Tim’s Two Cent College Football Preview 2019

Ahh, college football. Fight songs, mascots, pageantry galore will fill stadiums from Chestnut Hill to The Palouse. Hot, steamy late summer afternoons will give way to cool, crisp autumn evenings will give way to cold, blustery early winter nights as the 2019 college football season unfolds. All that is left to the lead up of (more…)

Bizarre Brown is a Frostbitten Fool

Shh… Turn your ear to the West. Do you hear it? Hold on. Let me help you. That’s right. Way out in Napa Valley, CA, where the show is usually about grapes, grapes, and more grapes, the circus has come to town. This Big Top arrived via hot air balloon. Inside the balloon was a (more…)

Now What?

Being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan is a difficult proposition.

Put aside the 40 year World Series drought.

Put aside the 27 year division winning drought.

Put aside the 20 straight losing seasons from 1993-2013.

Focus on the here and now.

Last week, after a rather docile trade deadline, Pirates GM Neal Huntington gave his justification for not making more moves with this one liner.

“Technically, we are still in it.”

Well, sure. Technically. Technically the Miami Marlins are “still in it”, in as much as they haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet.

Last week I called for the Pirates to finally crack that egg on a rebuild. I also stated that the owner is just fine with status quo.

Well, status quo it is.

Now what?

The Pirates do have some solid pieces. Josh Bell, Kevin Newman, and Bryan Reynolds are all young players you can build around.

Starling Marte is arguably having his best season, and has two more club option years on his contract.

Maybe Gregory Polanco comes back healthy next year and finds his swing from the summer of 2018.

Maybe Jameson Taillon is fully healthy by June of next year, and ready to be that dominant starter he has shown flashes of being.

Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove are okay, but just okay.

Felipe Vasquez gives them an elite closer through 2023.

At AAA Indianapolis, the Pirates have Ke’Bryan Hayes, Cole Tucker, Kevin Kramer, Will Craig, Jason Martin and Mitch Keller. Some, or maybe even all, of these players may have productive major league careers. None of these players project to be “impact” players, and as a matter of fact, none of them are having the type of season that has them beating down the door to Pittsburgh.

Keller is ready for another shot in Pittsburgh, but GM Neal Huntington is concerned with who you pull out of the rotation and send down. The team has lost 14 of 18 games, and the pitching has been atrocious. I’ll start a list when I’m done with my column. Hopefully I have enough paper.

A lot of impact players skip right past AAA, so maybe AA Altoona has that next impact player waiting around the curve.

There is one player, just promoted to Altoona, that makes the Pirates top ten prospects list. 6’6” shortstop O’Neil Cruz, a player acquired from the Dodgers, could potentially be an impact player. He is on a fast track to the major leagues, playing AA at 20 years of age.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but generally to vault your team into a contender you need impact players. The Pirates have none, with maybe the exception of one in AA. There are solid players on the roster, and some potentially solid players at AAA. With a void at the top end of the starting pitching rotation, that equates to a “ho-hum” type of team.

I bet all, or at least most, of the teams that make the playoffs this year have impact players. Acuna, Bellinger, Bregman, Judge, Soto, Bryant, Lindor, the list goes on. Just think of great Pirates teams of the past who made the playoffs. Clemente and Stargell in ‘71. Stargell and Parker in ‘79. Bonds, Bonilla, and Van Slyke in the early ‘90’s. McCutchen in 2013-2015.

Minus a foolish overpay in trading for Chris Archer last year, and maybe you would have two impact players on your roster in Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow.

This is the elephant in the room if you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates. You don’t develop impact players. You don’t pay for impact players.

It is the very reason why I suggested a rebuild involving trades of Marte and Vazquez. Getting two or three impact players for those two guys was very intriguing to me, and in my opinion, the right direction to go. As I said last week I had many fears about this GM succeeding at making these moves, but still thought they should be made.

In fairness, Huntington couldn’t be expected to give those guys away, much like he did Corey Dickerson. It seems as though major league GM’s are not nearly as quick to part with prospects as they used to be.

Still, keeping status quo, though predictable, was still disappointing.

This tweet includes comments given to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, in reference to the Pirates lack of interest in making impact trades.

The last comment from the unnamed executive is pretty damning. It’s exactly what I’ve talked about ad nauseam since I started writing this column—incompetent ownership and management.

So Bucco fans, don’t turn away from the season just yet. Ignore that the Pirates are 4-18 since the All Star break. Ignore that 13-2 debacle versus the Mets yesterday.

Josh Bell is bound to hit another home run. Keona Kela may get to pitch against the Reds again. Erik Gonzalez and Pablo Reyes might…wait, they called these two guys up instead of guys who will be part of the future? Okay, maybe you should turn away.

