AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

Sports

March 6, 2013

EXTRA INNINGS: Columnist commits blasphemy hoping for .500 season

OPINION — I KNOW I’M going to have my mouth washed out with pierogies for even thinking this, let alone putting it in black and white, but here goes.

This season, I’m pulling for the Pirates to break the .500 mark.

There. I’ve said it.

Blasphemy!

Sacrilege!

Grab the thesaurus and find your own disparaging synonym.

Never mind that the Pirates have only sniffed at .500 in a couple of delirious seasons since 1992.

Any time anyone associated with the organization is questioned about .500, indignation rises up as they proclaim that mediocrity will never be a goal of this organization.

From president Frank Coonelly down to the lowest rookie, such thinking is anathema to athletes, whose ultimate goal is to win championships.

While having .500 as a goal seems logical to those of us who have suffered through two decades of futility, it is important to remember that people like Jameson Taillon hadn’t reached his first birthday when 1992 Pirates won their third consecutive division title. None of the current players has been here longer than 30-year-old pitcher Jeff Karstens, who will celebrate his fifth anniversary with the team on July 26, when he came to Pittsburgh with Daniel McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and Ross Ohlendorf in 2008 for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.

More than half of the projected roster wasn’t even here to start the 2011 season, Clint Hurdle’s first with the Bucs.

So the players' take is understandable.

But perhaps the 22-game improvement in the Pirates since Hurdle arrived got the better of him last Friday, when he caused jaws to drop all over western Pennsylvania when he told this to a Pittsburgh sports station that asked how many games this year’s team would win:

“`When people ask me a number, 95 is the number I throw out there,” Hurdle said, “and people go, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of…’ and I go, ‘Yeah, you’re right it’s a lot of games!’ I get it, but you know what? If we win 95, we’re going to be in a good place.”

This wasn’t owner Bob “the-best-management-team-in-baseball-maybe-in-all-of-sports” Nutting gushing about his team.

It was the most (only?) highly regarded member of franchise management making such a statement.

“My focus is the playoffs,” Hurdle added. “If you're going to grab numbers, you take 95 because 95 has a really good chance of getting you in. So we had 79 [in 2012]. Where do you find 16 more?”

He said the team could add wins by improving five areas: controlling opponents’ running, pitching inside, “owning” the batter’s box with better awareness of the strike zone, playing “27 outs” on defense, and eliminating soft spots in the line-up.

“I think there are three wins in each of those five categories,” Hurdle said. “That gets us pretty close, right?”

While Hurdle generally gets kudos as field manager of the team, the rest of management doesn’t come close.

Last week, ESPN’s baseball gurus asked Jim Bowden, Keith Law, and Buster Olney to rank all 30 teams in five different categories in an attempt to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years. The categories included the majors, minors, finances, players’ ages, and management—the value and stability of ownership, front office, and coaching staff.

The Pirates ranked 29th in management, garnering three of a possible 30 points in that category, only ahead of Colorado (2 points).

And Tribune-Review writer Dejan Kovacevic wrote from Sarasota last week, “[I] just ran into a small group of scouts just outside the press box here…who think a lot less of the Pirates' front office than that.”

Overall, the Bucs ranked 25th, whose 35.9 points out of 100 ranked ahead of Chicago’s White Sox (33.1), Milwaukee (32.9), Cleveland (29.7), Miami (23.2) and Colorado (16.2).

It also didn’t help that three of the Bucs” NL Central foes were among the top seven. St. Louis (84.3) was first, with Chicago (65) sixth and Cincinnati (63.5) seventh.

How much improvement in rankings would .500 bring?

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • THE CHECKERED FLAG: Up and down week for Sodeman

    LAST FRIDAY I headed south to add I-77 Raceway Park to my track attended list, which made for 162nd track all-time.  I-77 is located south of Ripley, West Virginia just off Interstate 77.  This season, I-77 moved from the crowded Saturday night line-up to Friday night racing and teamed up with Ohio Valley Speedway.  I-77 normally runs Super Late Models, Semi-Late Models, E-Mods, Mod Lites, and 4-Cylinder Mini Stocks.  With the Sprint Cars on the schedule, I decided to make the trip and they were joined by the Super Late Models, Semi-Late Models, and E-Mods.

    July 21, 2014

  • THE CHECKERED FLAG: Blaney still running hot on area tracks

    LAST THURSDAY I headed southwest to Atomic Speedway, formerly known as KC Raceway.  The 1/3-mile high-banked dirt oval is located an hour south of Columbus, Ohio just off Route 23 near Alma.  It was my first visit in a couple years.  A big crowd turned out on Independence Day Eve as the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars were back along with the Super Late Models and E-Mods.  The Ohio Speedweek event the week before drew a huge 62-car field and Thursday’s event drew 33.
    After an astounding Speedweek winning the final three races and four of six, Dale Blaney returned to the track that he last got defeated at.  On the Speedweek show, Jac Haudenschild made the winning pass of Blaney, while Blaney finished second.  Last Thursday, even a seventh starting spot didn’t derail Blaney for long.  The Hartford, Ohio racer worked his way to the front and made the winning pass of race-long leader Tim Shaffer on lap 16.  One caution three laps from the finish was all that slowed Blaney’s run to another $5,000 payday.  It was Blaney’s fourth straight win, sixth of the season, and all-time leading 105th of his career with the All Stars.

    July 13, 2014

  • EXTRA INNINGS: Bucs fans loved Burnett, but let's leave him in Philly

    THERE IS NO no doubt that A.J. Burnett made a huge impact during his two seasons with the Pirates.
    When he arrived in the spring of 2012, so did hope for fans wearied by teams that hadn’t seen a winning record in 20 summers.
    While he certainly did not turn the tide by himself, he turned the wheel. His swagger sometimes didn’t play well with management, but even the Buc brass had to appreciate the new culture that Burnett helped his teammates create.

    July 9, 2014

  • NCAA Football: Rock 6-1 after 17-3 win over Cal U

    Slippery Rock University rode a length-of-the-field scoring drive by its offense and a goal-line stand by its No. 1-ranked defense late in the first half of action Saturday to a 17-3 win over 14th-ranked visiting California (Pa.).

    October 19, 2011

  • steez pc.jpg NFL: Steelers top Jags as Mendenhall makes return

    Mike Tomlin isn’t ready to say the Pittsburgh Steelers are back. Not after watching his team sleepwalk through the second half against Jacksonville on Sunday.

    October 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • wheldon, dan pc.jpg IndyCar Racing: Crash takes Wheldon’s life

    Every race car driver heads onto the track understanding this race could be the last and hoping it won’t be. On Sunday, IndyCar drivers got a harsh reminder when the worst happened to one of their own.

    October 19, 2011 3 Photos

  • pens pc.jpg NHL: Sabres beat Penguins 3-2

    The Buffalo Sabres have had trouble with the Pittsburgh Penguins whether Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play or not.

    October 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • canadiens logo pc.jpg NHL Quick glance: Montreal at Pittsburgh

    A breakdown of the National Hockey League game Thursday night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Montreal Canadiens.

    October 19, 2011 4 Photos

  • High School Highlights: Oct. 19, 2011

    A look at the last few days in local high school fall sports action.

    October 19, 2011

  • washington, ron pc.jpg Leading Off: Oct. 19, 2011

    News and notes from the local, regional and national sports scene.

    October 19, 2011 5 Photos

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide