Friday, May 28, 2010

Reds pound Salt

I don't have much to say on the Pirates 8-2 loss to the Reds that saw Charlie Morton fall to 1-9 after a two inning seven run performance or time to say it,but Morton was placed on the DL after the game with "Shoulder Fatigue".

I would like to say this about Morton though-Either the Shoulder Fatigue is a bogus way to avoid sending Morton back to AAA or the Pirates have been tremendously irresponsible in continuing to run an injured player to the mound every five days.
I personally believe the Pirates see Morton as having the potential to have an awful season and using this as an excuse gives Morton some skipped starts and might avoid a 20 loss season.
However,the team looks bad by continuing to hand the ball to a pitcher that clearly has issues.
Are they physical,mental or just not a big league pitcher?
That only Charlie Morton can answer,but the Pirates need to figure just what they have in Morton before the season ends and the sooner the better.

The Pirates are in Atlanta tonight with Zach Duke (3-4) against Derek Lowe (6-4)

Pirate Hooks

1) About the only good thing to come out of the game was three hits from Jeff Clement.
Clement has struggled all season and it would be nice to see some return from the trade with Seattle after the non return from the Braves.

2) Jeff Karstens pitched well in his "long man Lyle" routine for Morton with four innings that saw him allow just one run.
Karstens is very suited to this role.

3) Andy LaRoche returned to the lineup at third and Neil Walker started at second.
LaRoche made a brutal error with the score 4-0 by trying to start a twin killing instead of throwing the runner out at home.
LaRoche threw the ball into right field and wound up getting zero outs.
In any event,this is the 3b/2b combo that I would like to see for a while.

Photo Credit-Al Behrman-AP Photo

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Goodbye Soapnet and more cleaning of the inbox

More inbox cleaning today before the week of work begins.

Before we get started,not sure if there will be a Pirate wrapup tomorrow as I will be going into work early tonight.
IF I am unable to see the game,coverage will be replaced by tonight's Giants-Nationals game.

Disney/ABC announced today that they will be shutting down the SOAPnet channel in early 2012.
In its place will be Disney Junior,a network that will "invite mom and dad to join their child in the Disney experience of magical, musical and heartfelt stories and characters, both classic and new,"
Now,I don't spend very much time on SOAPnet,but there is is no denying the passions that soap opera fans have for the genre' and I would know how I would feel if a channel that I loved was axed for yet ANOTHER children's channel designed to force feed crap down parents throats (Yes,the marketing behemoth that is Miley Cyrus,I'm talking to you).
I know this from personal experience as my late Aunt couldn't get through the day without the Guiding Light.
Between the various Disney and Nickelodeon offerings,was this really needed and if so,why not a new channel instead of a replacement?
Soap fans,I can understand your pain..

Israel Vazquez might want a tiebreaker and a fifth match with Rafael Marquez,but after watching Marquez butcher Vazquez on his way to a third round stoppage last Saturday,I am not sure what it would prove.
The scar tissue above Vazquez's eyes will open up badly and quickly and the result will be the same.

The San Francisco Giants will be retiring Hall of Famer Monte Irvin's number 20 on June 26th.
Irvin will be the 11th player in Giants history to be honored with this distinction and kudos to the Giants for doing this before the 91 year old great is unable to enjoy it...

Good news and bad news for the McMahon family in their attempt to buy the US Senate seat for the uncharismatic Linda McMahon-the good news is that her Republican opponent has dropped from the race and basically handed her the nomination for the race to replace retiring Senator Chris Dodd.
The bad news is that polling shows that "The more voters get to know McMahon the less they like her." says Quinnipac pollster Douglas Schwartz.
I feel the same way towards her husband!

Sorry to hear of the passing of Rusher Kimura at the age of 68.
Kimura was one of the top native grapplers of the 70's and 80's,but became just as famous for his mic work in All Japan and later NOAH for the opening card comedy matches that both promotions held as a way to slip a paycheck to wrestlers that had passed their prime.

Looks like Joe Sheehan at SI hates interleague baseball as much as I do and I didn't think that was possible!
Sheehan discusses his reasons and possible solutions to the mess as well...

Reds cruise to 4-0 W

The Pittsburgh Pirates scratched out a mere six singles and threatened to score just once as Bronson Arroyo and the Cincinnati Reds cruised to a 4-0 win in Southern Ohio.
Ross Ohlendorf dropped to 0-3 with the loss.
The set against the Redlegs ends after tonight with Charlie Morton (1-8) against Johnny Cueto (4-1).

Pirate Hooks

1) Not much to say in this one,other than some encouraging signs were seen from Ross Ohlendorf.
I didn't see as many as Greg Brown and John Wehner seem to have seen,but some positives.
Ohlendorf whiffed five and walked five as his control still isn't as fine as it was last year.
The righthander still is falling behind too many hitters and putting hitters into better positions in the count....

2) Ohlendorf's homer that he allowed to light hitting Miguel Cairo was stunning.
Cairo hit one homer last season and before that he had not smacked one since 2005!

3) Neil Walker had two hits and made two sharp plays at third,although he did pick up a throwing error as he attempted to throw out a runner that was going to be safe anyway.
That was the type of play that Walker should have just held onto the ball,but could be excused this time as he played third after two months of playing second.

4) Andy LaRoche out again with a back that was quoted as "improving".

5) Play of the night goes to Brandon Phillips for his no look shuffle pass to Orlando Cabrera to start a double play.
Flashy?Yes and toss in showboaty (If that is a word) as well and Greg Brown moaned about it for an inning or so,but it was the type of play that the opposition announcers will groan about,but a similar play from Ronny Cedeno would bring forth superlatives about the "joy of the game" etc.

6) The Pirates only threat came with the bases loaded in the eighth when the Reds brought in diminutive lefty Daniel Ray Herrera to face Garrett Jones.
Herrera,who looks like someone that could have pitched for me on Hartles fanned Jones with a (no kidding ) 67 MPH changeup...

Work calls early tonight,but if I have time,I may toss up another post.

Photo Credit-Al Behrman-AP Photo

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Doumit dynamite strikes again

Ryan Doumit's ninth inning homer (5) broke a 1-1 tie to lift the Pirates to a 2-1 win in Cincinnati over the Reds.
Joel Hanrahan was the winner (1-0) and Octavio Dotel had the save,his tenth.
The game was scoreless through seven before a misplayed fly by Drew Stubbs led to a triple for Akinori Iwamura,who then scored on a Neil Walker double.
Hanrahan allowed a homer to Brandon Phillips in the bottom of the eighth,tying the game and setting the stage for Doumit.
The series continues tonight with Ross Ohlendorf (0-2) against Bronson Arroyo (4-2).

Pirate Hooks

1) As bad as I felt for Paul Maholm to get a no decision after Phillips took Joel Hanrahan over the wall,I was happy for Reds rookie Mike Leake,who would have gotten the loss because of Drew Stubbs losing a routine fly in the lights.
Both pitchers pitched well and didn't deserve a loss.

