Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday, March 5, 2007

-- Penguins negotiating roller coaster runs out of track.

-- Pirates have yet to win, but it might not be a bad thing.

-- Panthers enter post-season on a down note.

-- Change to Radio Broadcast Time

---Nightmares and Dreamscapes---

Someone pinch me.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, long-time bitch of the Philadelphia Flyers franchise, just completed their first-ever season sweep of their cross-state rivals.

About twenty-four hours later, the Penguins announced that they are going to begin entertaining relocation options.

I've gotten some flak from some who didn't take too kindly in my lack of faith for local (and, particularly, state) government officials to make a new arena a priority. I'd rather have taken all that flak and been wrong rather than have one leg up on the "I told you so" podium.

Of course, many folks in the Pittsburgh fan base blame Governor Rendell, almost exclusively, for the impending debacle. I've no great love for the man's response to this situation, either, but what were the options? Elect Lynn Swann? Do you think that would have let to Harrah's winning the slots license instead of PITG? I doubt it. Bill Deweese, state rep of Greene County had been buddying up to Mr. Barden since at least Superbowl XL. Harrisburg had some desire to approve a license for a minority-led organization, of which PITG was the only applicant to have a minority at the head.

Some of the blame, unfortunately, has to also fall on the team, insofar as their implications that they would prefer to stay in Pittsburgh. Lemieux has had to put up with the political string-pulling the last 10 years (at least) about new accommodations, so you can't blame him for being fed up. But you get the idea that because the government and PITG folks aren't matching Isle of Capri's offer for the freebie. And K.C. just happens to have that offer extended.

Since none of the details of the negotiations appear to be forthcoming, it's impossible for the John Q. Publics of Penguin Fandom to say whether it's because the Penguins ownership is being unrealistic in their expectations of those across the table for them, or if the politicos still believe that they have something resembling significant leverage.

Now, it looks like the most unlikely of heroes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, will have to step up and prevent a move.

As I've said before, the government should realize that the arena would be more than a venue for the Penguins. There is a lot of money that the county, city and state can make from other events coming through town that currently won't touch Mellon with a ten-foot pole (e.g. the NCAA Tournament, select musical acts).

In the meantime, we can only hope that this is the Lemieux Group's final (and pre-meditated) move to get more out of the deal than is being offered.

---Still Too Early---

Ok. So, the Bucs are 0-4-1 after 5 preseason games. Last year, they were 4-1 after 5. As we know, that squad last year ended up doing no better than the one before it, who were 1-3-1 after 5. In a couple of weeks, we'll have a little better of an idea what to expect.

Some might look at the offense the Pirates are putting up and saying, "Wow, there might actually be some pop in the year's line up." Well, possibly, but the 8 home runs have come from Brad Eldred (3 of them), and he's expected to start in Indianapolis, Andrew McCutcheon (Altoona), Luis Matos (bench), Brian Bixler (minors), and Eddy Garabito (minors). But Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche, and Xavier Nady haven't played much, if at all, and the lineups all shift around practically every inning.

Some may be dreading the pitching that has given up more than a few runs. Salomon Torres got torched in the first game, then another person considered closer material got lit up the following game. Shawn Chacon continued to delight naysayers by giving up 2 runs in 2 batters before settling down for the rest of the time.

Right now, these games are a crap shoot. Jim Tracy appears to be taking the smart route and letting the minor leaguers shake themselves out instead of giving significant playing time to his "stars". Jim Colborn is letting his pitchers get beat up a little bit while they shake off the rust or experiment with new pitches. Meanwhile, the Cubs pulled Mark Prior after 1.1 innings. Maybe he threw too many pitches, but they're letting Alfonso Soriano bat lead off for 3 at bats in games already.

I like Tracy's approach here over Pinella's right now.

But keep an eye on the starters' ERAs as spring training proceeds. The most important thing the Pirates need is a consistent starting rotation. More than the coveted left-handed bat. I recall too clearly a graphic on one of the early broadcasts on FSN-Pittsburgh where one of the pitcher's "scouting report" notes was "7+ innings, please". I believe it was Victor Santos, but the Pirates early slide was mainly due to the inability to get to Stretch-time. Of course, getting rocked will shorten your outing as certainly as pitch count.

---Bottoming Out?---

Once again, the Pitt Panthers are looking like a team ready to fall short of a Big East crown, and fall to an upstart smaller program when the tournament starts. Remember Bradley? Pacific? Kent State? Or, maybe if they're lucky, they'll get beat by a larger program (Oklahoma St. or Marquette). Regardless, Pitt is fortunate to be ranked at #13 (despite their #5 RPI). And it's quite a far fall from the top 5 team they were expected to be.

It's tough to truly predict how well the Panthers will do in the Field of 65, especially until we see their showing against the Big East this week, but it just seems as though the level of the Panthers' play is inversely proportional to the importance of the game. That said, expect a semi-final loss in the Big East, and an exit in the Sweet 16 once again.

Of course, the optimist in me dares to hope that the Panthers are just not playing well right now and are getting ready to put together a 2005 Steelers-esque run where everything finally clicks.


The next edition of "Steeltown Sports: Live!" will still be on Saturday, March 10. However, the time has been changed from its original "noon-til-noon-thirty" segment to what looks like it will be "8PM-to-8:45PM".

Of course, I'll keep yinz guys updated. And I plan to post the audio on this blog anyway within a day.


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