Saturday, August 21, 2010

#161: Fifth Broadcast

---SSL: August 21, 2010---

Relive the fifth broadcast since the rebirth of "Steeltown Sports: Live!"

Gonna give myself some props here, though. Over two months ago, I made a prediction at the end of an entry as to when the Pirates would lose #82. I was a day early.

Now, the only "relevant" questions with the current Pirates team are:

Will the hitting significantly improve on its own as the young hitters grow together, or will only a new hitting coach do that trick?

Is RHP James McDonald the real deal, or is it just a case of the league needing to get more of a scouting report on him?

Will the Pirates hit more than 3 multi-run home runs during the season's remainder?

How long will it be before 2010 draftees Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie make it to the mothership, and will they be as good as advertised?

Other than that, it's really hard to pay attention.

In the meantime, I'll venture a guess at when the Bucs will lose their 100th:

September 23, at home against the Cardinals.

Now, to the broadcast -


Saturday, August 14, 2010

#160: This Week's Broadcast

---SSL: August 14, 2010---

For the few who missed it, and the even fewer who want to hear it again.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

#159: Today's Show, Plus More XL Idiocy

---SSL: 8/7/10 + SBXL...Again---

First, the show from today. I make my first foray in to "hackdom" by mispronouncing a couple of names on the Penguins all-time team (Jean Provanost ... I didn't make the "st" silent ... and Vince Lascheid...small/faded print made me say "LaShield".)

Still, the highlight is probably the rant about Super Bowl XL referee Bill Leavy needlessly (and incorrectly) admitting remorse for his officiating. More on that in a sec.

Archived version of today's show here:

Now. Back to Leavy. Apparently, while he was visiting Seahawks camp for a rules interpretation meeting, he said he feels guilty about the fourth quarter of that game.

The only mistake he made was the low block call on Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck.

Of course, perhaps it was his first visit to Seattle since the fateful game, and he didn't want to be lynched, so he confessed his "crimes." He certainly doesn't have any major reasons to honestly feel bad.

Steeler fans, and other unbiased folks who actually understand football, I implore you to bookmark the following website and send it to any Steeler hater or Seahawk fan who continues this baseless battle that officiating decided XL's outcome.

Excellent photo angles (for the most part) and solid points. The article's author even argues the validity of the low block call on Hasselbeck.

Most importantly, he acknowledges the ugly truth: The game sucked. It wasn't exciting. Both teams came out flat. With the exception of two or three big Steeler plays, they stayed flat. If the game had played out the same way, but the AFC representative had been the Cleveland Browns or the Houston Texans, there would not still be this outcry.

It should also be noted, that the NFL never sent an apology letter to the team admitting that mistakes were made. This has been done in the past, and the Steelers have even been recipients of such letters.

Finally, Mr. Leavy, I forgive you, because there's really nothing to forgive. Maybe you didn't see that illegal block in the back on Ben Roethlisberger as he moved to tackle Kelly Herndon following an interception.

Knowledgeable football fans absolve you. You were not responsible for Jerramy Stevens' stone hands, nor the Seahawks' incomprehensibly inept 2-minute drill. In either half.

It's just unfortunate that it was so terrible a game that it was the officiating that stood out.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

#158: Rules of the Game

---Weight of an Unwritten Code---

We're gonna have a nice, long discussion about this on my radio show this Saturday morning.

During the radio broadcast of Cincinnati Reds @ Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night, Greg Brown and Steve Blass engaged in some call-in banter during a rain delay. Toward the end of the delay, they had a call from a Reds fan (listening on the despicable XM) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who made the comment that he's tired of seeing all these players in baseball being all buddy-buddy.

He specifically cited an instance where Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves hit the go-ahead double on Friday night to lift his team over Cincy in extra innings. Then, TV broadcasts covering the pregame the following day showed Heyward and the Reds' Brandon Phillips sharing a laugh or something.

Blass said that there was a thing called professionalism and that, during a game, a player's sole purpose is to contribute to a winning effort for his team. Essentially, he agreed that you have no friends wearing different uniforms. He also said that umpires used to sit in the stands during warmups and were supposed to notice "breaches" of some unwritten code that went against that business-only approach.

That started my wheels turning.

What got them smoking happened in the bottom of the second inning.

Reds' rookie starting pitcher Mike Leake hit Pirate center fielder Andrew McCutchen in the back of the head/neck with a pitch that put him out of the game with a contusion.

