mid-to-late part of the rounds, I want the draft pick (preferably Top 10). Play the youngsters, all of them. And play them a lot. Even Landry Jones. What’s the sense in Roethlisberger taking more hits? Rest up for next year, big fella. You’re gonna need it.

    * I don’t think the Penguins do anything other than perhaps get him [Malkin] a game off to try and break him out of his funk. With what Geno is capable of, he has to be in the lineup almost every night. Getting James Neal back should also make him feel more comfortable on the ice. I have no doubt Evgeni will come good, and lead this team on a Stanley Cup push.

    * If it’s down to Goldschmidt or Yadi for NL MVP…it’s Yadi for me 7 days a week. Now, this isn’t to suggest that Molina is head-and-shoulders above Paul Goldschmidt (and I hate picking a St. Louis Cardinal), but he’s [Molina] a middle of the lineup presence, and defensive stalwart (if not the best catcher in all of baseball) on 1 of the best teams in MLB. I have no doubt that Paul Goldschmidt will 1 day win an MVP…just not this time.

  40. Heard on the raiod yesterday, that Goldschmidt will be hurt by Arizona’s ballpark inflating numbers……. much like Coors field. The hot, dry air out there is responsible for improved numbers. Just something I thought would share.

    Oh, and in case anyone noticed, today is…………………. 11/12/13. :)

  41. The Pirates have confirmed the departure of Benedict Bell.

  42. Sports related (basketball, but not NBA…)

    If anyone has seen the Harlem Globetrotters live can attest they put on a great show. This was clearly not part of the show, however. Thankfully, William “Bull” Bullard came away virtually unscathed (except for a cut on the head and maybe some soreness).

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2502533/Watch-Harlem-Globetrotter-Bull-Bullard-narrowly-escape-life.html

  43. Reports have Marlon Byrd signing a two year deal with the Phillies.

    • Byrd served his purpose with the Pirates, there’s no way the NH would give him a 2 year deal. The Bucs will find someone younger than Byrd for RF I am sure. The revolving door concept they used last year isn’t going to cut it.

    • I can’t wait to see the money they are going to give him. Signing him this early will either be a great move or a very big dumb move by the Phillies.

      And remind me of this the next time we talk about how a veteran that we trade for just loves the Pirates, the clubhouse, the fans and the city.

    • I liked him. Would have liked to see him come back and keep the seat warm for Polanco but a two year deal wouldn’t have made any sense for the Pirates. Good for him. He played well for two teams last year and deserves to cash in.

      • I thought Marlon did a good job for the Bucs. But, not 2 year extension, $16 million good.

        There are some other guys out there. Or, Tabata/Lambo should be able to hold the fort down for a spell.

        I don’t think they consider GIJ much of an option, based on his projected salary.

      • I liked Byrd, too. But the Bucs sure weren’t going to pay him $8 million a year for 2 years.

        Before we jump to conclusions like we used to do, let’s give NH an opportunity to come up with something. The season doesn’t start tomorrow, you know!

    • Just saw that on twitter. I would’ve liked to see Marlon back on a 1yr. deal (to transition to Polonco) but I guess we’ll be dealing with the Tabata/Lunchbox show until Mr. Poloco is ready to man RF.

      I think Jose can actually be a pretty productive player if he can stay out of his own way.

      • There are other free agents who own outfield mitts available.

        • Yes. I don’t think the decision has been made just yet.

        • Truth. Much time to go. Tabata is under contract though.

          • By the way, what’s up? Haven’t noticed you around in a minute.

            • Nothing much. Same old. It’s soccer season for me (specifically Arsenal, and all things Arsenal) so I really don’t have much to say in regards to Pittsburgh sports. The Steelers stink, so I’ll be waiting until the off-season to see how they revamp this team. The Penguins…well, there’re 82 games, I’ll keep an eye on them, but I’ll start REALLY paying attention around Jan or Feb. Winter meetings are coming up for the Buccos tho, so we should have some nice tidbits to talk about soon! I’m always lurking….haha!