Judging by the loud “Let’s Go Mets” chants late Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at PNC Park, most fans have already headed for the hills, leaving plenty of seats for the opponents fans.

Just give up on this season at your own peril because as Neal Huntington, aka Shemp, puts it…they’re still in it.

Technically.

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

It’s Time

Someone has to walk the plank, right?

The problem in Pittsburgh is that those that make the call on who walks the plank— the captain, chief mate, and second mate—are the first three that should be taking that walk.

Bob Nutting, the captain of this Pirate Brig, is perfectly satisfied with status quo. He is perfectly satisfied with a low talent, non winning team that makes a profit. He’s perfectly satisfied with his lapdog team president Frank Coonelly. He’s perfectly satisfied with his poor drafting, poor player developing GM, Neal Huntington.

The Pirates captain is  busy counting how much money he made with all of the Cubs, Phillies, and Cardinals fans that came through the turnstiles at PNC Park over the last three weeks. Most would be embarrassed to find more opposing fans in your home ballpark, but Nutting just sees dollar signs.

Steve Blass, the ultimate Pirate for 60 years, is retiring at season’s end. The organization celebrated the 1979 World Series Championship team on its 40 year anniversary. What a perfect year to put a little extra cash in to your team to have a chance at winning. It could have been one great summer filled with celebrations and winning baseball.

Wrong.

Instead Melky Cabrera, Jordan Lyles, and Lonnie Chisenhall were signed on the cheap to add to a .500 at best type roster.

Chisenhall was the big signing at $2.75 million. He hasn’t even made it to the Pittsburgh city limits yet, as he is “rehabbing” a calf “injury”. The Pirates actually have $23 million out of the approximately $80 million in roster payroll tied up with players that either haven’t played at all or very little this season.

As I’ve said many times before here, a true rebuild should have happened in 2016 when it was clear management no longer considered the team a viable contender. That became apparent when Jon Niese, Ryan Vogelsong, and Jeff Locke made up 3/5 of the team’s pitching rotation. Now we are three more “going nowhere” seasons down the road.

It’s time. During the next few days and/or in the offseason, it’s time.

The problem with rebuilding is the architects that will be in charge don’t give you much faith in having a solid blueprint for such a rebuild.

It’s a little like taking your kids to a swimming pool with lifeguards that aren’t very good swimmers. They may be able to save your kids, but there’s a good chance your kids could drowned. In this scenario the Pirates are your kids and Nutting, Coonelly, and Huntington are the lifeguards.

Let’s play along anyway.

Around the Horn

Catcher

This position needs an upgrade. Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings are both essentially back ups. Decent back ups, but back ups. Francisco Cervelli should never catch again for his own well being, plus he is not a part of the future.

Keep Stallings, and hopefully acquire a high end catcher(Is that the Dodgers calling?). Use Diaz as a throw in for another trade or send him to Chisenhall’s house to hang out. Oops, I mean “rehab”.

First Base

Josh Bell is either having a breakout season, albeit while in a slump right now, or he had a hot month and a half and has come back down to his natural level. He is signed through 2023 and is certainly a building block. However with his lack of athleticism and poor defense—he still cannot throw a baseball correctly—his ceiling isn’t as high as one may think. His trade value won’t get any higher. I think you keep him, but I wouldn’t bat an eye if they trade him for a package of prospects.

Middle Infield

When this team is good enough, Adam Frazier will be used as a super utility guy. He could start a few times a week at different positions. In a perfect world, Kevin Newman moves to second base and Cole Tucker becomes the shortstop.

The problem is, as always, neither of these guys is a high end talent. Newman has been very solid at the major league level this year. He is a contact hitter and a solid defender. Tucker showed flashes of defensive brilliance in his short stint with the Pirates this year, but he has always struck out far too much.

Unless something shocking happens, these three will make up the middle infield going forward.

Third Base

Colin Moran is a placeholder type of guy. Moran is decent, but certainly not an overwhelming talent. He is slow afoot and that makes his defense average at best. He has improved at the plate but doesn’t have typical corner infield power.

Jung Ho Kang should be traded. The grand experiment to see if he could find his pre sober form has failed. A contender may welcome a power bat on the bench like Kang’s.

The future of third base belongs to Ke’Bryan Hayes. He has been underwhelming at the plate for AAA Indianapolis this year, but you would have to assume he will be given an opportunity next year in Pittsburgh.

Outfield

Starling Marte’s trade value will never be higher. If a true rebuild is to be started then trade Marte for a high end prospect or maybe two.