2) The flyball to Stubbs was forced to be scored a triple by the letter of the law,but anyone watching knows it was an error.
Perhaps not one of Stubbs fault,but an error nonetheless.

3) Paul Maholm was as sharp as he has been in quite a while with a six hit effort over seven innings.
Maholm never allowed more than a hit an inning and was effective in keeping the ball on the ground with a low pitch count of 89.

4) The Doumit homer was a rocket shot off heard throwing Nick Masset and showed once again the vulnerability of the hard thrower to home runs.
The old adage that your dad told you was true-the harder it comes in,the harder it can go out.

5) Neil Walker was recalled from Indianapolis and started at third base.
Walker's RBI in the eighth was his first in the big leagues,but then was picked off second as he fell asleep on the basepaths.
Glad to see Walker get a chance over the Delwyn Youngs and Bobby Crosbys of the world at third and would like to see him get some second sack time as well.

6) However,the Neal Huntington quote on Walker doesn't enthuse me very much-"Walker will be used as a corner utility player who can help us with his versatility and bat," and "he will see playing time off the bench and in spot starts."
That to me sounds a lot like how Steve Pearce has been used and the result has been not really knowing what type of player Pearce can be.
Pearce was placed on the DL for the space created for Walker.

7) Andy LaRoche on the pine for the 4th game in a row.
The damp weather must have really stuck around and traveled with the team...

Photo Credit-Al Behrman-AP Photo

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cleaning out the Inbox

We clean out the inbox with notes of interest.

First we start with a few goodbyes

to former pitcher and Hall of Famer Robin Roberts at the age of 83.
Roberts pitched 19 years with the first fourteen being spent with the Phillies.
Roberts was noted for his pinpoint control (never walking more than 77 batters in a season) and for being the all time leader in home runs allowed,a record that will fall sometime this season to Jamie Moyer.
Roberts won 286 games,an excellent numbers when you consider with the exception of a few years in the early 1950's,the Phillies were generally not one of the leagues stronger squads...

to another former pitcher Jose Lima,the inventor of Lima Time!
Lima passed at the young age of 37.
The former twenty game winner was under .500 for his career,but despite his occasional struggles on the field,the colorful Lima was always popular off the field for his enthusiasm and outgoing behavior.
Lima's best seasons were with the Astros,but had a quality last hurrah in 2004 as a Dodger.
For a pitcher that had his struggles outside of the old Houston Astrodome,where he could be quite dominant,Lima will be fondly remembered by many fans...

Baseball in Cumberland ?
Well, a grassroots organization is beginning to attempt to raise funds for a ballpark to attract some sort of baseball to the Western Maryland town either Independent or summer-collegiate.
Good for them,the isolation of Western Maryland would likely make whatever team goes there a success and it would be nice to see sports in a area that would appreciate what they bring instead of yet another team shoved into the Baltimore/Washington suburbs.
Just stay away from the Suns now and Cumberland has our 100% backing!

We criticize Gary Bettman and the NHL for many things,but here is a compliment-the NHL is far more active in the environmental market than any other league.
From changing their goodie bags to reusable non-plastic to encouraging new arenas to be built to gain LEED certification,the league is being aggressive in the area.
Bettman said it best (really)
"Our game originated on frozen ponds,Most of our players learned to skate on outdoor rinks. For that magnificent tradition to continue through future generations, we need winter weather -- and, as a league, we are uniquely positioned to promote that message".

This has changed over the last week or two,a note of hope to hockey fans everywhere as Winnipeg attempts to pull the upset of modern sports times as they try to bring their Jets home from Phoenix.
Go get em' Winnipeg and I'll even make this offer-you get them back,use the Jets name and old jerseys and I'll root for you as my favorite Western team and give occasional coverage right here!

Photo Credits
Roberts and Lima:Unknown
Jets fans:AP Photo

Reds rap Pirates 7-5

The Cincinnati Reds used a five run fourth inning to build a sizable lead and then held on for a 7-5 win over the Pirates in the Queen City.
Brian Burres allowed five runs in under four innings on the mound and fell to 2-2 on the season.
Ronny Cedeno homered for the Pirates (4) and finished with 2 RBI,while Delwyn Young added two RBI as well.
The series continues tonight at 7:05 with Paul Maholm (3-4) taking on the Reds undefeated rookie,Mike Leake (4-0).

Pirate Hooks

1) Of all the mistakes of the evening that occurred,the biggest was the bad throw by Delwyn Young from third that pulled Steve Pearce far (and I mean FAR) off the bag in an attempt to flag it down.
Pearce rolled his ankle badly and left the game at the end of the inning.
Delwyn Young is a handy pinch hitter (although he hates being called that),but anywhere that he plays,he is a defensive liability,especially at third base as the Pirates attempt to force feed a position to Young that he has never played for the second season in a row.

2) The Post-Gazette reports that Pearce was on crutches after the game and could be headed for the disabled list.
Tough break for Pearce,who was finally getting some semblance of regular playing time and was playing well.

3) Why was Young at third base anyway? Another night of Andy LaRoche struggling with a tender back.Pirate observers that assume that LaRoche is the automatic future second baseman when Pedro Alvarez arrives might want to consider that LaRoche's back issues aren't going away and second basemen might have more stress on a player with back problems than third.

4) Brian Burres reverted to expected form last night,but his problem wasn't the expected one of big league team getting to his fringy pitches.
Instead,it was an issue of being unable to throw strikes.
Four walks in less than four innings will toss Burres into the deep part of the ocean every time,but falling behind hitters is just as important as Burres threw just eight first pitch strikes in the 19 batters that he faced.

5) If Pearce goes on the DL,who is next up from Indianapolis?
Performance wise,one would think it would be Neil Walker and he is the likely choice,but let's go outside the box.
Pedro Alvarez (assuming his date for early free agency is past).
Despite his low average,look at the power numbers and then look at either Jeff Clement and his issues at first or Andy LaRoche and his previously mentioned back problems.
Don't know about you,but I am tired of seeing so much of Delwyn Young and Bobby Crosby there already and this move changes all that.

6) I would have far more fun watching this team with an infield of Alvarez,Cedeno (Not really,but stuck with him for a while),Walker and Pearce than any other combination that can be put on the field.
LaRoche would be fine somewhere,but there is no place to squeeze him in under those constraints..

7) Nice night for D.J. Carrasco,who struck out the side in his only inning.
The value of getting in front of hitters in the count is immense as Carrasco showed with three first pitch strikes...

Back later with the promised cleaning of the inbox!

Photo Credit-Al Behrman-AP Photo

Monday, May 24, 2010

23 Glorious Years

Excuse a quick note of personal talk from our usual format,but 23 years ago today. I was fortunate enough to marry the only girl that I was ever really interested in.
I was lucky enough to know at the age of 15 that the only person that I ever wanted to spend my life with was right in front of me.
As I have aged,the amazement of being that prescient at such a young age has continued to grow by large increments.
When I look at my daughter and think that at an age slightly older,I had made such a decision.I shake my head even further at making that type of call and yet being so immature in the ways of life and love.