  44. This is a fun time of the college basketball season. Lots of schools playing interesting interstate games before moving on to the Thanksgiving tournaments, playing the compulsory intrastate games and holiday tournaments in December, and starting their league play as the new year begins.

    Tonight has a bunch of attractive games.

    Fresno State leaves produce country and travels across the continent to face Pitt at the Pete. The Panthers best not sleep on Fresno State as they are coming off a good win over a pretty decent UC-Irvine club.

    Michigan State battles Kentucky and Kansas takes on Duke in the house Jordan built in Chicago. Basketball Nirvana! Chicago is lousy with Sparty grads so Kentucky will have their hands full. I hope it is a sad night for one Ashley Judd. Duke and Kansas feature the top two freshman recruits since the Norman Conquest.

    Ohio travels to Columbus to take on Ohio State in an early intrastate match up. Florida will be an an hour and half southwest of me to take on Wisconsin. I was hoping snow would greet the Floridians but no such luck. Wind chills in the teens will greet them as they leave their hotel, though. Oakland University goes to Westwood to play the Bruins. I’ve followed UCLA basketball since I was a young ‘un. Their hiring of Steve Alford ranks as probably the most disappointing hires ever. by any team I follow. Absolutely disgusting that wretched human being stands on the shoulders of the great John Wooden.

  45. If Neal Huntington is true to his own stated standards:

    ——He will NOT sign A.J. Burnett because his salary will be too high a percentage of total Pirate budget

    ——He will trade Francisco Liriano, because he will never have a higher upside than RIGHT NOW, and get a shortstop or 1st Baseman, with a young pitcher throw-in

    • He might just get a Mother Theresa biatchslap if he does both of those things!

    • I understand your thoughts, but that would leave us shorthanded starting pitching wise

    • How many GM’s out there have spare 1B/SS/SP’s available?

      Liriano is not that valuable.

      • SS: Didi Gregarious, Jurickson Profar, Indians need a starter so maybe they would trade prospect Francisco Lindor or certainly Major Leaguer Cabrara, JJ Hardy with Machado expected to take over there soon anyway, Cubs have a great upcomer behind Castro, Astros have 3 good shortstops in system, Hechiverria from Marlons, Ronny Cedeno still available.

        1B: Trumbo, Morse, Ike Davis, Lukas Duda, Smoak from Seattle (switch-hitter)——some of those would have to be 2-for-1, even with Liriano having only one more year on contract———maybe Bucs can even pick up another Gaby Sanchez

        • Smoak, I’ve heard that name before…tell me more, Groat

          • JandyGirl,

            On these very pages for the last 2-3 off-seasons, I have advocated Neal Huntington picking up either Chris Davis, first of the Rangers, then/now of the Orioles OR Justin Smoak, a switch-hitter of the Mariners. Both are underachieving 1st basemen whom I thought would be very valuable to take a risk on. I thought they had high promise.

            Chris Davis is no longer available as he hit over 50 Homeruns last season for Baltimore. Justin Smoak had a strong August/September for Seattle and may be available. He is a topnotch fielding 1st Baseman. He may be someone to build with, hopefully as a 4-5 hitter.

            I mentioned him just in reference to National Mart of Records stating no 1st Basemen and/or shortstops were available.

          • Smoak is a switch hitter, Jandy. He has some nice pop from the left side, but he hit under .200 with very limited power from the right side. Does not hit for a high average, but he draws tons of walks. Turns 27 next month. He would be a nice platoon partner for Gaby, because he is nearly identical to Gaby only from the other side of the plate. But, I would not chance him starting every day. He’s Garrett Jones with a little better plate discipline, in my opinion.

            I would not give up Liriano for Smoak, but I thought there were some interesting SS names on the list Groat compiled that I might consider if I were NH. I think it is more difficult to trade Frankie if we don’t bring AJ back, though.

        • Why would we want another Gaby Sanchez??

