In retirement, Randy Moss remains as fascinating as ever:
In retirement, Randy Moss remains as fascinating as ever:
Gregory Polanco’s first 11 games in the majors coincided with his first 11-game hitting streak. He’s currently working on another, and, judging by his stat line above, he hasn’t had much trouble making the leap from Triple-A ball to the bigs. No one in the NL has a better record than the Pirates since early May, and the question of whether or not Polanco should’ve been brought up sooner may be moot by September. But if the Pirates narrowly miss a Wild Card berth? That may be a higher price to pay than the supposed future savings of avoiding Super Two status.
It shouldn’t have mattered so much, especially to a team on the brink of becoming a perennial contender. News broke today that Polanco and Pirates are still discussing a long-term deal. Holding him in the minors did nothing but possibly save money in a distant future. In April, the Astros called up top prospect George Springer. He hit 10 home runs in May, and Houston had their first winning month since 2010.
Raise your hand if you think the Pirates would be worse off today had Polanco been called up early. He might be working on his third or fourth 11-game hitting streak by now.
The Penguins (finally) have a new head coach. Mike Johnston, former head coach of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, was hired today. For those bemoaning the fact that he’s never been a head coach at the highest level of his sport, keep in mind that this also applied to the following people at the time they were hired in Pittsburgh:
Chuck Noll (R.I.P.)
Dan Bylsma (yeah, I know, but still)
Johnston has had an eventful first day on the job, hiring Rick Tocchet, retaining Jacques Martin, and firing assistants Tony Granato and Todd Reirden. It’s not quite as franchise-altering as Noll’s first day with the Steelers, when he drafted Mean Joe Greene first overall. Johnston probably isn’t going to be as successful as Chuck Noll. But let’s give him a chance to be.
Big news today in hockeyland. Dan Bylsma, the Penguins’ winningest coach in franchse history and also the overlord of some of their worst postseason dissappointments, has been fired by newly minted G.M. Jim Rutherford. #thankgoodnessitwasntpierre
Rutherford was the longtime G.M. for the Harford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2006. He also played goalie for the Pens back in the early ’70s. Apparently he was the first goalie to decorate his mask, kicking off a leaguewide trend that continues to this day.
That sound you heard today was a collective sigh of relief that the Penguins didn’t hire you-know-who. Some of the local media are speculating that this is a temporary, stop-gap hire, including Mark Madden, who chimed in with perhaps the most honest reaction to the news: “Rutherford is 65 and looks 100.”
It’s been a long time since the Penguins have had such a turbulent summer. This past month has made #jagrwatch look like a picnic.
Could this have been the House that Clemente built?
From MLB Catherals, check out this previously unseen (as far as we know) 1960s rendering of Three Rivers Stadium, designed as an open-ended, baseball-only beauty:
It was only after the Steelers got involved in this project that Three Rivers became the soulless concrete behmoth that we all remember so fondly. Just more proof of what we all knew already: The NFL ruins everything.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a losing season since 2012.
Also, the lox. Plunder the lox.
On the long list of facsinating athletes who have worn the black and gold of a Pittsburgh franchise, Dock Ellis has to be near the top. Classically ahead of his time, Ellis’ antics – which included intentional beanballs, hair curlers, and the famous no-hitter on LSD – overshadowed a remarkable career and perhaps even more remakable life. Ellis is the subject of a new “Dockumentary” which looks every bit worth seeing based on this remarkable trailer.
Pittsburgh fans: If you’re unfamiliar with Ellis, stop what you’re doing and carve out 20 minutes to read this tremendous profile of Ellis, written by Patrick Hruby for ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
Or you can pick up the oddly brilliant baseball memoir, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball.
The Penguins are on cruise control once again. And still, mostly, dominating.
The Steelers played their most complete game of the season tonight and throttled the Bengals for their most impressive win since…well, who can even remember? At 6-8 and all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the once-mighty Steelers have fallen on hard times, and they’re only one week removed from rock bottom.
*Originally published 12/10/13*
No other NFL opponents bring out the best in each other quite like the we’d-love-you-if-you-were-us doppelgangers from Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The Ravens and Steelers, so similar yet so distinct, have developed an organic rivalry that seems sturdier than all the rest. Made in the USA and built to last: Years from now, when the talking heads have long declared this rivalry to be dead, over and yesterday’s news, the Steelers and Ravens will still be staging masterful theater that, more often than not, leaves you wanting more. Bring it on.