Cherie has been the light of my life as both a wife and a friend and she tolerates all the issues that I carry with me and still manages to somehow love me for the things that make me,well me.
She lives and loves a person that few would and accepts me for what I am,a flawed person that has had his share of disappointments in life,none of those her doing in any way,shape or form.
Cherie has aged so beautifully over the years and her soul is the purest that I have ever met.
I look at others that have not been so fortunate and wonder how I have become so blessed.
I mean,why me?
As most of you know I am not really an overtly religious person,but if there is one thing that makes me consider the existence of God in my life,it is that I have been given Cherie to spend my life with.

Thanks again for 23 wonderful years and allowing me to share all the good times and the occasional curveball that life throws our way.
Here is to doubling the years of this anniversary and even more!!!!

Doumit dinger avoids sweep

Ryan Doumit's blast over the Clemente wall in the tenth inning (4) allowed the Pittsburgh Pirates to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves with a 3-2 win.
The homer allowed Octavio Dotel to improve to 2-0 after his scoreless tenth inning.Doumit knocked in one of the two earlier runs and the Pirates also recieved an RBI from Steve Pearce.
The Pirates start a seven game road trip tonight in Cincinnati with Brian Burres (2-1) against the Reds Aaron Harang (2-5).

Pirate Hooks

1) Second solid start in a row from Zach Duke with a seven inning effort that earned him a no decision.Duke scattered seven hits and struck out five,but most importantly didn't walk a batter.
Duke was in position for the win until Eric Hinske's homer off Evan Meek in the eighth inning.

2) Speaking of Hinske,he looks like a solid pickup for the Braves after playing mediocre hardball in Pittsburgh last season.
Hinske seemed unhappy from day one with the Bucs,which leads to the question of why he signed there in the first place.

3) Andy LaRoche sat the game and the Post-Gazette says that the Pirates have adopted a policy of sitting LaRoche on cold or damp days to deal with his balky back.
Not a good feeling to rely on a core player that has back problems at LaRoche's age.

4) Akinori Iwamura wanted to play in the game because it was being televised back to Japan.
Iwamura snapped an 0 for 34 slump with two hits on the afternoon.
Looks like the Pirates need more games sent to Japan!

5) Ryan Doumit has his problems staying healthy,but one never has to doubt his effort.
Doumit was thrown out at the plate by Melky Cabrera and was clearly going to be out,but instead of taking the easy out,Doumit smashed into David Ross in an attempt to jar the ball loose.
Ross held onto the ball,but that is why Doumit is a favorite of mine,despite his flaws.

Back later with a cleaning of the inbox,which includes saying goodbye to a few that has recently passed away.

Photo Credits:Peter Diana-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Battle for the Bay

One thing is for sure in baseball-good pitching beats bad hitting and yesterday saw both as the Oakland Athletics defeated the San Francisco Giants 1-0 with the only run of the game being an unearned one.
Gio Gonzalez fired eight shutout innings for Oakland in improving to 5-3,while Matt Cain picks up another hard luck loss (2-4) with the complete game defeat.

Giants Steps

1) Matt Cain has to have the worst luck in the league as he has lost his last two games despite allowing three runs (2 earned) over 14 innings.
The San Francisco Chronicle offers this factoid on Cain-This was Cain's 146th major-league start and the 83rd in which he allowed two or fewer runs. Remarkably, Cain has more combined losses (14) and no-decisions (29) than wins (40) in those games.
If there was a pitcher that deserves a trade strictly on a lack of run support over the last few years-it has to be Matt Cain..

2) Looking at the Giants lineup though,it looks like short of Buster Posey being recalled from AAA that little hitting help is on the horizon.
I know that Mark DeRosa is injured right now,but he was struggling before hand.
As bad as the Pirates everyday lineup is,compare it to this and see which team you would rather have behind your pitcher-I'll take the Buccos.

3) It is too bad the Giants have such little pop because their rotation might be the leagues best with Tim Lincecum,Cain,Jonathan Sanchez and the resurgent Barry Zito.
Once Madison Bumgarner replaces mediocre journeyman Todd Wellemeyer,it should strengthen even further.

4) I have always liked Gio Gonzalez and yesterday reminded me why he has been traded three times.
Electric left handed arms with a sharp curveball aren't easy to find and Gonzalez retired the final 20 Giants that he faced.
Thanks to Jason Christensen,who sent me a Gonzalez Reading Phillies card for the collection.
Gonzalez spent just one season in the Phillies system and I had none of his cards in a Phillie uniform...

5) Want to know why the Giants offense could be struggling?
Try the 2003 and 04 drafts where the Giants signed veteran stop gap free agents to avoid paying big bonuses to first round pick.
Those players should have the chance to be helping the big league team about now,but the Giants shortsightedness killed that chance.
Cheapness is never a good idea in the draft,ask the Pirates on that.

6) Oakland wore their black alternate hats.

The Pirates lost to Atlanta 4-2 yesterday with Charlie Morton getting the loss and dropping to 1-8.
The Bucs will attempt to avoid a sweep today with 3-4 Zach Duke against the Braves Kris Medlen 1-1.

Photo Credits-Lance Iversen-SF Chronicle

Saturday, May 22, 2010

War Dance and Bullpen Notes

In a game barely worth writing about,Tim Hudson shutdown the Pittsburgh offense as he allowed three hits over eight innings in a 7-0 Atlanta win.
Very little else to write,but I'll try to offer what I can and fill things out with some bullpen notes...
Ross Ohlendorf was driven from the game allowing six runs in under four innings to drop to 0-2.
The series continues tonight with Charlie Morton (1-7) against Derek Lowe (5-4).....

Pirate Hooks

1) No coverage of today's game,since neither the Pirate or Brave network is allowed to show it due to Fox showing the Yankees vs Mets in prime time.
The Saturday blackout of home cities and Extra Innings subscribers in an attempt to have their hardest core customers watch a product that they didn't want or pay for is ridiculous and I refuse to watch their Game of the Week unless it is a game that I would otherwise watch.

2) Jason Heyward hammered the Pirates with a homer and three RBI,but his most impressive shot to me was a rifle shot off the right field fence that would have landed in the river with extra height.

3) Keep in mind,when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette occasionally attempts to give Dave Littlefield some credit that the Bucs could have drafted Heyward instead of Daniel Moskos.
I know that most media (and us as well) focused on Matt Wieters being the choice,but looking back,the Pirates could have taken Heyward and still saved money,although maybe not as much as they did with Moskos.

4) Imagine this team with Andrew McCutchen and Jason Heyward and it could have happened,but one reason that it didn't was the Pirates rarely scouted or drafted Georgia players under Littlefield and his scouting chief Ed Creech.
The Pirates rarely dipped into one of the deepest pools of talent in the country.
One can criticize Neil Huntington and company for many things,but that is one huge error that was quickly corrected.

5) Finally and I finished five hooks on this game (amazing),as the Post Gazette offers an article on Moskos,who I am rooting for because he seems like such a nice guy.

