Thursday, July 26, 2007

#72: Thursday, July 26, 2007

-- Tomlin begins. Troy inks. Timmons hurts.

-- Bucs forgot there were 74 more games to play.

-- By signing Mike Lange, core of Penguins truly secured for '07-'08.

---Special Beginning---

Since my last real entry, the Pittsburgh Steelers opened training camp under a new head coach. The last time that happened, it was almost exactly half my life ago.

Still, I'm trying to view everything that Mike Tomlin does, or seems to do, differently than his predecessor as being good things. Not that I think that Cowher was a bad coach. It just seemed that, for the most part, veterans of Steelers camp pretty much knew what to expect day-in, day-out from The Chin. Anything that deviates from the veterans' comfort zone can't be all bad.

Replacing the movies with two-a-days, dedicating entire practices to special teams, and pretty much saying that training camp is not supposed to be pleasant speaks well of Tomlin. He has three special teams coaches, and, fortunately, Kevin Spencer is not one of these.

I was shocked to see that Spencer was actually the top vote-getter among his peers in 2003 as best special teams coach.

On the one hand, the Steelers posted a 6-10 record, so you'd be seeing a hell of a lot of special teams on the field, so maybe he got the votes for just being omnipresent.

On the other hand, Josh Miller had an better-than-average season. Never had a punt blocked and landed a tidy 27 punts inside the 20, with a net average of 36 yards per kick, which doesn't speak gloom and doom on the coverage. Jeff Reed, however, had a horrible season, kicking south of 72% of field goal attempts. His kickoff coverage was comparable to Miller's, but this was not the stuff of a top special teams coach. Maybe his peers felt sorry for him.

Compared to 2006, though, '03 was a paradise. Reed only did a shave better percentage-wise, but the muffed punts. Over and over. By the same guys!

That falls on the coaches.

Now, there's a clean slate, and a renewed focus on making the third side of the ball as prominent a part of the Steelers as the other two. We'll have to wait and see if those seeds bear fruit.


Strong Safety Troy Polamalu is a Steeler through the 2011 season.

As much as I love the energy he brings to the field, his willingness to put himself out on the line play after play, talking to Coach Cowher during Superbowl XL during the Seahawks challenge of the eventual Ben Roethlisberger touchdown about going in on 4th down if the challenge was upheld...that's what I like to see from the men who don the hypocycloid-ladened logo.

I also know that if an agreement hadn't been reached before training camp, the Rooneys would have waited until after the season when Troy was a free agent. Signing him now, even though the deal makes him the highest-paid safety in the league, was probably cheaper than what it would have taken to keep him here when he was receiving offers from other clubs.

That said, Troy played pretty much all of last season hurt. While professional athletes have the best physical therapy programs in the world, muscle is muscle, bone is bone, and brains are brains. See Kendrell Bell. Except for the brains part. (Bell's Wonderlic: 12. Troy: 24)

I worry about Roethlisberger for the same reason, but we can at least see what happens this season.

If Troy is victimized constantly by injury over the course of this extension, it's a considerable portion of salary cap room that will be eaten up for minimal returns.

Here's to your health, Mr. Polamalu.


Since we're on the subject of the injury bug, first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons re-injured his groin. Poor kid can't catch a break. What could be even worse is if he was cleared to practice without fully-healing from his rookie mini-camp injury. Of course, we normal folk get no inside information on what exactly is wrong with him. Either way, this only boosts the prediction of those who did not see Timmons becoming a starter this season.


Mike Barr, once again, seems to be holding his own in training camp. Except for the fact that the Steelers seem to have drafted a punting wunderkind (is there such a thing?), Barr would be on the team. He probably should have been on it last year. Maybe they can convert Barr to a different kind of special teamer and give him a punt or two if a game is out of reach. He'd make the roster on any other middling team...


I have a confession to make.

I have done very little watching/listening/following games in progress since the All-Star Break. Not something you'd expect a blindly-loyal fan to admit. Some of it has been working evening shifts at my other job, but some of it has also been doing other things with my personal time that would have otherwise been taken up by following a game live.

I really can't say I'm sorry, given the results. From reading box scores and the other stellar Pirate blogs out there, some of the games that ended up being 1- or 2-run losses really weren't that close. And the ones that were (notably the two against Houston that were lost) displayed an offense that couldn't have won a game in AA (take that to mean either Double-A or Alcoholics Anonymous).

They were doing better while I was out in Colorado (5-1 against Milwaukee and Chicago).

One could say, "At least Jason Bay's long slump seems to be over."

Sure. But almost everyone else forgot that there was a second half of the season to play. The team's current On-Base Percentage is the worst in all of baseball by almost 30 points (.273 vs .302). Strangely enough, Bay's OBP is also .302 since the break, despite the surge. Sad that a .302 OBP is keeping the teams OBP as high as it is.

Did I mention that we're in last place? In the entire National League?

Maholm and Youman have been the best two pitchers for the Bucs during the second half.

Ian Snell, as refreshing as it is for some to see someone with life on the team, is becoming a clubhouse cancer. That's just another hole in the boat the organization doesn't need (but if the boat's already on the bottom of the ocean, does it matter?).

Tom Gorzelanny is now showing the strain created from Jim Tracy and Co. electing to keep him in games to consistently throw over 100 pitches per start. "Shoulder irritation." Yeah. A guy named "Bullington" knows something about that...

At least we didn't complete the trifecta of being beaten by former Pirate pitchers with today's win over the Metropolitans. While all of the runs charged against the "resurgent" Oliver Perez (5) were unearned, he was the one who committed the error that allowed those runs to score. Despite losing today, you know Willie Randolph is going to bed tonight thinking, "Thank God I don't work for that organization."

Looking at it this way, I called the season a little more than a week ago. The team truly quit shortly thereafter. Heh. Talk about feeling the pulse.


And finally, I'd like to go on record as submitting the next slogan for the Pirates marketing campaign.

- They'll be able to keep this one for at least two seasons, just like the current "We Will".

- It's one that should simultaneously help the Nuttings sell the "family experience" at PNC Park, while reminding people who actually pay attention to the team that the search for a successful season will be futile. In a sad, snarky kind of way.

Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball:
Making History

---Smiling Like a Butcher's Dog---

I couldn't help but do just that when I read that Mike Lange will be back on the Penguins Radio Network, where he belongs, for at least one more season. Lange has a gift for being able to follow the action coherently, be enough of a homer to make us root for him, while being objective enough to give credit to the other team and assign blame to ours when it's due. Some report he's been able to do this after a few cocktails.

This may be as big of a signing as any of the other players the Shero braintrust has been able to lock up in the last couple of months. If we can't watch these stellar players, Mr. Lange will make it seem like we're there, anyway. As fans, we can't put a pricetag on that.

Welcome back, sir.


Jordan Staal was charged with disorderly conduct and underage drinking.

So what?

I'm not a fan of neighbors being raucous late at night or of underage drinking in general, but it seemed like Staal wasn't going to be driving anywhere. If you're going to have underage drinking (or partake in it), at least know you and your guests are going to be staying put.

Just don't puke on the carpet.

Or poop on the couch.

At least he wasn't arraigned on federal dogfighting charges. Or defecting to Russia.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post!

Mike Lange will be back on the Penguins Radio Network, where he belongs

So glad that has happened...

If you're going to have underage drinking (or partake in it)...

Just don't puke on the carpet.

Or poop on the couch.


...but, and how many of us can honestly say they have never had a drink while being underage?

Big deal. It's not like he was driving, right?


7/28/2007 10:30 PM  

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