  46. On Geno’s slump –
    Simplest explanation: Geno’s frustrated. Larger Issue: why, and can it easily be remedied? IMO the why is – he doesn’t believe in a) his line-mates and b) the system. His response is to Do It All Himself. We have seen this same response in the playoffs repeatedly, from more players than Geno. Most recent example – the Boston series where the Stars (Sid, Geno, Letang) tried to win it themselves, with disastrous results. IMO this is a result of frustration, which is a result of the scheme being shut down, which is a result of the coaching not adapting properly (or at all) to the opposition. If this sounds like a screed against DB, it is. The remedy to this mess was/is obvious, but was ignored last June, in the form of a 2-yr extension for the Head Coach. Simple answer: no easy fix as things stand now.

    • Geno is not shooting the puck.

      Can’t score if you don’t shoot.

      Dan Bylsma’s system leaves PLENTY of room for shooting the puck. If Geno doesn’t shoot the puck, it’s not linemates, it’s not DB or his system, it’s Geno!

      Dan Bylsma’s system does NOT encourage those drop-pass turnovers Geno coughs up, but Geno comes up with plenty of those!

      SHOOT THE PUCK!!

    • I love you and Bowser’s Fire Bylsma stuff!

    • Last year the system was definitely a mess. This season I think its about his linemates being injured more than anything. Overall I think bylsma and coaches are trying to implement a more patient style with more emphasis on neutral zone and counters but talented players will always try to make plays. Up to bylsma and coaches to convince sid, geno and letang to not force plays into the middle and to set a good example for the rest of the squad. Im sure geno and neal will have some games that pad their stats enough for people to give geno some slack but the greater question will be how patient they remain in tight games against deep talented teams. I still think our 3rd line needs to do better job cycling and pressuring opposing defense or our top 6 will have issues.

      • Pens finished 36 – 12 last season with a significant portion of that season played without Sid, and you deem “Last year the system was definitely a mess.”

        Now this year it is Geno’s linemates, even though Jussi leads team in goals and team won 11 of 15, despite Geno a non-factor.

        Maybe it’s time to quit making excuses for Malkin and Geno to start being Geno!

        • Dont disagree but system last few seasons known as bylsma’s game going north fell flat in the playoffs…again. Due to talent level on the team regular season hasn’t been and wont be an issue this season either. Was basically saying geno and his stats will be fine with neal back but bigger question is how he and team does when we play a deep team in the playoffs that will test his and teams patience.

          • Good answer.

            Can’t answer “Playoff” question until Playoffs. Maybe that answer is Fleury.

            Geno did not even have double figure goals all last season, and he only has one more goal than Deryk Engelland and/or Tyler Glass this season.

            THAT seems to be a question to be answered right now in season. WHERE’S WALDO/GENO?!?

          • Teams in playoffs will focus on Sid and Geno as they have repeatedly. If Sid and Geno’s wings don’t produce, we’re SOL.

            Which they don’t, or haven’t. Coaches make zero adjustments. So Sid/Geno/Letang/everyone gets frustrated.

            Stars then try to Do It All. Stars fail at this in the playoffs (where they didn’t in reg season so much).

            Team loses. This is on the coaching IMO. BUt you have heard that from me before.

        • Sorry if it sounded like I was making excuses for Malkin!

          I don’t think it is as simple as “shoot the puck”….many times he carries it in, has no one to pass to, dumps it, then chases it himself, then is in the corner….and on and on.

          We’ve seen tight-checking teams focus on Sid and Geno exclusively in the playoffs, and force them to rely on their wingers to get it done. Which they can’t do. Neal SHOULD be able to, but for some reason he becomes invisible in the playoffs. No ideas there.

          And no, I don’t think DB’s system allows for shooting the puck. Often times the only chance the Pens get is on the rush. (PP too – which a serious problem) ….that is not a shooting system. Cycling systems generate shots.

          Bylsma’s system is designed to generate speed/open spaces with longer passes. That is a rush-shot system.

        • Not just this year. Geno has had a merry go round on LW for like 4 years. INcluding the likes of Tangradi for GOdSakes.