Bullpen Note

Tonight is the fourth installment of the Israel Vasquez-Rafael Marquez wars.
Each fighter has recorded a stoppage and Vasquez took a slim split decision in bout three in 2008,I had Vasquez up by a point,but it could have gone either way.
Each fighter has had only one bout since against lesser competition and Vasquez has had surgery for a detached retina obtained in bout three.
Here is hoping that it lives up to the past,but sometimes these things tend to end quickly and without satisfaction.
I'll take Marquez in the bout on Showtime...

If you are missing some cable TV coverage tomorrow,blame Galaxy 15.
What is Galaxy 15?
It is a satellite that is dead in the air and will cause some issues for various networks,starting tomorrow and at various times over the next two weeks.
DirectTv claims its customers will not be affected.
We will see.

Back tomorrow with coverage of Giants baseball,since the Pirates and Indians will be unavailable to watch....

Photo Credits
Heyward:Keith Srakocic-AP Photo

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bucs rally sinks Brewers

The Pittsburgh Pirates rallied with three runs in the seventh inning to take the lead and defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-4.
Javier Lopez retired both batters he faced for his first win of the season (1-0) and Octavio Dotel grabbed his second save in as many nights (9).
Six Pirates had RBI in the win.
The Pirates conclude the two game set against Milwaukee tonight with Paul Maholm (3-3) against Chris Narvesen (3-1).

Pirate Hooks

1) Wacky play of the night came in the ninth as Ryan Braun stole second and then thought he was going to race to an unattended third base as the Pirates were in one of John Russell's shifts against Prince Fielder.
Problem was Andy LaRoche had the ball and tagged Braun out.
The play didn't affect the end of the game,but it took the Brewers out of the tying run batting at the plate.
Nice to see the Pirates don't have the trademark for boneheaded baseball...

2) The Pirates brain freeze cost them a run as Alcides Escobar moved from first to second on a passed ball and then raced to third as Ryan Doumit attempted to call time,which he is not allowed to do.
Escobar would score and tied the game at that time.

3) Considering the recent rash of dumb baseball,shouldn't John Russell be held a little accountable?
I am not advocating firing Russell or anything,but wasn't he the guy that claimed so much emphasis on smart baseball and strong fundamentals?
This run of boneheaded baseball makes one shake their head and wonder.

4) Doumit did redeem himself for the mistake as it was his blooper that scored Andrew McCutchen with what proved to be the game winning run.
Nice to see things work out for a change,but I have a hard time getting over players not knowing the rules..

5) Brendan Donnelly will come off the DL today.
No word on a roster move,but it is possible that Akinori Iwamura and his kick ass .156 average could go onto the DL to rest his ailing hamstring.

6) To wrap up,does anyone have any idea why Russell pinch hit lefty Jeff Clement against lefty Randy Wolf with two down in the bottom of the sixth?
With righthanded hitters on the bench?
Russell is a noted play the percentages manager and this seemed really against his grain.
Clement popped to first ending the inning.

Photo Credit-Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Morning baseball in Indy

Thanks to the MLB network,I had the opportunity to catch the Pirates AAA affiliate as the Indianapolis Indians hosted the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees.
This is exactly the type of thing that MLB network should be doing more of as live baseball at any level certainly beats hours of taped programming from the likes of Matt "Mr.XFL" Vasgersian or Hazel Mae.
Scranton-Wilkes Barre jumped out to a 7-0 lead before a late rally from Indianapolis trimmed the final to a more respectable 7-5.

A few thoughts on the contest follows

1) Mike Crotta allowed seven runs in five innings and had trouble keeping the ball down.
For a sinker type pitcher such as Crotta,this is never good news.
Crotta was not helped by his defense early as Brandon Moss misjudged a fly that would have been the third out and the runner eventually scored and Eric Kratz dropped a nice throw from Moss that would nailed the Yankees Kevin Russo at the plate.

2) Brandon Moss showed the inconsistent play that marked his time with the Pirates as the above note on his defense discusses,but he had good and bad on the offensive end as well as Moss homered and somehow was picked off on a ill-advised steal attempt for the third out of an inning.
Watching Moss can be maddening and he just seems to be doomed to a fate of a Triple A hired gun...

3) Scranton started former Pirate reliever Romulo Sanchez and I was stunned to see this as Sanchez as a starter in AAA?
Sanchez then shut Indy down completely allowing just one hit over six innings.

4) I was impressed with Justin Thomas for the I Tribe as he allowed just one hit over two innings and lowered his ERA to under 1.5.
Thomas was acquired on waivers over the winter from Seattle and could be the next callup the next time the injury bug hits the Bucco pen...

5) The three hitters that most interest Pirate fans all were in the lineup.
Jose Tabata led off and went 0 for 2 with 2 walks,2 RBI and was caught stealing.
Tabata's 19 steals leads the International League.
Neil Walker doubled for his only hit on the afternoon,while Pedro Alvarez doubled and walked twice.

6) First time that I had seen a game from Victory Field and it plays similar to PNC with a huge left and center field.
It makes a lot of sense for the Pirates team being in Indy for that reason alone...

7) All and all,a good way to pass a morning,even if the players that I wanted to see didn't have great games,as I mentioned earlier-Do more of this MLB!!!

Duke outduels the Doc

Zach Duke and the Pirate bullpen outdueled Roy Halladay last night in Philadelphia with a 2-1 win and gained a split of the mini-series.
Duke improved to 3-4 with the win and Octavio Dotel picked up save number eight with a three up three down ninth.
Andy LaRoche and Garrett Jones knocked in the pair of the Bucco runs.
Pittsburgh returns home to PNC Park tonight for the first of two games against the Brewers before a weekend series against the Atlanta Braves.
Bell time is 7:05 with Brian Burres against Randy Wolf....

Pirate Hooks

1) Play of the game-bases loaded one down in the fifth,Juan Castro singles to center to score one run,the Phillies send Jayson Werth to try to take the lead,but Andrew McCutchen guns Werth down at the plate for the second out.
Zach Duke then whiffs Roy Halladay for the final out keeping the game tied at one.

2) The McCutchen throw then allowed the Pirates to score the winning run on Garrett Jones sixth inning single.
Jones smacked three of the nine hits allowed by Halladay in his complete game loss....

3) Duke scattered six hits over six innings,but give extra credit to the bullpen in the win as Evan Meek,Joel Hanrahan and Octavio Dotel combined to retire nine of the ten batters that they faced.

4) Lastings Milledge crash into Carlos Ruiz in the sixth proved to be the winning run,but he should have been out.
The throw arrived to Ruiz in time,but his swipe tag went awry as the ball wasn't secured in his glove and went flying into foul territory as he attempted to tag Milledge.
Basic baseball-it doesn't matter when you have the ball,if you don't have it tucked away first....

5) Roy Halladay has to be in the conversation for best pitcher in the game even if he isn't the first choice.
The guy just never gives in on a batter,no matter the count or the score.
I am not saying he is the best pitcher in the game,but he might be the mentally toughest in baseball...

