By Jim Sankey
Allied News Baseball Columnist
Rounding the bases…
First Base: During the off-season, the Pirates have made some extremely questionable moves: On a team craving pitching, they alienated, then ignored free agent starter Kevin Correia, who was a 2011 All-Star who won 24 games over his two years with Pittsburgh. Then they non-tendered starter Jeff Karstens, the only member of the 2011-2012 rotations to have a sub-4.00 ERA each season (3.38 in 2011, 3.97 in 2012).
Upper management expressed concern about durability of the 30-year-old Karstens, who was limited to 90.2 innings in 2012. Still, he won 14 games in the past two years for the Bucs.
To replace those 38 wins, the Pirates agreed to a two-year deal with Francisco Liriano, who was 15-27 the past two seasons, including 6-12 last season with a 5.34 ERA, the third time in the last four seasons his ERA topped 5. The deal fell through when Liariano was injured…during the off-season.
Second Base: Monday night brought the news that the Bucs and Liriano, who first agreed to a $12.75 two-year deal one month ago, had reworked the deal, with the first year of the deal pro-rated to subtract money if he is physically not ready for the majors.
This followed last Thursday’s announcement that the Bucs had rectified their misguided decision to non-tender Karstens by inking the pitcher to a one-year $2.5 million contract. That leaves Liriano and rookie Kyle McPherson to fight it out as the number five starter behind A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, and Karstens.
The move immediately improves the Pirates, if for no other reason than it removes Jeff Locke as a starting pitcher candidate.
Third Base: It would seem as though some of the wives of the New England Patriots need some PR training.
After the Pats lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl last year, Tom Brady's wife, Gisele Bundchen, was highly critical of the team’s receivers, especially Wes Welker: “You [have] to catch the ball when you're supposed to catch the ball,” she said. “My husband cannot…throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times.”
This year, Welker’s wife took on the Ravens and their retiring super star: “Proud of my husband and the Pats," she wrote on Facebook. “By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. Six kids. Four wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!”
Home: Don’t know about you, but I got tired of watching replays of the 40th anniversary of the Steelers’ “Immaculate Reception” game, which advanced the team to the AFC Championship game the following week. But a come-from-behind 21-17 win by the Miami Dolphins over Pittsburgh allowed the Fins to move on to Super Bowl VII, where their 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins on January 14, 1973 gave Miami the NFL’s only perfect, undefeated, untied record—the only team in NFL history to win every game it played during the season.
Longtime fans will remember that Miami completely dominated the game, not allowing the powerful Redskins to score until the end of the game. Famed Dolphin kicker Garo Yepremian had a 42-yard field goal attempt blocked with just 2:07 left. Yepremian picked up the ball and tried to pass it to Larry Csonka. But as the ball slipped out of his hand, the kicker tried to bat the ball out of bounds, but instead hit it up in the air, where Washington cornerback Mike Bass grabbed it and ran 49 yards for the score, the only points the Skins got all day.
Surprising to many Cleveland fans, the Browns also achieved a perfect season in 1948, when they were part of the All-America Football Conference.
Three other teams have been perfect in a regular season, only to lose in the championship game: the 1934 and 1942 Bears and 2007 Patriots.
Jim Sankey is a baseball columnist for Allied News.