Big Lead Sports Bar

4/03/2007

A Long-Winded Post

Well, I'm back after an eventful Monday spent on the road. If I wasn't already buried with material, I solicited your emails and thoughts while I was away. And you answered my call...overwhelmingly. What follows is one of my longest posts ever, and after an entire day of travel, work, and travel. What can I say? I'm not here on Monday and you respond with a mind-blowing amount of traffic and email. I can't let you down!
With so much to cover, we'll start with the Pirates opener and go from there.
--A lot of people asked for my honest thoughts and feelings on the Pirates' chances in 2007. Despite my gloom-and-doom season preview, I'm a devout Pirate fan at heart. The reason I get so down is because they were such a part of my youth, my love of baseball, and a driving force of my 14-year baseball career, culminating in a chance to play for baseball coaching legend John Banaszak at Washington and Jefferson College (for those of you under the age of 40 who didn't get that tongue-in-cheek comment, "Banny" was a Super Steeler who found his way to our D-III school as a defensive coordinator. And since W&J made nearly every one of their coaches coach more than one sport, guess who became the baseball coach, despite the fact that he never even played baseball???)
But I digress...back to the Buccos. If I didn't like the Pirates, I wouldn't care so much. It's just hard to watch the product year after year and try and sell yourself on this year being different. In 2006, we were all wound up about building on the 2005 rookie seasons of Zach "8-2, 1.81" Duke and Chris ".341" Duffy, as well as the "great clubhouse influences" of vets like Sean Casey and Joe Randa...2005's shining-star-to-be was Jack Wilson, member of the 201-hit club the previous season (he hit .257 in '05...nothing like a 50-point drop in your batting average to dull enthusiasm)...In 2004, hope was built around Raul Mondesi; we all know how that turned out...2003 was the year of the big-name vets looking to revive a career: Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders, etc....and so on and so forth. I guess I finally got to the point of "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 14 times, shame on me."
It just became very difficult to buy into any hope the Pirates were offering. This year's hope is basically Adam LaRoche and a young team that's a year older. Most pundits pick the Pirates 5th or 6th in the NL Central. I'm not in the prediction business, but that sounds about right. When the Tigers add Gary Sheffield to a World Series team and the Red Sox add Matsuzaka and Drew to an 86-win team, it's hard to get excited about the Pirates adding Adam LaRoche to a 67-win squad. Needless to say, my expectations are low. But that can be a good thing, as reader Chris from Seattle reminds me with this email...
I'm a long-time reader who originally found you through Deadspin, where I post as Roy Hobbs. I was re-reading the 55 Things that Annoy me About Sports, and came across this gem:

27. Ranking Peyton Manning as the best QB in the NFL every year, only to have him disappoint everyone in the playoffs. I know, this year it will be different. And next year the Pirates will have a winning record.

Anyway, I want you to know that I just plunked down the cash for the Extra Innings package so I can see all the Pirates games this year based solely upon your assertion. If they don't have a winning season, I'm blaming you and will be asking for a refund.