          When he’s been hilariously successful with Kunitz, but since Sid came back from injury, that’s not even on DB’s whiteboard.

  47. 2 years – $16 million for Byrd. Anyone else hearing that ?

  48. OK Management…what happened to the latest posts to the right?????

    >:<

  49. Wow, I really like the new setup of the blog, easy to read, pretty classy

    Will have to check it out on my new smartphone that I am completely overmatched trying to use

  50. I’m generally off on the weekends and was off yesteday, so I’m going to let me class decide what they want to learn about today.

    Their choices are limited though.

    1. Jet engine stuff
    2. More jet engine stuff

  51. This new format is weird…I’m confused.

    Hold me…

  52. 1. The Steelers are 3-6 and only two games behind the 5-4 Other Jets for the final wild-card spot. Should this be the focus in favor of more future-based concepts such as playing more Jarvis Jones and other youngsters?

    Not yet. With the glimmer of chance for the Steelers to make the playoffs, they are still mathematically eligible, they need to fight for that last wild card slot. Whenever they are ineligible, then press on and see what the young guys can do.

  53. So Marlon Byrd is out, so is Sonja Henie.
    Guess we’ll go with Danny Noonan in right this year……

  54. I don’t like this at all…….it feels like I’m kissing my sister. ( I don’t have one)

    3. Play devil’s advocate with the National League MVP finalists and make a case for either Paul Goldschmidt or Yadier Molina to win it. Don’t fake it. If your best case isn’t good enough, that’s fine, too.

    The NL MVP should be Yadier Molina. He is by far the best catcher (2013 NL Gold Glove) in MLB. He ranked 3rd (tied) in batting average with a .319 clip and took his team to the World Series.

  55. I don’t know if anybody else mentioned this or not, but for those of you in favor of retaining Marlon Byrd; don’t hold your breathe.

    He gone.

    Philly signed him to 2/$16 Million. Heck of a pay raise.

    Question: At his age and the Pirates hopes of Polanco advancing to the majors this year, would YOU have signed him to a deal like this?

    Me?

    Well since you asked, I would not have signed him to a deal like this. His production was awesome and would be a great addition to the lineup, but the Pirates made it through to August without him and they need to figure out a key compenant to the rotation. If there is nobody else available in FALand, I let Tabata and Lambo platoon and then upgrade at the deadline, if need be.

    • No way he’ll be worth that amount to the Pirates.

      We know a couple things:

      -His added value will only come at the plate. The Pirates have plenty of candidates who can run and play right field.

      -He won’t hit .291 again. 36 yo fly ball hitters who strike out 25% of the time don’t post many .350 BABIP seasons, as Byrd did last year.

      So basically you’re buying power. From a 36 yo right handed hitter. Playing half his games in PNC Park.

      And it’s costing you 10% of your payroll.

      • Agree on every point.

        Thanks for what you did for the Bucs, Marlon! Congrats on getting the dumbest GM in MLB to overpay you and solidify your retirement nest egg. Well done, Marlon. Well done, indeed!

        • So, today, Sweet Jimmie . . . .

          which team has better roster?

          Phils better at 1B, 2B (maybe even), SS, C, RF
          Bucs better at 3B, CF, LF (altho Brown had 30 HR in LF)

          Phils start Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, with Papelbon in bullpen.
          Bucs start Gerrit Cole and the 7 Dwarfs.

          I’m likin’ me some Reuben Amaro

          • Wow, we have the 7 dwarfs. Where is Snow White? Can she play 1st base???????????????

          • Jim, this may be one of those parody.satire posts. Not sure.

          • I think we do, Groat. A lot of those Phils have had nice careers, but they are almost all on the downside. Utley, Howard can’t stay on the field these days. Ruiz is not better than Martin. You have to agree there. Rollins doesn’t have much wear left on the tires. Maybe that one’s a push, though. We are much better at 2 of the OF positions, and I am not ready to say Brown is a star after one decent season. He strikes out a lot and has a low OB%. That doesn’t bode well for a guy that isn’t all that young.

