Will’s Whiteboard: Andrew Luck’s retirement is no reason to boo

Will’s Whiteboard: Andrew Luck’s retirement is no reason to boo Published August 28, 2019 By William Whisler Undoubtably Andrew Luck’s retirement sent shockwaves through the NFL when he suddenly decided that playing quarterback another season was not worth his physical and mental health in the future. Colts fans were extremely upset with their season expectations (more…)

Fanatics Unite

Sports. Fanatics. Like peanut butter and jelly.

Are you a fanatic? Do you know someone who is?

Im here this week to give you a fanatics guide. Sort of a playbook, if you will.

How it Begins

Fanatics are a special breed of sports obsessed fandom that goes above and beyond for their favorite teams. I know.

My name is Tim Clark, and I’m a sports fanatic. I’ve been a fanatic for 44 years, 8 months, 27 days, and counting.

I was watching my first USC Trojans football game on November 30, 1974. A stirring comeback versus arch rival Notre Dame. I was eight so I only vaguely understood the nuances of the actual game. However, I was hooked by the marching band, the white horse galloping around the LA Coliseum track, Anthony Davis’s touchdown knee dance, and the Song Girls…God bless the Song Girls.

My friend Scott shared he, too, was watching this game with his grandmother. His gram did her part to put the kibosh on Notre Dame that day. Scott would also become a fanatic. Maybe his gram showed him the way.

Some may not be sure if they qualify for this not terribly exclusive club. Let’s look for the signs.

Clothes

The first sign you may be a fanatic is your attire.

First, you must wear clothes that easily displays to others your allegiance to your favorite team. Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, whatever…brand doesn’t matter. Head to toe coverage is what matters.

Hats are a must. It’s sports not church so strap one on. Good hair, bad hair, it doesn’t matter. A fanatic doesn’t need an excuse to don a hat. My only rule is no flat bill caps for guys over 40. You’re a fanatic, not a twenty-something hipster.

Jerseys are great for big games, but shirts are your staple for all other occasions. You will need a bunch. Wearing the same shirt repeatedly lacks creativity, not to mention cleanliness. Short sleeve, long sleeve, sweatshirts…a fanatic is prepared for any temperature.

The same goes for below the waist. Shorts for warmer weather, wind pants or sweatpants for cooler weather.

Sneakers? Why not. I have sneakers for all of my favorite teams. They are bright, bold, and leave no doubt which teams they represent. Before you lace up your team sneakers, slip on a pair of team socks. Multiple pairs of team socks are a good idea because… feet…smelly…hey you are a fanatic, not a pig!

The biggest key to the fanatics clothes are that people in your hometown immediately recognize you based on what you are wearing. Often times these sightings are accompanied by eye rolls and snickers. Let it go. Those people don’t get it. Fellow fanatics will applaud the pride and passion you display for your team.

So if you open your closet and have trouble finding “normal” clothes, you may be on your way to claiming fanatic status.

Oh and give yourself a bonus point if you own team underwear. After a 5-7 season last year by my beloved USC Trojans, I decided I needed to do more.

✔️.

I would have modeled them, but I just don’t need the lady fanatics blowing up my phone all night.

Big Game Watching

Where do you watch the big game?

Call it a man cave if you must, but the room must leave no doubt to guests which teams you support.

There are two rules for this room:

  1. There is no such thing as too much.
  2. Tacky is okay, and in fact encouraged.

As an example, my sports room has framed pictures, posters, pennants, pillows, lamps, curtains, Terrible Towels, team balls, team tiki statues, bobble heads, and for good measure a team colored lava lamp. Clearly tacky is not even a consideration for a fanatic.

Aside from your sports room, there are many other places to earn your fanatics card.

Again, I’ll use myself as an example.

Fore!

When I hit the links I start with a team golf bag, towel, umbrella, and ball markers. In addition I use team personalized golf balls. This way when that rare shot(wink, wink) goes in the woods, pond, or someone else’s fairway people can easily identify who hit the errant shot.