Kidding. Sort of.
If nothing else, Chris has exposed me as one of the millions of know-nothing know-it-alls who ripped on Peyton Manning for his lack of playoff success, despite the fact that he probably had a decent amount of productive years and subsequent chances to win a Super Bowl remaining. Guilty as charged. But Chris is totally right, if I think he's going where he's going. Anything can happen in sports...it's been proven time and time again. Who knows...maybe this will be the year the Pirates finally get their act together. I certainly hope so.
So tonight was the opening game, and I was traveling with my brother at the time. Since he also opted for Sirius over XM, we had no access to any MLB games on our trip (although we were able to hear a Howard Stern re-run from 1986 on the way this morning...nothing like a 21-year-old re-run for $13 a month). Finally, Lanny and Wehner came into reception, and our first impression of the Pirates was "It's the Astros 2, the Pirates 0 after seven innings...the Pirates have been limited to three singles..."
Of course, my initial impression was "same old Pirates". Decent pitching, no bats, blah, blah, blah. I always think the Pirates need to treat these games like September, because September games haven't mattered for the Pirates in a long, long time. So that means I think winning the opener actually means something. I was thrilled to hear the unexpected turn of events that resulted in the Pirates tying the game at two after nine innings: a pinch-hit HR by Nate McClouth and a dinger by Xavier Nady when the Bucs were down to their last out. (If anyone wondered whether or not Brad Lidge was damaged goods, that Nady homer ought to end that discussion).
And Jason "Bay-Rod" overcame his penchant for coming up un-clutch in a clutch situation by jacking a two-run home run in the extra frame, giving the Pirates just enough juice to take the opener from the clutches of the Astros' weak grip. First place, looking down on the lowly, last-place Astros and Cardinals...I could definitely get used to this.
That being said, the Pirates had some flaws exposed in Monday's game. The 3-4-5 firm of Bay, LaRoche and Paulino combined for a 1-15 evening, with 6 strikeouts and 6 men left on base. LaRoche failed to walk on water in his Pirate debut, with an 0-5, 4-K performance that sounded as nauseating as it probably looked. Of course, Pirate fans were ready to jump all over him.
My brother is a big fan of the John Fedko call-in show on PCNC, strictly for unintentional comedy purposes (for which it is OFF THE CHARTS). So we tuned in for some postgame banter between Fedko and the fans. One guy calls in and rips LaRoche up and down, saying how awful he looks. Fedko responds by saying you can't judge a guy based on just one game. Immediately after that, Fedko proclaims that Salomon Torres could be the man for the closer job...after a sample size of...one game. Fedko never lets me down.
By the way, on the night of the Pirate opener, the NCAA championship, and a magical Penguins playoff run pending, the caller at 11:57 on a Monday night on April 2 wanted to talk about Alan Faneca. Thought that was worth mentioning.
My other favorite part of this Pirate season is that they kept Don Kelly on the roster. For those of you who don't normally follow 25th-men on a 67-win baseball team, Don Kelly is a career minor-leaguer who was dropped from the Tigers' 40-man roster in September.
So why is Don Kelly's signing so noteworthy to me?
-He's from Butler, PA
-He went to Point Park College in Pittsburgh
-He's married to Neil Walker's sister
-He looks exactly like my old roommate Bob. If I had a pic of my roommate on hand, I'd do a seperated at birth and blow your mind. We've been talking about this since my Dad (a Point Park alum) spotted Kelly in an alumni magazine three or four years ago. If Bob wanted to pull a stunt like that Brian St. Pierre impersonator, he could totally pull it off.
Keeping that in mind, I'm listening to the situation in the top of the 9th...Nady homers to tie it at 2, Castillo doubles, Doumit walks, and it's time for a pinch hitter to tee off on Brad Lidge's pus. With Big Country Eldred available on the bench, Jim Tracy decides this is the situation to give Kelly his first ever major league at bat! After battling Lidge, Kelly eventually flew out. That's some great managing, Jim.
Ahhh, the Pirates will give me plenty of material in 2007.
--Monday night also wrapped up the men's college basketball season. I missed about half of the first half, but I got to see enough of the game to realize how much better of a team Florida had than the rest of the NCAA this season. With five NBA-bound players, now may be a pretty good time to bail for ol' Coach Donovan.
This year's edition did not have many warm and fuzzy memories for me, with yet another Pitt exit too early for our liking. When I think of this year's tourney, I'll remember that ice-in-the-veins shot to beat Duke, a couple OSU moments (the Xavier 3, the Tennessee comeback, and Oden's subsequent block to end the game), and the lack of any true Cinderella.
The greatest comment of the tournament did not come from the much-maligned Billy Packer, nor the much-adored Gus Johnson; in fact, it came from my very own brother tonight, when he thought aloud, "Can you imagine the influx of another round of OHIO STATE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS t-shirts dumped on some unfortunate third-world country tomorrow? They must think Ohio State really stinks."
Well said, Ramon.
--Back to the mailbag...
David F. sends this over:
I've recently noticed many eerie similarities between the 2006-07 Penguins and the 2006 New Orleans Saints.
Consider the evidence:
- Both wear the same black and gold colors.
- Both finished second-worst in the league last year, and showed remarkable improvement this year.
- Both were in danger of leaving town, but were saved in part by fan support resulting from their newfound success.
- Both play in similar-looking domes.
- The Saints finished second in their conference this past year, and the Pens have a shot at doing the same.
There may be even more parallels that I haven't thought of yet. Considering that the Saints lost in the conference title game to the top-seeded Bears, I fully expect the Pens to lose in the conference finals to the Buffalo Sabres.