6) A little bonus coverage later today as the Indianapolis Indians and one of our favorites in Mike Crotta take on the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees on the MLB Network.
I'll try to have some words on the game later today.....

Photo Credit
Plate-H.Rumph Jr-AP Photo

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If you are going to throw rocks then you should toss roses too

If you want to be taken quasi-seriously then you have to be willing to compliment as well as criticize.
That seems like a pretty basic statement,but sometimes one has to reflect on things to truly understand that thesis.

I hammered the Hagerstown Suns management after Opening Day here and hit them hard.
Hard to the point that looking back a month later at the post that I wanted to take time out to offer them some compliments on the things that they do well.
This isn't our usual mid season look at the team both on the field and off,which generally brings out the crazies to tell me to keep my opinions to myself,although I have never been called "cakeface" like one memorable writer called Battlin Bob at his blog.
That remains my all time favorite post of the Battler and earlier this season on a FYF night,cake was waiting at the front gate and was even offered to me (I don't really like cake all that much,so I demurred) as I chuckled to myself about how Battlin' Bob should have been there and remembering that post!

In any event,as the title suggests,if you are going to throw rocks then fairness indicates that roses need to be tossed occasionally as well,so with that in mind....

Hagerstown general manager Bob Flannery actually listens when people talk to him.
Not that every suggestion results in changes,nor should it,but when he feels that a decision turned out the wrong way,Bob is not afraid to reverse the call and make it right.
A example of this is when the gates were opened only 35 minutes before the first pitch instead of the standard hour.
Enough complaints must have been made for Bob to realize that things needed to go back to the old time and for the next homestand,the previous standard was in place.
Many times in business,the consumer isn't always listened to and even if my opinion isn't what the Suns opinion on a topic is,I always get the feeling that Bob Flannery is listening.

The food at the Muni hasn't always been the best and we have covered that in the past,but it had improved this season in taste,more offerings and service.
We admit to being very surprised in the efficiency of the workers getting the food out and keeping lines down,except for the chicken sandwich line,which is always long,but they are very good so that is understandable.
Keep up the mini corn dogs (Rachel loves them) and the fried dill pickles too,although think about changing from pickle spears to chips as more would fit into a bag and easier to dip into a sauce as well.
I thought going into the season that there would be issues on the FYF nights being combined with "Thirsty Thursday",but I haven't seen any thus far and things have radically improved.

The Suns employees seem a bit less jaded this season as well.
The Sunsations have faded to into the sunset and their uniforms replaced by far more tasteful navy blue baseball jerseys with the name "Crew" embroidered on them.
The funny thing about this is that from a distance,Crew looks more like Cuba,which brings back thoughts of the World Baseball Classic.

And finally,the new PA announcer may not be Bob Sheppard,but he is doing a nice,solid professional job.
That is all that one can ask for from the public address system.

Sometimes we have to remember that people actually read this thing and even though we won't and can't back down from our opinions,we have to add the good things that are being done as well.
That ,after all,is only fair....

Laughter in the Rain

Battlin Bob is a huge fan of Neil Sedaka and watching the rain fall and the runs for the Philadelphia Phillies cross the plate,that song popped into my head.
Time for a little cleanup on the Pirates as I have missed a few days of blogging with live games and the little thing known as work.

Pirate Hooks

1) Full disclosure-To the best of my knowledge Battlin Bob is not a Neil Sedaka fan.
For the SCTV classic skit of Neil Sedaka "blowing up"-click here.

2) I have only seen two of the last four games with my typical luck missing the two wins over the Cubs and seeing the loss to the Cubs along with the rainy thumping to the Phillies.....

3) Charlie Morton struggled again in the loss,allowing six runs over four innings and falling to 1-7 on the season.
Everytime I see Morton pitch,I am torn between two futures for the righthander.
I can see him succeeding elsewhere as he has the arm to be a solid starter or just another player that is the "tweener" type that dominates AAA and struggles on the big stage.

4) Even Andrew McCutchen is getting into the act of bad fundamentals as he didn't squeeze the glove on a easily catchable fly by Kyle Kendrick.
I hate to see stuff like this because it is so easily preventable....

5) The Pirates are 5-1 vs the Cubs,11-22 against everyone else.
From what I saw from the Cubs,Lou Pinella appears to be playing out the string and cashing a paycheck with not a lot of interest in skippering that boat...

6) Promising outfielder Starling Marte,who was playing very well for High A Bradenton will miss most of the rest of the season with hand surgery to remove the hamate bone from his hand.
Marte should return sometime in August.
The loss of the bone is nothing to be concerned about over the long term,but it can sap the power from a player over the short term.

7) The Pirates promoted Bryan Morris from Bradenton to Altoona after Morris has posted an ERA of under one (0.60) with the Marauders.
Morris was the top minor leaguer brought into the organization in the various trades from 2008 and was sent back to High A ball after a disappointing 2009.

8) Akinora Iwamura has injured his hamstring and is day to day,but pinch hit last night with a flyout.
Iwamura has just two hits in the month of May and looks to have issues with either injury or being simply a shot player...

9) A quick note on a player that would make a decent story if things work out.
Former top pick Daniel Moskos has an ERA of 1.62 as the Curve closer with eight saves.
Considering his performance and what the Pirates have invested in him,isn't it about time to see what Moskos could do for AAA Indianapolis?

10) Finally a quick word of thanks to any new readers out there.
Readership exploded last week with all time records for daily hits being set three days in a row and have consistently stayed at that level since.
Almost makes me wonder what could have happened if I would have written more!

Back later with a few thoughts on the last few days with the Hagerstown Suns as they hosted the West Virginia Power and tonight's expected walk to the firing squad for the Pirates against Roy Halladay and the Phillies....

Photo Credits-Matt Slocum-AP Photo

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Powerful Evening

Last night was an enjoyable evening at the Muni with the West Virginia Power in town against the Hagerstown Suns.
The Power's visits have become a far bigger deal to me with the Power now being affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The evening got off to a slow start with some rain showers and a brief delay of the contest due to wet stuff,but the game was able to be played,despite a track that horse racing aficionados would describe as muddy.

I attended the game with my brother and had a excellent time catching up on things.
We pretty much had the stadium to ourselves as our unofficial pre-game attendance count was around 125 and a count of the seventh inning came to 52,when you exclude the players and baseball employees sitting behind home plate.
Between the rain and two popular promotional nights covering the next two games,this was to be expected,so one couldn't be surprised by the low turnout.
The Suns website has Friday as being a near sellout,so that is good news for the ticket sellers.
West Virginia used their alternate player hat that put a new twist on the old Charleston Charlies (AAA team) logo and they looked quite sharp as shown above.
The hat looked far better than those tan or cocoa ones with the electrical looking P on them.
Those aren't good at all...

On to the Power as many of these players I was seeing for the first time.
I was anxious to see Jarek Cunningham,who missed 2009 with knee surgery after an excellent abbreviated 2008 after signing.
The first thing that struck me was that Cunningham didn't look his advertised 6'1,he looked smaller than that and the other was that he played second base instead of shortstop or third.
Cunningham looked fair enough in turning two double plays there and perhaps the Pirates are looking at Cunningham as a possible second base alternative with only Altoona's Josh Harrison even a possible prospect in the system at the position.