While Brown and Blass were talking that "intent" was usually difficult to discern, especially after only one pitch, there must be an equalizer in the next half-inning, especially with Leake due up second. Brown harkened back to a game earlier in the season in Los Angeles where McCutchen took two pitches very close. While neither hit him, he said that the intent had been clear, and the Pirates had failed to send a message in the subsequent half inning.

Flash forward to the top of the third inning in this ballgame: after one out and the Pirates leading 6-0, Pirate starter Paul Maholm puts a 1-0 pitch into Leake's leg. Home plate umpire Dana DeMuth warned both benches (meaning the next pitch determined to be closer than necessary to a batter was going to result in the ejection of the offending pitcher).

The broadcasters, particularly Blass, said that Reds manager Dusty Baker probably told Leake that he was going to get hit by a pitch, to just take it, put the bat down, and go to first.

At that point, Blass said that matter was over and done with, the sides were even, and everyone could move on.

Thus goes baseball's Unwritten Code.

You don't throw biting curveballs to opposing pitchers.

You don't yell when you're a runner on the basepaths, trying to confuse the infielders getting ready to field a pop-up.

You don't let it slide when one of your players gets hit, even if it wasn't intentional.

Of course, I may be a poor judge of "intent". I'm one of about five people who doesn't think Roger Clemens intended to bean Mike Piazza with a pitch back in 2000. This probably appears even more foolish today as Clemens has given us reasons to doubt his benevolence.

Still, in the case of a game involving a division leader and a league-wide laughing stock, it's pretty clear that the plunking was not Leake's intent.

There were two men on with two outs, and the Pirates were already leading 2-0. The last thing a pitcher would want to do is load the bases while trailing on the road.

Nevertheless, Leake will probably have a welt to show for his mistake tomorrow.

I've got a number of issues here. How is this "even up?" How much leave do we give "macho" before "intelligence" takes over? Or maybe that second question is backwards.

I hate mound-charging. I hate fighting in hockey. I hate fans of opposing teams getting involved in brawls. This does not equate to "fun" for me. Nor does it set a good example for the kids who grow up idolizing these sports figures.

The "message" that Brown might have been referring to, could relatively easily escalate to that old line from "The Untouchables" - "He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!"

And sending such a message also could jeopardize the outcome of the game. A team's primary objective is to win the game on the scoreboard. Not to show up the other team using some silent "guy" understanding.

In this case, Maholm had a six-run lead with no one on base. Had the Reds managed to put the kibosh on the Bucs with just two runs on the board, Maholm would have been allowing the tying run to come to the plate (and in the form of Pirate-killer Brandon Phillips, no less).

The Pirates barely hung on, eventually winning 7-6. When you're the Pirates, you need every run you can get and as few opposing baserunners as possible. If the rest of the game had played out the same way, except that Phillips homered in his at bat, the Bucs are on the losing end of an 8-7 victory. Is hitting the pitcher still worth it?

Phillips ended up flying out in the at-bat following Leake's HBP, but, according to the broadcasters, Phillips gave Maholm a steely glare all the way back to the dugout.

Imagine if Leake had, instead, managed to hit the first pitch on the field of play and made an out before Maholm could have "settled the score" with him. According to this "code", then, Maholm would have had to have drilled Phillips instead. Considering the ill feelings Phillips displayed after his at bat, I can only imagine Phillips would have taken a trip to the mound to "talk it over" with Maholm. You can bet ejections would have ensued then.

Speaking of which, DeMuth (the umpire) could have ejected Maholm simply for his second pitch to Leake, because his intent was far more clear. Fortunately for Maholm and the Pirates, DeMuth was complicit with the Code, allowed it to play out, then warned the benches. He didn't have to do it that way.

Am I making sense here? The Unwritten Code allows for the all-important sportsmanship to be thrown into the backseat.

Worse, the fans eat it up.

When doing high school sports broadcasts for the MSA Sports Network, I make it a point to give credit to any athlete I see showing good sportsmanship. When a football player from Team A helps a player from Team B to his feet, I praise that act. And I do it specifically because other folks have no problem pointing out the crass and disrespectful acts that others display while ignoring the noble ones.

I'm not sure which is the greater tragedy: That the Code trumps sportsmanship, or that those watching believe it should.

Join me this Saturday morning, August 7, 2010 from 9:15-10AM Eastern on 590 AM on your radio dial (or online) on the next installment of "Steeltown Sports: Live!"