If I may add a few...
--Both rely on vices (New Orleans=booze/partying, Pittsburgh=gambling) to benefit their city
--Each has a major face of the league (Reggie Bush, Sidney Crosby) on their team
--Both were rumored to move to LA at one point or another. In one of my favorite ridiculous Penguin rumors of all time, the owner of the KC arena (Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group) would bring the Penguins to KC, then swap the Penguins players with the LA Kings (AEG president Tim Leiweke is president of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings). Yes, someone actually floated that.
--A few people sent over the rumor from Profootballtalk.com that the Steelers and Cardinals were talking trade on Max Starks over the weekend. The Steelers would send Starks and their 1st-rounder (15th overall) in exchange for the Cards' first-rounder (5th overall). Starks would then be reuinted with Kenny Wiz and Russ Grimm, and the Steelers would get to pay top-five money to a rookie.
Not surprisingly, the site later wrote that the rumors were inaccurate. The same site also pulled an April Fool's prank with rumors such as "McNabb to Retire?" and "Snyder to Sell if 'Skins Stumble Again?"
As I noted, for any site that suggested during the season last year with a straight face that the Steelers would trade for Jerry Porter and/or Randy Moss, isn't every day a potential April Fool's?
--Greg N. is always scouring the web and sending some me great Sidney Crosby stuff. A few of his recent finds:
-A column from the Toronto Sun about Crosby's Beckham-like stature in Canada, and the possible 20-year-old Posh to his Becks
--A.J. from 105.9 the X in Pittsburgh wrote a "Eulogy for the Pirates" on the eve of the season:
"In the summer of 1979, a Sears delivery van pulled into the driveway of my family’s home in a suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood. I happened to be riding my Big Wheel in the yard at the time and got excited as I watched the delivery guy load our new washer and dryer into the basement. While I was only a tyke and didn’t do laundry, getting new appliances in those days was a pretty big deal.

My mother was pretty excited as well. Our old dryer had died several months earlier and she had been drying all of the family’s laundry on a clothes line in the backyard. While this once lead to an absolutely hilarious episode involving; the neighbor’s black lab named Speedy, my brother Billy, and a mini-bike, it wasn’t exactly the best way to dry clothing. I can remember that being the summer of chaffed nipples, not only because of the polyester fabrics that were so popular in the 70s, but because air dried t-shirts just aren’t as soft as those that are tumble dried.

The summer of 1979 also brought us another World Series trophy to the city of Pittsburgh. Sadly, I was too young to remember or fully appreciate many of the details of that glorious season. However, I can vividly remember my boyhood heroes. They had names like The Cobra, Scrap Iron, The Candyman, Teke, and Pops. The Buccos claiming the World Series combined with the Super Steelers winning the 4th of their Lombardi Trophies, there was no greater place on Earth to live than the City of Champions for a little boy who loved sports. I thought stuff like this was supposed to happen every year.

Now, back to my dryer. That General Electric dryer (or Old Faithful as I call her) served the family well. It made it through the remaining years of the Carter administration, and Reagan’s first term. However, the good times that were upon us soon turned sour. Gone were the glory days of a World Champion baseball team, instead the local headlines told stories about how many of my boyhood heroes had purchased cocaine from the Pirate Parrot.

In the spring of 1985 my family also suffered a setback as we lost my Grandfather Albert. When we were cleaning out his old house to put it up for sale, my father took Grandpa’s washer and dryer (which was only a year old) for use in our home. Our now almost decade old appliances that were delivered on that sunny day in 1979 took a well deserved rest in the garage.

In the fall of 1991, Grandpa Albert’s dryer breathed its last warm breath. I’ll never forget the exact moment it died because it happened during the ’91 National League Championship Series. Pirates pitcher Bob Walk had just earned a save in game one against the Atlanta Braves – thus causing my father to leap to his feet, flip his middle finger at the television set, and yell at the top of his lungs, “Take that Tomahawk Chop and shove it up your ass Ted Turner!”. As if on cue, the electricity in the entire house shut down. For a brief minute, I thought that God was a Braves fan. It turns out that it was just the dryer. Something in it had blown up shorted out the circuit breaker. While electricity was soon returned to the household, God went on to allow the Braves to win the NLCS in seven games.

Rather than buy a new dryer, Dad decided to go to the bullpen and call Old Faithful back into service. So he dug her out of the garage, and once again our trusty GE was keeping the laundry fresh. I guess Dad has a little in common with Dave Littlefield in trying to save a buck and get the most out of an aging vet, but it turns out this dryer was way more productive than Jeremy Burnitz ever was.

The dryer stayed in use in my parent’s basement from 1991 until they moved in 2001. At that time, I took over Old Faithful and she’s been drying my clothes in the basement of my duplex for the past 6 years. That was until last week. Finally, after almost 30 years of service that old General Electric dryer took its last tumble. To be honest, she had been making funny noises over the past year, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d be walking the showroom floor at Sears looking for a replacement.

Last night I replaced Old Faithful with a shiny new Whirlpool dryer. O.F. was carted outside and left on my curb until trash pickup on Tuesday morning. I can’t help but be a little sad when I look out my window and see her sitting out there. That thing has tumble-dried everything from my Stan Terlecki jersey to my One Bad Ma’Afala t-shirt. One thing that it never saw was another Pirates World Championship t-shirt.