Corey Dickerson should be traded. Melky Cabrera should be traded. I’ve said before that both of those guys are great in the clubhouse. Both still have value on the field, in particular Dickerson. Again, if it’s a rebuild then you can find clubhouse leaders at a later date.

Bryan Reynolds is a piece to build with and Gregory Polanco has to be kept, with fingers crossed that he gets healthy, to hopefully finally fulfill his potential. The problem with trading off your outfielders is that you have next to nothing in AA or AAA. Help will need to come from outside the organization.

Pitching

Starting Rotation

Jameson Taillon deserves to catch a break more than any human on the planet. His health going forward leaves the Pirates with a black hole atop their rotation.

Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove are solid middle of the rotation starters. Steven Brault and Dario Agrazal might be bottom of the rotation starters.

Chris Archer should be traded. He has been beyond terrible. Trading Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Shane Baz for Chris Archer was an overpay at the time,  and the trade is heading straight toward disastrous. Try to get someone to bite on Archer. Maybe some broken bats and used baseballs from a team that needs a BP pitcher. Cut your losses.

With or without Taillon, the top of the rotation needs major bolstering. Mitch Keller is the only real hope on the horizon, and he didn’t fare well with his first stint in Pittsburgh. Trading for pitching is tough because everyone wants more, but the Pirates really have no choice.

Bullpen

There are many gas can carriers in the Pirates bullpen. Then there is Felipe Vazquez, one of the league’s premier closers. Vazquez has a team friendly contract that runs through 2023. This is where Neal Huntington needs to hold out for a King’s ransom in trade. Simply put, Vazquez will bring back the most talent.

The haul he gets for Vazquez should be similar to the haul he gave up last year to acquire Archer. Vazquez is the Pirates biggest trade chip, and should be traded for the right package. A closer is of little use to a losing team. Just  check out Vazquez’s tweet from last week for reinforcement.

These Pirates need some treasure

During the 1979 team celebration earlier this month, Phil Garner called for the Buccos to start finding their winning ways. Dave Parker said it was hard to believe they haven’t been back to the World Series in forty years. The way Nutting and company run the team it feels like it could be forty more.

When your own announcers are discussing at length, as Greg Brown and John Wehner did Saturday night, about how infield pop ups have been a “real problem” for this team you know things are a mess.

Good little league teams don’t have “real problems” with infield pop ups.

This team, once thought to be on the cusp of contention, is 2-14 since the All Star break and have lost 8 straight.

It’s time.

Rebuild.

And if the Pirates esteemed management team screws it up like I fear they will, then they can all walk the plank.

Just tell Bob there is a sunken treasure at the bottom of the sea.

 

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

My Yearly Pitch for Parker

Over the weekend the Pittsburgh Pirates honored the 1979 World Series Championship team on its 40th anniversary. The conversation about that team almost always starts with Willie Stargell, but it doesn’t get too far without mentioning the Cobra, Dave Parker. Yesterday the class of 2019 was inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame in (more…)

Wonderful World of Sports

Sports are wonderful.

You already knew that.

We were all given a reminder of this last week.

On July 1 Tyler Skaggs, a 27 year old pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, was found dead in his Texas hotel room. Let’s put aside any speculation about the cause of death, and focus on the aftermath.

The Angels and Texas Rangers game scheduled for that night was quickly canceled. Moments of silence were observed throughout Major League Baseball. Skaggs’ teammates had to come to grips with the loss of a teammate, a friend, a brother.

Sports teams are essentially a family. Sure they don’t always get along, and sometimes a separation even has to happen. For the most part, though, a team spends so much time together that you become united in good times and bad. Therefore, Skaggs’ unthinkable and unfortunate death forced the rest of his Angels brothers to come together.

This is where the shot of wonderful was injected.

The All Star break gave everyone with the Angels a chance to take a breath. Mike Trout, as always, did a great job representing the team, and Skaggs, at the All Star game.

Then came last Thursday night, when the Angels played their first game in Anaheim since the death of Skaggs. Every Angels player wore Skaggs number 45, and the number was painted onto the mound. Finally, the team had Skaggs’ mother throw out the first pitch to his best friend on the team, Andrew Heaney. Of course she threw a perfect strike.

Then we got a booster shot of wonderful.

Taylor Cole and Felix Pena combined on a no-hitter, as the Angels throttled the Seattle Mariners 13-0. A no hitter on the night the team honored their fallen pitcher. Only sports can write this kind of script.

As the entire team gathered on the field to celebrate look what happened next.

That is powerful stuff.

Nothing will bring back Tyler Skaggs. However, for at least one night his family got to see how much their son, brother, husband meant to his teammates, and how much those teammates cared for him.