            Lee and Hamels are both still very good, but that’s it for the rotation. Kendrick had a 1.40 WHIP. Our bullpen is light years better than theirs, in my opinion. And I would say there is no comparison between the two teams defensively, with the Bucs having a huge advantage.

            I’m not even sure why they signed Marlon Byrd. Old team getting older.

      • Agree.

    • Yep – NO WAY I’d give Byrd that contract. Still sorry to see him go. He was a fantastic playoff run addition.

    • Polanco may be up by the deadline.

  56. *****ATTENTION*****
    I see lots of new names and faces here today.
    New posters, newbies, and lurkers, we want to chat with you!
    If you post your hometown, Bizrow will add it to the list of Dejan’s Lunatics’ Asylum.
    Don’t be afraid, we don’t bite.

    (Pay no mind to theplanisworking, he will try to scare you off)

  57. DK: So, who’s doing the judging today?

    Not seeing a lot of hands going up!

  58. #3:
    Was Molina the league’s MVP? St. Louis was on top of the division through most of the first half with Molina leading the way. He got injured; they slipped behind Pittsburgh. He got better; they won the division, beat the Bucs in the playoffs, and went to the World Series. There’s your argument.

  59. Your Pittsburgh Steelers’ 23-10 win over a listless Buffalo Bills was an exercise in regaining dignity, nothing more. We’ve seen sufficient evidence that this team, right now, does not have the composition or preparation necessary to stand with this season’s top tier. And if the objective of winning a Super Bowl – heck, if winning an AFC North division title – isn’t attainable, then what is gained from starting incumbents to win a chance?

    If “the standard is the standard” as we’ve been told oh so many times, let’s see what “the standard” is with guys who have a greater chance of being here next fall. Potential can’t reflect “the standard” by taking the field with potential alone. It comes of potential tempered by experience. And if the result of younger players learning on the job doesn’t produce the desired “standard”, we have a whole slew of longer-term problems to deal with.

  60. Glad you clarified the avatar, Jandy. I thought you might have found a really, really effective anti aging potion.

    Now to think about one of DKs questions…

  61. 12 hits in 48 at bats makes you a .250 hitter. Average.

    12 completions on 48 throwing attempts makes you a bad quarterback.

    12 goals in your last 48 games in the NHL, one year away from having one of the highest cap hits in the league isn’t bad or average.

    It’s unacceptable.

    When your agent negotiates on your behalf and you are awarded with one of the highest salaries in your profession, nothing but the best will be demanded from your fans and the media that covers you.

    More importantly still, nothing but the best should be demanded from yourself.

    In a cap world, where every extra dollar you make is a dollar that can’t be spent elsewhere to improve the lineup, your salary dictates that your play transcends
    shoddy winger play and puzzling coaching decisions.

    It’s your job to make your teammates better, not the other way around.

  62. I like the new look here, but methinks the gray is tooooo light for text. Boring black works better.

  63. I wanted to point out some flaws in your thinking regarding the Larry Foote article you wrote on Sunday. For the past 2 years, I’ve been secretly hoping for a Foote injury as I think he’s been holding the defense back considerably. I’ve seen you cite advanced metrics before, so you should be reminded that Pro Football Focus had Foote rated as one of the worst linebackers in all of football for each of the past 2 years. To compound matters, Lebeau had Foote playing all 3 downs, basically every snap. The next time Foote matches up well with a TE or a RB out of the backfield will be the first. Now as your story mentions, Foote’s value was in the fact that he was “smart” and could make all the calls. Isn’t the responsibility of the coaching staff to instruct the players on what they need to do and where they need to be? Can you really afford to play a man down (and make no mistake that’s what the Steelers were doing when they left Foote out on the field on every snap including 3rd/longs) and succeed in today’s NFL?

