Circling the basses.
FIRST BASE: When the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped three of their first five games, there was gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands among the Pittsburgh faithful. Making it worse was that two of the three losses had come against two horrible teams: Oakland and Tennessee (combined 6-11 so far). And the third came in the season’s opening, a revenge game against a middling Denver team.
With a 1-2 record after three games, the Steelers won four of five—albeit it against underachieving and overrated Philadelphia, uncompetitive Washington, and crumbling Cincinnati before beating the New York Giants.
And it just gets better: In the last half of the season, the combined record of the Steelers’ opponents is 15-35—20 games under .500.
Excluding Baltimore (6-2), only San Diego is even a .500 team, and the Chargers must come to Heinz Field.
Of course, two of the other games are against 2-7 Cleveland and another is next Monday’s game against 1-7 Kansas City.
The Bengals and Cowboys are both 3-5.
Let’s say the Ravens win both games, which they won’t. Assuming the Steelers whip all the cupcakes, Pittsburgh ends up with an 11-5 record, good for a wild card at the worst.
So much for the gnashing and wringing.
SECOND BASE: Doesn’t the hockey season usually start before now? What…there’s a lockout/strike. Well, who knew?
It seems like only eight years ago that the entire NHL season was canceled because millionaires and billionaires couldn’t agree on how to carve up the golden goose.
No NHL games will be played until at least January—with the Winter Classic falling victim last week.
The main lesson from the loss of the 2004-2005 season is that we all got along without hockey, thank you very much.
The only people anyone should be concerned about are those who work the restaurants, pubs, hotels, stores, and transportation in the cities where NHL teams usually play.
THIRD BASE: You read it here first: Joel Hanrahan has thrown his last pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“The Hammer” will probably be awarded $7 million through arbitration, which most students of major league baseball feel is unrealistically high for the Pirates. Such a financial award would allot 15 percent of the estimated 2013 budget for someone who pitched in just four percent of his team’s innings.
Certainly, on the Bucs’ must-do list is to find a catcher who can do better than the 37-year-old Rod Barajas, who made $4 million and hit .206 with .625 OPS. In addition, he threw out only six percent of base-stealers.
The free agent market is unbelievably barren. The “top” five available are as follows:
*36-year-old White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. For $6 million last year, Chicago got a batting average of .278 with a .827 OPS.
*33-year-old Detroit backstop Gerald Laird. A bargain at $1 million, he batted .282 with a .710 OPS.
*33-year-old Mets catcher Kelly Shoppach, who made $1.135 million. He hit .233 with a .733 OPS while playing for the Red Sox and the Mets.
*34-year-old Milwaukee catcher Yorvit Torrealba made $3.25 million in 2012. He hit .227 with a .623 OPS.
*33-year-old Kansas City receiver Humberto Quintero, who made $1 million last season while hitting .232 with a .598 OPS.
None of these is acceptable for the Pirates, but even if they were and you were any of these players, would Pittsburgh be at the top your wish list as a 2013 employer?
That means that the team’s only recourse is to acquire a catcher via the trade market, and who else could the Bucs make available that would bring back a quality player?
HOME: Playing in the Dominican Winter League, the Pirates’ top rookie of 2012—outfielder Starling Marte—is batting .346 with an on-base percentage of .452.
In contrast, in Venezuela, the Pirates’ top bust of 2012—outfielder Jose Tabata—has yet to appear in a game.
Just last year, baseball executives praised the Bucs for inking Tabata through 2016.
Circling the basses.
EXTRA INNINGS: Steelers still in playoff hunt — sure they are!
FACING REALITY NOT HAPPENING: Fast forward to Feb. 3, 2014. It’s the day after the Broncos and Seahawks got together for a little football game in New Jersey…and the Pittsburgh media have released their weekly Monday morning missive explaining how the Steelers can still make the 2013 playoffs.
By the end of September, the team had lost all eight games played in 2013. True, the first four were August exhibition games, but it was déjà vu after dropping their first four regular season games. Scalpers really had to work to dump those unwanted tickets.
By the first week of November, the Steelers found themselves burdened with a 2-6 mark. A three-game win streak (albeit with two of those wins against embarrassments known to all as the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns) got the playoff possibilities drooling from talk show hosts, newspaper columnists, and bloggers, each one requiring the smallest of miracles, not large ones, mind you, just semi-marvels.
Sailors make 1st PIAA playoff start
While Saturday will serve as his Sailors’ first foray into the PIAA playoffs, Lakeview High head football coach Dan York is going along for the ride, taking it all in stride.
Stopping shy of stifling a yawn, York calmly said, “We consider the playoffs the playoffs. When you make the playoffs out of our region (1-A), you’ve already gone up against some of the better teams in the state. So whether it’s the districts or state, it’s still the playoffs.”
Lakeview wins 1st ever D-10 football title
NEW WILMINGTON — Lakeview may have a long way to go to equal Sharpsville’s success in the sport of football, but the Sailors jump-started the process Friday night.
With Blake Reddick roaring into the record book, the Sailors shut out Sharpsville, 27-0, in the District 10 Class A championship game at Greyhounds Stadium.
While Sharpsville’s program has the pedigree — 8 championships and 14 title tilt appearances, plus the 1997 PIAA plateau — Lakeview launched its 1st crown since the district football playoffs’ 1985 inception.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
NHL Quick glance: Montreal at Pittsburgh
A breakdown of the National Hockey League game Thursday night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Montreal Canadiens.
High School Highlights: Oct. 19, 2011
A look at the last few days in local high school fall sports action.
Leading Off: Oct. 19, 2011
News and notes from the local, regional and national sports scene.
- More Sports Headlines
- EXTRA INNINGS: Steelers still in playoff hunt — sure they are!