Here we sit on the dawn of another season. It’s been 28 years since that last championship and 14 years since we’ve even had a winning record. Perhaps this will finally be the year that the Bucs right the ship. Or, it could just be the start of 30 more years of hot air."

(A.J. can be heard weekends on WXDX 105.9 FM...here's his Myspace page)
--If I ever start a Mondesi's House Wack Pack (like Howard Stern's Wack Pack), I already have a regular guest that seems to polarize the audience: Adam the Penn State Fan. He's a local high schooler who I assume aspires to attend PSU someday. If you've ever ventured into the comments section, you'll see Adam's pro-Penn State thoughts. It doesn't even have to be on a post related to Penn State...he'll gladly drop in a Penn State mention to any topic whatsoever. But even Adam can't defend what Penn State is now asking of their fans.
--Blake from Canada sent me the NBA All-Bust Team...relevant because of the presence of one Chris Taft. When I think of Taft, and I remember all of those NBAdraft.net mock drafts with him at 1 or 2 overall, I'm still amazed at how hard and fast his stock fell.
--Mario of South Carolina reminds anyone teetering on the fence of attending the April 10th Charlotte Bobcats game that it's Adam Morrison fake mustache night!
--Art from Slippery Rock fills us in on the recent speaker who visited SRU: Pirate PA Announcer Tim DeBacco. "The best learning experience is by failing," said DeBacco. As Art pointed out, DeBacco has plenty of experience in that category watching the Pirates.
--Thanks again for all of the email on Monday...I'm thinking the e-mailbag may become a regular feature. As always, you can send your thoughts on anything to mondesishouse@gmail.com. Now let's enjoy that first-place feeling as long as possible!

11 comments:

Meadowbrookalum1 said...

I've been pulling that stunt with Don Kelly ever since he moved back to the burgh!! I'm suprised you haven't caught on yet...every error that "Don Kelly" made this season so far...yea, that was really me.
I'll have to try going to the Will Call box at PNC Park and ask the teller to hand over the tickets that I put aside for the game. Maybe even sign a few autographs in the stands.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

You don't give Adam enough credit.

He WILL be in here trying to defend that Penn State seat-back thing. I guarantee it.

If he's not, I'll almost be dissappointed.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

By the way, this was one of my favorite posts ever on the site... even better than my Pirates spring training report.

Brad said...

Watching Adam defend that seat-back thing is going to be sort of like watching "Thank You for Smoking." If he can actually take himself seriously while doing it, check the back of his head for a Band-Aid where JoePa took his soul, Marcellus Wallace-style.

Brad said...

PS: I am referring to "Pulp Fiction" in case anyone doesn't get the joke.

save the steagles said...

This post was epic; you should be very proud. And I am a little embrassed at how upset I before reading that Sidney Crosby girlfriend post. I just can't seem to quiet that 13 year old girl inside of me.

boredinpittsburgh said...

Don Kelly is clearly the new Jose Hernandez in Jim Tracy's world. Kelly will be the guy that Tracy bats in place of a better pinch hitter in every clutch situation this season. Kind of like last night.

--

Nothing against Don Kelly, in fact i am getting my MBA at Point Park and was quite excited to hear he made the team, but clearly there were better options on the bench last night, namely Big Country.

--
We better start calling the hospitals Adam hasn't checked in to back up PSU on that seat situation.

Next thing PSU will do is force you to buy tickets AND attend their men's basketball games in order to get football tickets
--

great post.

Adam said...

Sorry fellas, I had a death in the family Sunday, but you'll be suprised to learn that I'm the one that sent the link to our dear Mondesi.

It doesn't really affect me, because i don't use a seatback, but I am starting to wonder how much this athletic deparment REALLY needs if 7 home games with 110,000 seats at $50 per ticket can't cover costs. Who knows, maybe the goal is to seat a quarter million people by 2012.

There is a positive feature to the seatbacks though. There are some, well, large fans at Big B, and should be buying 2 seats. With a seatback, their flab can't seep into your rightful seat, because you my friend purchased a seatback.

Captain Planet said...

It's offical, Brad Lidge has become the Oliver Perez of closing pitchers.

Brad said...

I think the ball Pujols hit off of Lidge in the NLCS a couple years ago is still in orbit...somehow Lidge's ability as a closer is tagging along with it, somewhere in the galaxy.

Proinsias Cassidy said...

By the way, on the night of the Pirate opener, the NCAA championship, and a magical Penguins playoff run pending, the caller at 11:57 on a Monday night on April 2 wanted to talk about Alan Faneca. Thought that was worth mentioning.

Made me laugh. No mention of Jeff Hartings?

Buccos will be .500 this year!