    Why not have a defensive coordinator draw up a scheme and system in which you don’t need a pseudo coach on the field simply because he’s smart and offers next to nothing in terms of athleticism? Also, isn’t it amusing that everyone simply shrugs off the fact that Polamalu is up at the line of scrimmage to cover for this supposedly new “inept” inside linebacker play. I think a better solution would be either coaching up the inside linebacker, so your safety can actually play safety. Or if the system is too complicated for a rookie linebacker to learn it, then perhaps make your system easier for a linebacker to learn/understand. I’m not sure Lebeau’s approach of “well my inside linebacker doesn’t understand, so let’s have Troy up to stop the run every play even against a passing team like the Patriots” is the correct approach to take. Just my thoughts, but I still think the Foote injury is the best thing possible long term for the Steelers. Also, don’t be fooled by the defensive rankings of past several years. The defense never created turnovers, because they were essentially playing a man down (Foote).

    Also, the defensive rankings that the Pitt media loves to cite are based on total yards, if you look at any efficiency metric (again I refer you to PFF or Football Outsiders), the Steelers defense has ranked middle of the pack at best. It’s very misleading for people to keep reporting that the Steelers had a great defense all those years. The Steelers shorten games because they are one of the few stone-age teams remaining that believes in running the ball and controlling the clock. If you compare the average # of plays in a Patriots game the past 2 years versus Steelers games, you’ll notice there’s a significant difference. What does that mean, well for starters the Patriots defense will be ranked considerably lower the Steelers defense in all absolute metrics of yardage allowed. But the reality is when each defense is forced to play the same opponent (let’s say hypothetically Tim Tebow in the 2011 playoffs), one will succeed and one won’t. And shockingly enough, the successful one might be the #32 ranked (in total yards) defense and the unsuccessful might be the #1 ranked (in total yards). Just some food for thought.

    • I appreciate the criticism and the thought you clearly put into that, Rahul, and I thank you for reading.

      • I tend to agree with Rahul’s thinking on Foote. I have always thought Foote’s lack of speed and athletic ability was a hindrance to the defense. But, that is just an opinion. Some coaches obviously like the veteran influence, and will give up some playmaking ability to avoid mistakes. I would generally side with raw ability, but it is a debatable point.

        I thought your article was well-written, DK, and was really more focused on the daisy chain of negative impacts the loss of Foote had on the defense by forcing several people out of position in addition to an untested rookie being forced into a leadership role. Hard to argue that it has hurt the defense.

        • I agree the Foote injurty has definitely hurt the defense as it’s played out, but I would argue that is driven more by poor coaching and planning than it is by the loss of Foote.

  64. Regarding Malkin’s slump, having Neal back at the wing will help a whole lot. Teams have been defending Malkin by pushing him out along the wall in the offensive zone, or by attacking him with two players at the center of the blue line – at least this is what I’ve been seeing.

    Better wing play, like what Neal brings, draws some of the defensive attention away and will give Geno more room. Better offensive play in general will draw more penalties and will give Malkin more power play chances to score, as well. This could happen with a trade for an additional offensive threat.

    I would like to see what Malkin could do if given a chance to be the power play guy in front of the net at times. His strength could serve him well there.

    • Totally agree that getting Neal back will help Geno…in reg season.
      If it made a difference in the playoffs, I’d be very excited!!
      But it seems not to.

  65. DK,

    As far as your picks for NL Manager of the year, I believe you have the right order, regardless of your location.

    Though I would probably put Mike Matheny above Mattingley.

  66. I want to say thinks to all of you for the great argument over the GM of the year in MLB.

    One of the better debates I’ve seen on the blog, with two worthy candidates.

  67. Is there a realistic chance that the Steelers will make the playoffs. That’s not the only question, though making the playoffs this season would be a success considering their horrid start. Next is how they’ll do in the playoffs.
    If they get in it’ll be by the skin of their teeth (a gnat’s eyelash!), so how would they do? If it looks like another bomb like the Denver Debacle, I say blow it up and bring on the youth movement.
    On Defense, run the likes of Clark, Troy, Kiesel, Timmons, Gay and Woodley out there for the first quarter or half (to give the fans their money’s worth), and then pull all of those in favor of youth.
    Most of the offense seems pretty young anyway (except Foster and Miller), so let those guys play it out. Limit Ben’s playing time and start grooming a new quarterback.