First baseman Aaron Baker was ridden the entire game by a fan that I would bet money was the same person from this incident two years ago with Lakewood's Karl Bolt.
I cannot say that with certainty,but the fan sounded similar and was sitting in the same area,so it seems likely.
The best part was Baker's long homer to right field in the seventh inning that shut this guy up for about a minute before he started in again on Baker again by calling him "Sharon".
The guy was relentless,but used no profanity or got personal with Baker and as he kept things clean,he was well within his rights to do so.
Even if he was obnoxious......

Third round selection Evan Chambers smacked four hits and stole a base,although he was caught stealing once.
For a small,stocky player,Chambers has some speed and some pop,but his plate discipline needs lots of work.
Third baseeman Jesus Brito made a throwing error,which was his 11th,but I liked his swing and Brito strikes me as a high reward player,the tools are there,but needs tons of refinement.
Rogelios Noris looked larger than recorded,but didn't drive the ball in his two hits,so not sure about his power potential off one evening.
Nate Baker got the start and was pounded by the Suns for five runs (three earned) in just over two innings of work.
Baker was line drived twice in his outing,so he was being hit hard by Hagerstown.
No word on how hard he was throwing.

The Power rallied from a 5-1 deficit with 12 runs during the sixth-eighth innings for a 13-9 win over the Suns.
All and all,a pretty nice night at the ballpark considering the weather.
The series continues tonight with Kyle McPherson starting for the Power.

Photo Credit-West Virginia Power

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Weak bats vs power arms

A night game followed by a lunchtime extravaganza saw the Pirates destroyed by the Cincinnati Reds combo of Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey.
Cueto fired a one hitter at the Bucco offense on Tuesday in a 9-0 Reds victory and Bailey was just as strong with a dominant victory today.
I wish I had more to credit the Pirate offense with,but the bottom line doesn't give me much to work with.
Pirates are off tomorrow before three day games in Chicago vs the Cubbies and a mini two day stop in Philly against the Phillies.

Pirate Hooks

1) Johnny Cueto was strong allowing just a scratch single to Ronny Cedeno last night that just nicked off Paul Janish's glove.
Cueto had no hitter style stuff,but the Pirates allowed Cueto to keep his pitch count low.
Cueto,a pitcher with huge potential,had only lasted into the eighth inning once in his career (against-you guessed it,the Pirates),but the Pirates allowed him to complete his first game on just 102 pitches....

2) The Cueto-Bailey back to back complete game shutout feat was the first time that the Reds had pulled that off in 21 years.
The pair of pitchers have had their struggles in their short MLB tenure,but have the arms to help the Reds turn the corner as contenders.
The numbers don't show it and the Pirates are an easy team to look good against,but it is not implausible for the Reds to be the team to beat in the division over the next years with a rotation of Cueto,Bailey,Mike Leake and Aldolis Chapman on the horizon along with Edison Volquez's return to health.

3) Charlie Morton lost to Cueto (1-6),but the majority of the runs came off the bullpen and his outing wasn't that awful as he allowed three runs in six innings,two of them in the first.
Morton still has tons of questions,but his last two starts have been showing some improvement over a bad start.

4) The attendance for these two games were just sad.
I know it rained all day yesterday and a damp day game today,but 9,027 last night and 20,000 today sounds passable on paper,but watching the game,I would bet that those numbers would have had actual fans in the park at a third of that.

5) As strong as Cueto was,Homer Bailey might have been more impressive.
90 pitches,4 hits and just one extra base hit,a double by Garrett Jones.
Bailey has the type of stuff that anchors a staff and seemed to be coming into his own with a strong September,but has struggled a bit early this season.

6) Tired of hearing about the Reds?
Well,not much to add when you score one run over three days against a less than powerful team in your home ballpark.

7) Akinori Iwamura.
Two hits (both singles) in the month of May and an average of .169 for the season.
Not a ton of production from the teams highest paid player.

8) Not that I have a solution for solving the problem for now.
Unless you think Bobby Crosby is the answer (I don't) or you want to keep Iwamura running out there (Not a fan of that,but little choice).
The best bet is to struggle through for a month or so and see if the Pirates then move Andy LaRoche to second and call Pedro Alvarez up from Indianapolis at third.
I am not a proponent of doing that now.

9) Look out for the weekend series in Chicago.
The Cubs fuming over being pounded by the Pirates in Pittsburgh,the Pirate bats as cold as the freight train on the Coors Light commercials and Tom Gorzelanny waiting to take on the team that treated him so shabbily.
This could be ugly,folks....

10) West Virginia Power in town tonight,lets hope for some passable weather,so I can get plenty of scouting in for the series!!!

Photo Credits
Cueto: AP Photo

Alias Smith and Jones

This is a look back at a non-sports related television show that likely very few of you have heard of.
It only lasted three years, survived a huge change in the cast and went off the air 37 years ago when I was at the experienced age of five, but Alias Smith and Jones has been a favorite of mine since my childhood.
ABC televised the show starring the late Pete Duel and Ben Murphy as one of the final shows of the Western genre' as the Western was beginning to give huge ground in the battle for television space to police style programs.

AS&J was somewhat based on the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the character "bible" based many of the characteristics of the main players as well as the guest appearances of others on the real-life activities of the Cassidy gang.
The series was set around the premise of the top bank robbers attempting to give up a life of crime in return for an amnesty that would allow them to stay out of jail.
The "governor " agrees to the terms but requires them to live a normal life to "prove they deserve it" and will not make the agreement public until the requirements are met.
The main characters of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry become known as "Joshua Smith" and "Thaddeus Jones" and begin the process of avoiding their true identities being known and staying out of trouble at the same time.
Pete Duel as "Heyes" was the brains of the pair, the slick talker that often was able to use the power of the spoken word, while Ben Murphy was "Curry", the fastest gunslinger around.
Curry often was shown "outdrawing" outlaws without actually drawing as the show would use the trick of showing the other person drawing and then cutting to Curry standing with a gun in place and the battle won.

The show was up against difficult opposition from the beginning as the first season put it up against NBC's rating powerhouse "The Flip Wilson Show".
The program struggled in the ratings and through arguing with the network about receiving a different time slot were able to get a new night against new competition.
ABC must have had an odd sense of humor as the change sent them against the top show on television in All in the Family.
Nice reward, huh?
The show's ratings weren't strong but had enough of a following to keep the show on the air until the New Years' eve suicide of Duel in 1971 in the middle of filming season two.
Honestly, that should have been the show's end right there, but the decision was made the next day to keep the show alive with Roger Davis in the role of Hannibal Heyes and no mention made of Duel's passing or the cast change.
Davis was never accepted in the role, which had little to do with anything he did as he was placed in a no-win situation, but I liked his run too in a different way from Duel.
A better move might have been to write Duel out of the show and Davis in under a new character.
That would have been more accepted and could have meant a longer run on the show.
Another issue for Davis was that he appeared earlier in the show as "Danny Bilson" a gunfighter that nagged Kid Curry for a shot at Curry's top gunfighter title.
The inevitable end to that episode saw the only person that the title pair ever killed during the run of the program.
Perhaps that role was why Davis had issues being accepted by fans.
The show finished the season and then added a half-season in 1973 before being canceled.

