Saturday, August 27, 2011

#218: Head First

---SSL Broadcast #56---

This is going to be a short header this week. If you listen to the show, it's evident that my new contact lens prescription is making me unfocused.

I want to bring up Sidney Crosby and the concussion thing.

If #87 doesn't play another game in his life because he's concerned about being reduced to a drooling half-vegetable by one of the several players in the league looking to level him, I'm fine with it.

You couldn't pay me enough to trade away my mobility, agility, and general functionality. I'd rather struggle through three minimum-wage jobs at full capacity than live life in a fog, living off millions I'd earned in my youth.

There are "fans" out there starting to grumble that he's weak or a coward or something worse.

It seems that sports is beginning to evolve from less of a variety of chest-beating contests into more a thinker's/strategist's arena, where you proceed only after examining all the factors.

Of course, the trade off seems to be that the fans now engage in chest-beating contests instead.

In today's show:

- One caller brings up a couple points on NCAA Football conference realignment

- Steelers getting set for the most important preseason game for the starters

- Ronny Cedeno going head first into first base is not irrational or necessarily counter productive in the big picture.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

#217: Big Spenders

---SSL Broadcast #55---

This week, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed their top two picks in the Major League draft to contracts that included huge signing bonuses.

First overall pick Gerrit Cole received an $8 million signing bonus (double the projected slot value) and second-rounder Josh Bell received a $5 million bonus (nearly 10 times the projected slot value).

At first glance, this appears to be the Pirates doing what they can to make sure they retain young, quality players.

Through the "Steeltown Sports" lens, however, this just shows me that they are putting the extra money they've earned into the future now, with no guarantee that when these players are major league-ready, that they will pay to retain them if they turn out to be championship caliber.

The irony is that Pirates president Frank Coonelly is generally someone who likes to make sure that draftees (regardless of team) sign at or below slot. I'm not sure how he feels about this precedent.

We'll see where their hearts (and wallets) are when it comes time to resign players like Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker to long-term deals.

In today's show:

- Steelers first-teamers looked good vs. Philadelphia.

- Sidney Crosby's concussion saga continues.

- Miami University potentially facing the NCAA "death penalty"


Saturday, August 13, 2011

#216: Rust

---SSL Broadcast #54---

Rust. That's all I'll chalk up last night's Pittsburgh Steelers' 16-7 loss to the Washington Redskins to.

Yes, all teams have been hampered by not having off-season workouts, rookie camps, mini-camps, OTAs, etc, but the Steelers also opted not to leave in their starters beyond the first quarter, if they even played them at all (e.g. Troy Polamalu).

Mike Wallace was overthrown. Tim Hightower slipped tackles and shrugged off missile-style hits like it's his job (oh...wait...). No sacks recorded on Washington quarterbacks. Special teams coverage was horrid, even when the punts were good.

Hopefully, for the black and gold faithful, preseason game number one is not a portent of the season that lies ahead, or it will be a long one, indeed.

It's still way too early, and there have only been a couple of weeks of training camp, but red flags are already all over the place. Pittsburgh still has a few weeks left to improve on everything, but this era of Steeler teams has a tendency to have a significant setback after a Super Bowl appearance.

With James Harrison distractions, Hines Ward D-U-Is, and a list of other factors, this is head coach Mike Tomlin's season to prove he can take control of this team and whip them into shape, much like he did during his first training camp as coach.

In today's show:

- Only a couple of bright spots in Steelers preseason opener.

- Who's your preferred line-up for the Pirate stretch run?

- Standout Pitt player may transfer.


Saturday, August 06, 2011

#215: Panic Button

---SSL Broadcast #53---

The city of Pittsburgh should probably erect a safety net beneath the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

After a solid first half of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are hemorrhaging runs like it's their job this midsummer, and fans who allowed their hopes to be raised (against my advise) are lamenting a lost season.

In the midst of an eight-game losing streak (that has included a four-game sweep of the pitiful Chicago Cubs and a blowout loss to offensively-challenged San Diego), the Pirates have started to look very much like the squad that finished with 105 losses last year, rather than the one that was in first place just a few short weeks ago.

I have kept a little saying in my head, that others should have adopted months ago:

A 79-83 record is still a 22-game improvement.

At the beginning of the season, this would have met with near-unanimous approval. Now, it's not acceptable.

The thing about sports, and specifically statistics, is that things tend to return to a mean. The Pirates have had offensive problems all season, with a team batting average in just about all situations is in the bottom third. Pitching-wise, the team's earned run average is still better than the league average (top 10), but the hidden statistic (the WHIP) is in the bottom 10.

The WHIP, being the stronger future indicator most of the time, tells me that the Pirates are due to give up some more runs.

The only thing that can stave off losses that would result is if the team gets healthier (Alex Presley and newly-acquired first baseman Derrek Lee, in particular) and scores runs, winning some 8-7 contests.

Otherwise, a season win total in the mid-70s seems to be inevitable (which would still be a double-digit improvement).

The blessing in all of this is that the ownership has experienced some success this year and has seen how much more money they stand to make by putting a competitive team in PNC Park. Once late-season attendence drops back down to the norm, it'll be in their court whether they seriously pursue some legitimate free agents in the off-season (read: spend some money).

In today's show:

- Steelers sign another big piece of their defense, while others restructure contracts to make it possible.

- Penguins sign their first round pick from the 2011 NHL draft

- Pitt and West Virginia are expected to be the top two finishers in Big East football this year. Which order?