It happens every year in Pittsburgh.
That easy transition from baseball season to football season.
Easy because the baseball team is typically uncompetitive when the football teams begins gearing up. Actually, for many years, the baseball team was uncompetitive by the time of the NFL draft, but then there was 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Seems like a very long time ago.
The past three seasons have returned Pittsburgh fans to the days when football players practicing was more interesting than baseball players playing the actual game.
We’re talking about practice, here. Not the game – practice.
The Pirates have to be frustrated to have taken such huge steps backwards after building at least a little loyalty from a core fan base.
That core is dwindling – PNC Park attendance figures prove that – but the Pirates are trying, or at least they appear to be trying, to improve the Major League product and stay relevant longer.
The problem is, while the Pirates have made a couple of out-of-character moves this season, those moves, primarily the trade to acquire David Archer, have not had the immediate impact Neal Huntington wanted.
More importantly to me, the Archer deal has not had the impact the fans wanted.
From a fan’s standpoint, I am disappointed in Archer’s performance. From a columnist’s perspective, it fits with his season to date. He simply has not been very good all year.
The thing the fan in me and the columnist in me agrees on is what should happen next. The Pirates should commit to a rebuild and trade off veterans who are, for lack of a better definition, dead weight.
Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Ivan Nova and Jung-ho Kang should all be dealt or bought out, whichever is more feasible. A team really interested in moving forward would move Francisco Cervelli yesterday. Pains me to say that – I love the way Cervelli plays and the passion he brings – but he is not very productive.
Then there is the Clint Hurdle question. If fans ran the club, Hurdle would have been out the second he waived the white flag in 2015 by penciling Sean Rodriguez into the Wild Card game starting lineup. Hurdle, an absolute master of coachspeak, has meandered his way through three lackluster seasons and his message appears to be lost on the current team.
Seems more ridiculous every day that he was rewarded for this before the start of this season with a new four-year contract.
By any measure, Hurdle has come up short. When the Pirates were a tremendously young, rebuilding team, he achieved mixed results – some good play, some bad play and teams that faded late. When the Pirates were a legitimate contender, Hurdle could not get the club to the next level be it division champion, or to a League Championship Series or World Series.
So how is this manager the right man to lead the ballclub through another rebuild? Doesn’t his track record suggest he is not going to be the one to get the Pirates anywhere further than where they’ve been under his leadership?
By all accounts, Hurdle is a decent man and a good manager. Why should that be the standard for the Pirates, or for any professional team in any sport? Great managers don’t grow on trees, and they are not the sole reason for a team’s success, but they sure can be the deciding factor between almost being great and being great.
- On the other side of the Hurdle should go coin is Urban Meyer. While what Meyer knew about Zach Smith and his actions may never be fully known, he clearly knew more than he allowed. If Meyer coached at a mediocre program and did not have the success (National Championships) he’s had, he’d of had to book his own flight out of town. Ohio State investigating Ohio State? Give me a break.
- Speaking of coaches on hot seats, is Pat Narduzzi? While the Pitt program has done nothing but take backwards steps – at least on the field – Narduzzi should be safe through this season, but next year may make or break his future at Pitt as his first hand-picked recruiting class will be upperclassmen.
- Some takeaways from the Steelers’ third preseason game last Saturday, a 16-6 win over the Tennessee Titans:
- Big Ben looked very good, but did he need to play? Really wondering if the NFL preseason has any value whatsoever for established veterans.
- The knock on Justin Hunter has always been a lack of consistency. At 6-feet-4, and with good speed, Hunter should be the prototype downfield threat for the Steelers (or any team), but he continues to be a mix of good and bad with only small samples of good.
- The Titans are terrible, or at least they were on Saturday, so it was hard to glean much from the game in terms of a defense that allowed 51 points the week before in Green Bay, but at least the D got off the field on third down and was stingy when it had to be.