I hope you enjoyed a look back at Alias Smith and Jones, my second favorite western of all time.
What's number one?
Down the road sometime...
If this wasn't your topic, it had to beat reading about Johnny Cueto's one-hitter of the Pirates now, doesn't it?!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Knit one,pearl two

That is a old line from an episode of the Flintstones and it works to catch us up on the Pirates games that we missed.
I saw the final two games of the Cardinals series,but missed last night's loss to the Reds.
Will be watching tonight's game and Wednesday's (On tape) as I plan on watching the Hagerstown Suns take the Pirates SAL affiliate in the West Virginia Power.
Wednesday is the likely only night that I will get the entire game in due to work issues,but I plan on staying for as much of the other games that I possibly can.
I'll try to combine some the thoughts for the last three games into one post and hopefully I can do
some special features over the next day or two.

Pirate Hooks

1) In the 2-0 win on Saturday night over the Cardinals,Jeff Karstens made an argument to stick with the team with six shutout innings and his work in the game was likely the difference between staying and going.
Karstens was moved to the bullpen to make room for the returning Ross Ohlendorf,which meant that Brian Burres had held onto the fifth starter role.

2) Brian Bass was designated for assignment to make roster room for Ohlendorf.
Bass must go through waivers in order to be returned to Indianapolis,which I would imagine will not be an issue.

3) Neal Huntington commented on Neil Walker not being considered for a callup due to issues with "intangibles".
Walker has been reported to have "reacted poorly when disciplined" and was benched last week for not running out a pop up.
Despite a hot start for the I-Tribe,Walker still doesn't seem to be an organizational favorite..

4) Karstens got the win on Saturday due to a really bad call at the plate when Ryan Ludwick was called out at the plate when replays showed that Jason Jaramillo missed the tag on Ludwick,who was coming down the line and Jaramillo's swipe tag of the throw (up the third base line) was really out of the umpire's sight line.
Had the play been called properly,Karstens would have gotten a no decision instead of a W.

5) Paul Maholm looked really bad in Sunday's loss as he lasted just three and a third and with a 50+ pitch third inning,there wasn't a good reason to keep a obviously dull Maholm in the game.

6) Ohlendorf was the loser in his return in allowed one run over a four inning stint.
The most concerning thing is the four walks and that is typical of the lack of command this season.

Back later with a planned special segment...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Boneheaded Baseball

Some of the dumbest and worst baseball was the difference between a victory and the actual 4-3 loss for the Pittsburgh Pirates as they lost to the visiting Cardinals.
Evan Meek dropped to 1-1 with the hard luck loss.The Pirates send Jeff Karstens (0-1) to the hill tonight against Jaime Garcia (3-1) for the Cardinals.

Pirate Hooks

1) About the only redeeming issue in the game was the Pirates tying the game so that Zach Duke would not "earn" a loss after a performance that saw all three runs off of him score unearned.
Duke pitched very well and with an average defense would have gotten a victory.

2) Same goes for Evan Meek,who allowed one run in two innings that counted as an earned run,but anyone that watched the game could see that the run was not his fault either....

3) The Cardinals scored two runs in the first that was a directed result of a fumbled grounder by Ronny Cedeno off the bat of Matt Holliday that should have been the third out.
Cedeno continues to struggle in the field,not that Bobby Crosby would be any better.

4) St.Louis scored their third run in the sixth,when Andy LaRoche took a routine grounder from Yadier Molina and pulled Garrett Jones off the bag with a hurried throw.
My question is why hurry at all when Molina is one of the slowest runners the Redbirds have?

5) The final run was scored off Meek in the ninth when the team called a pitch out against Joe Mather,who was running on the pitch and was out by the proverbial country mile.
Akinori Iwamura took the peg from Ryan Doumit and put the glove near the ground thinking Mather would slide into it for the out.
However,the glove wasn't quite on the ground and Mather stuck his arm around the glove for the stolen base.
Mather would have been the third out,instead with new life-Yadier Molina doubled home Mather with the winning run.

6) I watched the game off the Cardinal feed to avoid Greg Brown and they were amazed that the Pirates were using a defensive shift against Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols as the commentators said they had never seen a team use the shift against them before and Ludwick shot his first hit through the created gap.
A routine grounder became a hit and that hit was eventually a run.....

7) Dumbest play of the night arguably cost Pittsburgh the game.
Bottom of the 8th,Bucs down a run and Andy LaRoche leads off with a single and Andrew McCutchen singles LaRoche to third.
Garrett Jones then grounds to Brendan Ryan on a routine grounder,but LaRoche breaks for the plate.
Ryan guns LaRoche down,who tries to buy time for McCutchen to reach third by getting into a rundown.
So far so good,but LaRoche doesn't give up the out after he sees that McCutchen has reached third and both players are on the base.
Since LaRoche had possession first,Molina tags McCutchen out and then LaRoche walks off the bag and Molina then tags him out.
Dumb baseball,I used to teach my players this rule in little league!
Points to McCutchen though,he seemed to know the rules as he tried to grab LaRoche and keep him from leaving the sack.
Pittsburgh would score one run and tie the game (getting Zach Duke off the hook from an undeserved loss),but if either of those players had scored,the Cards ninth inning run would have just forced extra innings.

8) Good to see the hard work on the basics and fundamentals is seeping through-just bad and brainless baseball...

Photo Credits-Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Friday, May 7, 2010

Loaded for bear

The Pirates completed a sweep of the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park last night with a 11-1 whipping as Brian Burres (2-1) tossed seven shutout innings to lead the win.
No homers for the Pirates,but Lastings Milledge knocked four runs and Garrett Jones added three more.
The Pirates start a home series against the Cardinals tonight with Zach Duke (2-3) against the Birdos Chris Carpenter (4-0)...

Pirate Hooks

1) Second solid start in a row for journeyman pitcher Brian Burres as Burres continued a run of shutout pitching.Burres had shut the Dodgers out for five and a third in his previous start.

2) Watching Burres for just a few innings shows both his limitations and possibilities.
To me,I would bet that Burres doesn't even approach ninety miles per hour,which can be very helpful against free swinging teams,but a reasonably patient team is going to have some huge batting days against him
What the Pirates have seen in the last two starts are about as much as they can hope for-a fifth starter that hopefully can give six decent innings...

3) Funny note was Lastings Milledge celebrating what he thought was a home run,only to be tagged out between second and third.
It was an easy mistake to make as it did touch the top of the wall and the fireworks person set the sky magic off after the shot.
It was funny with the score 7-0 (at the time),likely not so much in a one or two run game...