Give yourself another bonus point if you like to scatter golf balls in order to spread your fanaticism.

✔️✔️.

Not only do I spread my fanaticism, but I give a shameless plug for our website and my column.

Let’s face it, they are already laughing at me because of my bag, towel, umbrella, shirt, hat…oh, did I mention my putter grip, so a little more chuckling at my expense is just fine. Fanatics don’t embarrass easily.

On the road…back at home

The car is a great place to accessorize. Seat covers, bumper stickers, window decals, license plates are absolutely fine. Furthermore, when going to the store, dropping off your kids at school, or really wherever you are going, consider it perfectly acceptable to blare your school’s fight song. Music to your ears, annoying to others. Perfect.

Back at home you can do fanatics work inside and out.

Around the outside of the house consider lawn ornaments, team flags, backyard games such as corn hole, and certainly patio chairs fanatical ideas.

Inside the house, drinking cups, salt and pepper shakers, pot holders, coasters, and blankets are great items to display your team spirit. And remember, this isn’t even your sports room. A real fanatic doesn’t limit themselves to one room of the house.

Don’t worry. I’m sure your wife will understand. She knew what she was getting when she married you, right? Of course, I am single so what do I know?

By the way, give yourself a bonus point if you plant flowers based on team colors.

✔️✔️✔️.

Game Day

This is where we separate the men from the boys.

Relax ladies. It’s just a figure of speech. You, too, can be a fanatic. Fanatics don’t discriminate. Everyone is welcome.

My friend Ang can curse a blue and white streak with the best of them during Penn State games. She is closing in on fanatic status. Scaring the bejeebers out of her husband when she does it is a big step in the right direction.

There are very few things that should keep you from watching or attending a game. Family emergency, obviously. Kids school events, yes. Birth of a child, sure. Although if you are a good planner this one can be avoided. Simply check the schedule 9 months down the road and uh…behave accordingly.

My friend Eric was put on fanatic probation a while back. He missed the start of an important Steelers game in order to do a “favor” for a friend, totally disregarding his fanatic friends who now could not properly text during the game because they didn’t want him to know the results. Unacceptable.

Eric has since regained fanatic status due to his solid rants on Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, and the fact that he has abused Scott and I for being Pittsburgh Pirates fans.

Speaking of Scott, he had an interesting game day experience this past week. Before his kids went back to school, he took them to a baseball game.

Baltimore vs Kansas City.

True fanatics don’t do that to their kids. Hell, human beings don’t do that to their kids.

Scott is the most fanatical fanatic I know, so I’m going to let this one slide and assume maybe he went to the bottom desk drawer at work for the whiskey one too many times that day.

Once the game begins a fanatic will really stand out. They twist, they shout, they spasm all about, and often times, when screaming maniacally at their TV, spit will fly out of their mouth like Bill Cowher, circa mid 1990’s.

And, boy, do they ever yell at the coach. You see, fanatics think they are far superior coaches than the actual coach of the team.

This is where texting becomes important. Your fellow fanatics will commiserate with you over the game. They will complain with you about the officiating, the coaching, the players having bad games.

You CAN Make a Difference

Fanatics sit in the same place during winning streaks, they rely on rally caps, they wear lucky charms, and they will even change clothes if a game is not going as planned. It’s exactly why having only one jersey in your closet is very risky.

Fanatics have mystical powers, or so they think. It may just be that fanatics are too far gone to accept any reasonable debate over such matters.

Just like Stranger Things, They’re Among Us

My three friends mentioned above: lawyer, business owner, chemical engineer. Me, well my side gig for the last 30 years is teaching. Just in case this sports columnist thing doesn’t work out. I’m willing to bet none of our co-workers suspect we turn in to crazed lunatics when our favorite teams play a game.

As football season rushes upon us, this is the time true fanatics start their training. Scott was worked up over something in a preseason game last week. And you thought those games were just for player preparation.

In another week or so, the spit will start spraying, blood pressure will start rising, and remote controls will start flying.

It’s football season, baby.

Fanatics unite!

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.

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.