  68. I like the bigger Avatars. Really dislike the white background. The latest upgrade to the MAC OS (Maverick) has a grey background. A photographers gray card is called 17 percent gray. This is the tonal standard to which all light meters are synchronized.

    My ideal would be a grey background with white text. On days with plus 200 posts the white is just too hard on your eyes. Plain black works just as well with the grey.

    IMHO you need just enough contrast between the background and the text to make it readable without needing eye strain.

    A truly democratic outcome would be to experiment for a duration of one week at a time between several text/background combinations, and submit it for a vote.

    Stuart

    • Just to clarify, the 17% grey card’s light reflectivity is exactly half way between white/white, and black/black. If you had a grey background, every other post could be black or white text. If a person was replying to a specific post, it could be in the same (black or white) color as the original post. Sounds complicated when I say it, but really quite easy to manage from a programming standpoint.

      Just sayin.

      Stuart

      • This.

        Certain freshly rolled out Federal websites are more user friendly than this blog format.

        DK: If you don’t like it, I’m told that now is the time to pipe up. Be specific, please!

        • Honestly just the background and text colors. Gotta do something easier on the eyes.

          The rest is good enough for me.

        • I found the recent posts at the bottom. As long as they are included, bottom or side is good to go.
          Agree with most of the other comments. The white background is glaring. Something a bit softer is better. Love the larger avatars.

    • My avatar jumps right off the screen at me and scares the bejeebers outta me!

      totally jonesing (not the Legend!) for some good Pens hockey, especially after the last 2 losses

  69. Remember Tom Singer’s piece shortly after the season ended ? The Pirates would extend AJ Burnett the qualifying offer. Wrong. I think they’d rather spend the $14 million on his retirement party. It would buy them time to negotiate a longer term deal. Wrong.

    They were also eager, his word, to sign Marlon Byrd. Wrong. Didn’t even make him an offer.

    And lastly, they’re eager to bring back Clint Barmes. I kinda hope they do just for poor Tom’s state of mind.

    • He could give me accuracy a run for its money.

      Singer seemed to believe Huntington would simply want to get the band back together and hope for the magic to happen again.

      Turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    • Milo

      AJ ain’t coming back to Pittsburgh in 2014. The only way he will is if he playing for another team.

      However, Barmes may be back if the price is right.

    • Do we know for sure that they didn’t make him an offer.

      It also seems to me that the Phillies really jumped the gun on this…even more than the Pirates did with Russell Martin last year.

      Isn’t this first free agent signing? (and the Winter Meetings didn’t even start yet)

      • I agree about the Phils jumping the gun here, TC. Either they will look really smart … or, the usual over the last few years.

        They obviously bought into the notion that Byrd has made the kind of substantive changes that can be sustained in terms of improving his flyball %. He really increased in that area this year. But, it is still a major risk at his age. He still whiffs a ton.

        I didn’t sense other teams clamoring for Marlon’s services quite this early. I did read yesterday that the Mets had reached out to him. Maybe that was enough to make Amaro, Jr. spring into action. If so, people should be lining up to get in a poker game with him. It is almost as if Hank Steinbrenner was advising him on these negotiations.

        • If they weren’t in on Granderson, Choo, or Ellsbury, why wait around?

          I don’t necessarilly think signing Byrd for that contract will be a bad thing. $16m is about what Ryan Ludwick got from Cinci, and Byrd is a far better baseball player right now. These guys are expensive.

          I just think that for the Pirates to spend $8m per year on a player, you better be getting ABOVE average production. None of this market rate $/WAR stuff.

          • I guess they think they are going to leapfrog the Nats and Braves this year. Otherwise, the 37 year old OF signing doesn’t make sense to me. And, they have the revenue to take more chances like this than the Bucs.