4) Ross Ohlendorf will return to the rotation on Monday after his rehab start for the Altoona Curve.Looks like Jeff Karstens will be bumped for Ohlendorf for the starting spot against the Reds.

5) John Russell batted the pitcher in the normal ninth spot again as he had done recently.
His reasoning was the struggles on Ronny Cedeno with the bat.

Photo Credit-Matt Freed Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Season in review-New Jersey Devils

A season that seemed so promising ended far too early for the New Jersey Devils with a five game elimination at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Devils were lifeless and listless for the most part in the series and deserved to lose.
The Devils were once again successful in the regular season and the acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk seemed to be a possible missing piece of the playoff puzzle,but it was not meant to be.

Some are blaming Kovalchuk and perhaps his play in the postseason was not what many expected,(he did lead the team in points with six) but I did like his effort and would love to see him back in red and black.
Look for a post soon on my thoughts on the Devils unrestricted free agents,who I would like to see stay,who I would like to see go and some possible replacements and positions that need help.
Left Wing was the strength at forward with Kovalchuk,Zach Parise,Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston.
Kovalchuk and Parise each finished the season with over eighty points,while Rolston scored 20 goals with only an early season injury kept Elias short of 20 (he finished with 19).
The big question is will the Devils make an effort to keep Kovalchuk and would he stay if the effort was made.
That is a bigger question with the homegrown Parise being an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.
Can the Devils afford to put so much of their cap into left wings?
Time will tell.
Elias slipped a bit from his previous season's performance,but was along the lines of his normal production,while Rolston improved from his first season,but is certainly slipping with age.

The centers are the weakness of the team and it showed against the Flyers,who used their superiority down the middle to control the series and win with ease.
Only Travis Zajac with 25 goals and 42 assists provided anything close to offensive help among the centers.Dainius Zubrus continues to be erratic with his play and the Devils are paying far too much for this level of production.Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond were decent enough all things considered,but both are getting up there in age and aren't the type of offensive threat that the team needs.
I grew tired of seeing either of them on crucial power play situations that one knew they weren't up for.The Devils need help here in the worst way.

Right wing featured the Captain Jamie Langenbrunner,who's numbers of 19 and 42 look good until you peel the onion for his late season and playoff sulking and non-production.
I realize that with Jacques Lemaire gone,this could change but a team cannot have its captain behaving in such a manner.
It does affect the team and some players more than others....
David Clarkson missed a bit over half the season,so his numbers aren't as bad as they look.
Vladimir Zharkov started strongly,but finished without a goal and faded down the stretch.
Jay Pandolfo played both wings and showed signs that his career is nearing its end.
Rod Pelley saw time at various positions and even though the John Madden comparisons were a bit much,Pelley played well enough to stick around.
Andrew Peters won his share of fights,but was a liability otherwise and needs to go as Pierre Luc Leblond can do the same job for less cost.
Having both of them on the parent roster is quite redundant.

On defense,the breakout star was Andy Greene,who entered the season battling to see ice time and ended it as arguably the Devils best defenseman.
I would like to see Greene do it again before assuming he has arrived,but I liked Greene's season very much.
Paul Martin missed much of the season with a broken arm and wasn't quite a standout after his return.
The Devils have a huge decision to make with Martin,who will be an unrestricted free agent.
Mike Mottau basically was himself with the occasional good evening mixed with some boneheaded mistakes.
Colin White was really strong on some nights and not so swift on others,while Bryce Salvador was the steadiest of the D first blueliners as far as consistency goes.
Late season pickup Martin Skoula was better than expected in the regular season,but struggled in the playoffs.
Mark Fraser had the struggles that young players will have,but his physical game and willingness to be physical gives me hope.
I really liked what I saw from Matt Corrente in small exposures and next year should be his full time chance with the Devils.
Anssi Salmela was often scratched after his return from Atlanta.
I thought Lemaire didn't like him,but he has offensive possibilities,if the Devils would give him more of a chance..

Martin Brodeur was as good as ever and the playoff loss had little to do with him other than a weak Game five,Marty will not be around forever,so maybe next year is the year Jeff Frazee will sit and learn from the best.
If not,I would be fine with Yann Danis returning.
Danis wasn't awful in his few games.

The Devils exceeded expectations with an Atlantic Division title,but the third straight first round exit from the playoffs shows me that some things need to change.
What are they?
I'll hit them after the playoffs are over with some thoughts for the Devils off season...

Photo Credit:c. 2008 NJ TRANSIT/Michael Rosenthal-Photographer

Pirates clip Cubs 4-2

Charlie Morton was worth his salt for the first time all season in a six inning outing that saw the Pirates win 4-2 and Morton earn his first win against five losses.
Ryan Church homered (2) for the second day in a row and Octavio Dotel finished the game for his fifth save.
The Pirates conclude their series with the Cubs tonight with Brian Burres against Chicago's Randy Wells....

Pirate Hooks

1) Lots of news to catch up on the Bucco ship,so let's start with the Pirates being unable to work out a deal with the Marlins to keep outfielder John Raynor,so Raynor was returned to the Marlins for 25,000.
Raynor was not a huge upside player,but I would have liked to see Neal Huntington make more of an effort to keep him.
It appears to me that Raynor was lost because the Pirates pitching was being hammered and someone hit the panic button.
I would hate to think that the Pirates could have lost a possibly productive player for the future so Brian Bass could pitch for ten days,which is the way it happened.

2) The Pirates did call up Steve Pearce from Indianapolis,where he was white hot with the wood.Brendan Donnelly was placed on the disabled list to make space.
Pearce was in the lineup and went 0 for 3,but made a remarkable stretch at first base to turn an error into an out.
I am not saying that I believe Pearce is an anchor for the Pirates future,but I would say that he has never been given a full chance.
Let's hope he gets that chance this time....

3) Kevin Hart will miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum in a deal that looks worse by second with Tom Gorzelanny pitching well for the Cubbies.
Hart is expected to be ready for Spring Training 2011.

4) The deal with the Cubs last season is easily the worst of the Neal Huntington era as the Cubs have received two productive arms in Gorzelanny and John Grabow,while the Pirates brought in Altoona second baseman Josh Harrison (hitting well in the Eastern League) and two torn labrums.
I am not sure why this regime disliked Gorzelanny so much,but it was apparent from the start.

5) Ross Ohlendorf pitched well for Altoona against Richmond last night in his rehab start.
The Pirates are unsure if the righty will take another rehab start or return to the team next week.

6)Want to know why I think Akinori Iwamura is struggling at the plate?
Watch his stance,he puts virtually zero weight on his back leg and I believe (but not 100 % sure) that is the injured leg from his Tampa time.
His swing is in the Japanese style,but it looks to me that he is really protecting that back leg.

7) Charlie Morton says he dropped the sinker from his arsenal and added the four seam fastball in its wake.
Well,he looked strong last night and as hard as it is to believe the sinker was the cause of his issues,could be......

Not bad for a few off days,everything is now caught up except the Devils season in review and I'll try to have that finished next week.

Photo Credit-Matt Freed Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.