Bad things happen in life. We all wish the bad stuff would stay away, but unfortunately it rears its ugly head from time to time. Often times sports are there to give relief, honor the fallen, and provide at least a small sense of comfort to those affected by the bad events.

Sports truly are wonderful.

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

I Want My Game Back

Baseball is supposed to be the “thinking man’s game.” Tell that to Hanser Alberto. Oh boy, Orioles 😅 (via @Indians) pic.twitter.com/HVQ5GNJLys — SI MLB (@si_mlb) May 17, 2019 I know, I know, the play above is the Baltimore Orioles, and that’s nothing more than little league. A few weeks ago Adam Frazier made an almost (more…)

Halfway Home

If there is one piece of advice I wish my dad would have been wrong about is the old adage, “The older you get, the faster time seems to pass.” Every darn calendar in my house, not to mention those darn kids setting off firecrackers, indicate that July 4 is upon us. How is that (more…)

All Quiet on the Western(PA) Front

June is a time for warm summer breezes, golden rays of sunshine bursting out of white billowy clouds, and clear starry nights. June always puts me in a peaceful state of mind.

After taking out the garbage this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a peacefulness about them this June.

OTA’s, ETA’s, HSA’s, MTO’s or whatever all of these labeled workouts are called are over, and now is down time for NFL teams.

The Steelers report for training camp in Latrobe on July 25. Between that date and September 8 when the 2019 season gets underway, we will start analyzing the team’s strengths and weaknesses. We will preview the season, and I will make my fateful Two Cent predictions. Until then, let’s enjoy the calm before the storm.

It really is calm for the first time in quite a while around the Steelers.

Gone is Antonio Brown.

Last year Brown spent part of his summer chucking furniture off of a hotel balcony, nearly decapitating innocent people below. He arrived in Latrobe last July in a self promoted helicopter landing. This all followed a season that ended with Brown’s now infamous Facebook Live post from the middle of the Steeler’s locker room.

All that was missing was a big red nose and giant red shoes.

Okay, maybe the nose and shoes aren’t really necessary.

Brown, now with the Oakland Raiders, said recently that catching Jerry Rice is his goal. No mention of a Super Bowl. No mention of winning the AFC West. Not even a mention of making the floundering Raiders respectable. He did say it would be cool to play for the last Raider team in Oakland, so there’s that.

Furthermore, fans will be able to catch Brown’s act on the HBO series Hard Knocks this coming August. Oh what fun that has the potential to be. Most importantly, the Steelers won’t have to be there front and center. They can watch and breathe a sigh of relief from afar.

Gone is Le’Veon Bell.

Bell spent last season jet skiing and partying at strip clubs. Oh, and let’s not forget his burgeoning rap career. He opted to sit out the season trying to prove a point. That point apparently was how to lose out on millions of dollars he will never get back.

Bell signed with the New York Jets and immediately made friends by not showing up to the team workouts last month. Of course, Bell released a workout video with his second favorite rapper, Cardi B, playing in the background to prove he would be in shape.

See, Bell doesn’t get it. Nobody thought he wouldn’t be in great shape. The Jets, and any other team for that fact, just want him to be a good teammate. That requires a player to show up , if for no other reason than to hang out with your new teammates.

Then, for good measure, it was reported that Bell was robbed of $520,000 worth of jewelry and valuables by his girlfriends. That’s girlfriends plural. The best part is how he described these young ladies in the 911 call. Listen for yourself courtesy of TMZ.

To start with, Bell apparently prefers his girls naked, whether at the club or at home. Second, tell me why you need to go to the gym when you have a naked 21 year old and a naked 23 year old in bed? Maybe I’m showing my age here, but that seems like more than enough of a workout for one day.

Best of all, you know who gets to deal with this particular clown show? The New York Jets. The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have to worry about Bell smoking weed, Bell getting robbed by naked chicks, or Bell rapping about the team not respecting him. He’s New York’s problem now.

Let’s review. Brown is gone. Bell is gone. Pouting James Harrison is gone. Even lifelong malcontent coach Joey Porter is gone.

Im not prepared to make my death defying prediction on the Steelers season just yet. However, I know one thing to be true. There are still enough talented performers to put on a great show this coming season. The only difference will be putting on the show without any clowns. Most people hate clowns anyway.

Enjoy the peace and quiet Steelers fans.

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

The U.S. Open really was like a day at the beach

My main article, on my dad’s minor league journey was posted yesterday in honor of Father’s Day. With that said, let me get right to my takes and final thought. Two Cent Takes NBA  ~Thank you Kawhi Leonard and Fred VanVleet for putting this Finals series out of its misery. Leonard was easily the best (more…)