          • I totally agree. With the assumption that they will not sign Morneau, then the Bucs do not have a 4 or 5 hitter. Pedro cannot/should not move up unless he raises is average to at least .260. Can’t even think about Polano (sp?) unless he has a strong start at AAA and even then tough to put him in one of those batting slots.

  70. What time is the manager of the year announced?

  71. Reports of Marlon Byrd to the Phils. 2 year $16 million

  72. BTW, only the comments should scroll. The info on the fight side of the page should be available from where ever you are on the comments field.

    Stuart

  73. It leaves a little bit of an empty feeling when those players you were so hot to give up prospects for in July are all but gone in November. It would be nice if the Bucs don’t have to do that much more going forward from here.

  74. Milo, was TJs win over the Rams a respectable game?

    • Great game Bill. It was tied with 10 minutes to go. The kids gave all they had. The team buses even got a police escort through the Heights on the way home. Poor people probably went to bed thinking they won. It was a really cool experience all the way around.

  75. The Steelers are a losing team and the path to betterment is to get younger players necessary experience and to find out if they should be part of the future. Too often in the Tomlin regime young players can’t crack the line up. Once Keenan Lewis did and at a high level, then he was at the end of his rookie deal and deemed to expensive to retain. Maybe he would have blossomed sooner had he seen the field instead of holding his helmet. Cam Heyward is another example, maybe the play we see today would have shown itself sooner if he had consistent in game reps. Cortez Allen, Jones and Sharmarko Thomas should be playing 75% of the defensive snaps, otherwise they will be doing catch up next season.

    • Good points, Chris. Do you think those defensive decisions are all on Tomlin? All on LeBeau? 50/50?

      • First, likely Thomas done for at least a month, probably longer.

        Decision would be DL, with MT having to overrule. Best players gotta play until eliminated, that’s just the way the NFL works…unless injury, poor performance, or suspensions.

        What I would like to see is Worlids play for Woodley (may happen any way) historically he has played better on that side, with Jones on the right side. If you could get used to that…save a bunch of money by resigning Worlids and cutting Woodley (unless cap won’t allow it).

        If you are serious about taking advantage of the prime time of BBR, you to move money to the offense at the expense of the defense and get a big WR, another TE and a LT. To me, other than that, offense is set. Won’t come cheap. Then we would be the Pats, the Colts (with Manning) or the Pack.

        Not sure how many would like that, but that’s what it would take.

  76. DJ #2. Needs more “I’m score. Gets my vote.

    Background is too bright – maybe do that 17% grey
    Like the bigger avatars
    “BTW, only the comments should scroll. The info on the fight side of the page should be available from where ever you are on the comments field.” as Stuart says

  77. DK

    #1 Gotta try to win with the best players until eliminated.
    #2 Give Geno a few games with Neal back…jumping the gun until we see how that works.
    #3 Keith @12:45 is dead on.

  78. just wanted to see my avatar in the new style

  79. Write your own column.

    Isn’t that kinda like Bleacher Report?

  80. Clint Hurdle wins Manager of the Year.

  81. Jory Rand – nice interview w/CH on ch 2.
    Clint called it an oxymoron – love that word – not sure if it fits this situation …..
    The guy really gets it – play ball and have some fun – everything else follows.
    Some of his game management decisions have me scratching my head sometimes but hey, every move a mgr makes -if it works he is a hero – if not, an idiot.
    Nice to see him win it!

  82. Well deserved award for NL Manager of the year Clint Hurdle.
    No one in this FO had a clue till they hired Hurdle in 2011.

  83. I’m away for a few and come back to 150 word caps and a new format. No one puts Bowser in the 150 word corner – lol.

    Well, if you want to know what ails Evgeni Malkin, I’d fashion that you grab video of the Penguins series sweep against Carolina in 2009, Bylsma’s first playoff and see how perfection of Bylsma’s machine works and benefited Malkin.

    Speed, physical dominance, and quality linemates that understood their role on the line to make sure Malkin had the time and space needed to be great.

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