Monday, August 31, 2009

#129: NFL Preview Show on WMBS

---Four Years and Counting---

Join me (along with Jerome Shell and Saturday Morning Sports Talk host Dutch Wydo) for the 4th Annual WMBS NFL Roundtable Preview Show.

On the air: 590AM, Thursday, September 3rd, from approximately 5:15PM until 7PM Eastern (just before the Steelers' final preseason game).

Streaming on the internet: (courtesy of

Last year, we had predictions from the ridiculous (Steelers 5-11, because the O-line will fail and Ben will be hurt), to the spot-on (Ravens will be Steelers toughest competition, not Browns), to the "seemed ludicrous then, but by seasons end was a distinct possibility" (Carolina Panthers vs. Tennessee Titans in the All Ugly Uniform Super Bowl)

Entire NFL in two hours. I think it can be done. But it may be run more like Pardon the Interruption, instead of a laundry list of divisions, going team-by-team as its been in years past.

Because of that tight framework, there will be no time for call-ins, but you can leave feedback here, or you can call into Mr. Wydo's "Saturday Morning Sports Talk" show which airs Saturday morning (obviously) between 9AM and 10AM Eastern.

In any event, this show HAS to be better than listening to Ellis Cannon on the Steelers radio network pre-game show...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

#128: Got Us By the Nuttings

---PNC Park Crowds a Non-Factor---

I've been tagging the end of my Pirate-related posts of late with - "Don't go to the games."

After reading this article from the New York Daily News, the problem is even worse than I had observed.

Of note, this passage:

The Pirates had about $75 million in the bank, offset by their $48 million payroll, which means they had a profit of $35 million before they sold one ticket. And this doesn't even include what these teams additionally reap from their local TV and radio rights packages and in-house concessions, advertising, signage, parking, etc.

I guess this means we'll be seeing a new lift and/or series of new trails at Seven Springs this year.

And maybe a bathroom down at the new Dominican Republic facility.

It is apparent that unless a salary cap comes to be, Pirate fans are going to be subject to the reign of the current ownership 'til they die.

Or until Major League Baseball contracts the team.

Does anyone know how to stage a corporate coup?

While some would argue vehemently that no one has any business telling anyone how to run their company, they have to recognize one key difference between a sports team and a butcher shop.

This point has been made at least twice on WMBS' "Saturday Morning Sports Talk" with Dutch Wydo (9:15AM-10AM): The team is not called the "Bob Nutting Pirates".

I doubt anyone here would go to PNC Park to watch a team by that name (though maybe the team should be called that).

As the "Pittsburgh Pirates", they are representative of a city. Their stadium was subsidized, nay, paid for by taxpayer dollars with the spoken agreement that a winning ballpark would allow and encourage management to build a winning team.

The team is no closer to a winning season now than it was then. And the people are too willing to forget promises made eight years ago (or more), choosing to focus on the current media spin.

In the scope of "The Big Picture", if we knew in 2000 (as PNC Park was being built) that the team would still be a motley bunch of young guys just happy to be on the major league level mixed with a few guys who might be legitimate nearly a decade later... we can only imagine.

Do we appeal en masse to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to see if there's anything up that alley?

Or perhaps to baseball's owners...or even the players association?

Could anyone do anything to force their hand? Promise to buy neighboring Hidden Valley Resort (other side of the mountain from Seven Springs) if they sell the team to an MLB-approved entity?

I try not to criticize too harshly unless I have a plan of my own, but the brains have to start storming now unless we want to see another 5-year plan begin in 2013.

Perhaps contraction would be the best option.

Monday, August 10, 2009

#127: The Annual Implosion

---Rock Bottom (and an apology)---

With 51 games left in the regular season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have bottomed out.

Losers of eight straight ballgames and depleted of nearly all of their previously established talent, the '09 Bucs are down for the count, and the official coronation as the new Kings of Futility (at least insofar as consecutive losing seasons is concerned) seems likely to happen by Labor Day.

It's interesting to note that the Pirates' slump has coincided with the surge by the other National League laughingstock, the Washington Nationals, winners of their last eight.

Pittsburgh now has the third-worst record in all of baseball, but they're only five-and-a-half games better than the current MLB-worst Nationals (Kansas City is the other team below Pittsburgh).

Some in the media and some bloggers are holding that this losing streak is the kind of thing the Pirates need to suffer through to truly rebound and truly rebuild, much like the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks or the 2006 Detroit Tigers.

The major problem with this thinking is that, not only did these teams bring in a lot of young talent through trades and through the draft, but they supplemented those assets with fairly high-priced free-agent veterans.

Pirates owner Bob Nutting will not do this.

I have heard from a fairly reliable source that Nutting has no interest in upping payroll, breaking the word of Pirate management (figurehead Kevin McClatchy, at the time) after they received the tax-payer funded PNC Park.

So, instead of building a team to a Moneyball-esque $80 million or so before tearing down, it doesn't appear that the team will ever barely exceed $50 million in payroll under Nutting's watch.

Pirate fans need to allow their memories to recall more than a few months in the past in order to get past "disappointment" and enter "resentment" or "betrayal".

New ballpark, no winner.

New general manager (David Littlefield), no winner.

New 5-year rebuilding plan, no winner.

New managers (Jim Tracy, John Russell), no winner.

ANOTHER new general manager (Neal Huntington), no winner.

Same owner, no winner.

If you want to see something interesting, check out a series of press releases compiled by Dutch Wydo, of WMBS' "Saturday Morning Sports Talk" (Saturday, 9:10AM - 10AM, 590-AM or online)

It becomes increasingly apparent that there is no genuine interest in fielding a winning team. Just dumping payroll while pointing to other "bright spots" to distract the fan base and keep them coming through the gates. Now it's "Come see Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones!"

All of the above brings me to my apology.

In June of 2007, I wrote:

I understand if you're not strong enough to handle the constant disappointment. Feel free to leave. Just leave your keys at the door on the way out. If and when the Pirates emerge from the doldrums and start playing competitive baseball, you are not welcome back.

I was recently called a "fair-weather" fan by someone I, in turn, labeled "ignorant" (he took offense for some reason).

This has gone beyond fair-weather fandom. My self-imposed boycott of PNC Park (unless the ticket is already paid which case I still feel kind of dirty) is my way of keeping the current management team from profiting on my misery.

A fair-weather fan would be one who is in a town like Oakland, or even Miami, where things may not be going so well because management has torn the team down, not having the patience to wait three years or so before the team is competitive again.

Three years. Maybe five or six.

Not seventeen.

My personal maxim, "Twice is not an accident," screams to me that unchecked fandom can only further hurt the franchise.

I love the Pirates. I want very much to see them a respected organization again, but as long as they are a cash cow for a parasitic entity, I know all promises from the top are as empty as the seats of PNC should be.

While I won't quite say, "I'm done with this team," I no longer have any positive expectations.

So, for anyone who saw all this coming before I did, I am sorry that I was so far behind you in my realization. Your keys will be waiting for you if ever someone is able to wrench the franchise from Bob Nutting's clutches and return a winner (heck, a competitor) to the Steel City's baseball diamond.