Here’s a look back at the state the rivalry on the eve of their most recent playoff tilt, one that Bill Simmons recently called “The Last Great Hard-Hitting Game before the Concussion Awareness era kicked in.” Troy Polamalu’s late pick-six and Ryan Clark’s bone-chilling hit on Willis McGahee (pictured above) are forever embedded in any all-time Steeler playoff highlight reel.
Attention sports fans throughout the western PA region: there is a third sports team in Pittsburgh. Sure, they may not be a playoff team like the Pirates, or a talent-rich powerhouse like the Penguins. They may not sell as much merchandise anymore, and sure, they haven’t won a game – not even a preseason game – in over nine months. And even that was against the Browns, so it shouldn’t really count. But the true Steelers fans don’t just jump on the bandwagon for the Super Bowls. We are fans during the dark ages too, and the dark ages most certainly have arrived.
The Steelers are 0-4 this season, easily their worst start since 1968. That’s one year B.C. (Before Chuck). This weekend, our eyes were spared the pain of watching the self-proclaimed worst team in the league, as they were mercifully on a bye week. How did they spend their time off? Only here will you find the answers.
Embattled quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spent the weekend nursing various maladies, including a sprained finger, a sore shoulder, tightness in his knee, and a bruised ego. In an awkward moment, he ventured out to a local watering hole and ran into offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was halfheartedly drawing up new plays on his bar napkins.
Cornerback Ike Taylor spent the weekend like he does every weekend in the offseason: furiously working out in his backyard. His comment on the team’s 0-4 start: “Swag’ll be back y’all. Swag’ll be back.” Also, Football Outsiders recently discovered that when he wears pink gloves in October, his DIPG (dropped interceptions per game) is only 1.4 – well below his career average of 3.2.
Safety Troy Polamalu, enjoying a healthy season (so far) for the first time in years, spent Sunday watching the Pirates at PNC Park. When asked about the current role reversal between this town’s baseball and football teams, he summed it up perfectly: “Zen teaches us that once we can open up to the inevitability of our demise, we can begin to transform that situation and lighten up about it. This is what the Pirates did, and we can learn from them.”
Speaking of the Pirates, they needed to bring on some additional employees to help manage the overflow playoff crowds. Luckily, they were able to hire Steelers tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams to serve as turnstiles at the ballpark’s ticket gates, so all customers could pass through smoothly and quickly.
Running back Jonathan Dwyer was spotted at the Ponderosa in Harmarville last night. Several witnesses claimed that he stayed for “longer that two hours,” and was “frequently surrounded by dessert plates.” At least one patron noted that he was sitting in Casey Hampton’s old booth.
Meanwhile, running backs Felix Jones and Isaac Redmond were slated to run in a charity relay race, as part of a four-man team. But neither could hold the baton for more than a few yards without stumbling, and were promptly disqualified.
Former Steeler and current NBC analyst Hines Ward spent the weekend continuing to train for the upcoming Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. He reiterated one of his favorite new talking points on air last week: That the Steelers haven’t made the playoffs, or finished above .500, since they unceremoniously released him nineteen months ago.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was his typical low-key self during the break, retreating to his Shadyside home for some rest and relaxation. When asked for his thoughts about the team’s recent trip to London, he offered up a classic Tomlinism: “In terms of personnel, there were plenty of guys who I would have preferred remain overseas, but obviously that’s beyond my control in the matter.”
Long-snapper Greg Warren continued his Sisyphean quest to get recognized as a real member of the team. This year, he scheduled yet another autograph session, this time at the opulent Renaissance Hotel Pittsburgh, complete with free Iron City beer and giveaway tickets for all the remaining home games. In a bit of unfortunate timing, the event is to begin promptly at 3:07 p.m. on Monday afternoon.
Former Steelers running back Franco Harris was in the news again, this time offering up a spirited defense of jailed former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. “I mean, come on, one of his associates quite obviously planted that gun and destroyed the home surveillance tapes. This man is clearly innocent, why doesn’t anyone see this?”
The media also caught up with team President Art Rooney II while he was on the golf course. When asked to comment on the team’s new losing ways, he said, “We need to get back to the basics of Steeler football; you know, running the ball, zone blitzing, and slowly alienating our franchise quarterback.”
Speaking of which, we end, as always, with former Steelers quarterback and current FOX analyst Terry Bradshaw, who chimed in over the weekend with his always unique thoughts, this time on the team’s recent struggles: “Oh-and-four? Gosh dang, I’ll tell ya what, man…these guys are a disgrace to that uniform. Black and gold means one thing, and that’s winning. And for all you who have been harpin’ for years that Big Ben is the best quarterback in franchise history, well, I got three words for y’all – Check. The. Rings.”
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