Mark and James and G.:
So there’s Mark and James and G.
These are the real sports authorities. Mark, a history teacher and football coach, just tells the truth, G., a 5th-grade teacher and basketball coach, has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports, and James, a mortgage specialist, basketball coach and die-hard New York Knicks fan, thinks deeply before commenting.
I paid attention to one of these three for this week’s column.
Mark reminded me that there is still a place in hockey, maybe because the NHL is stuck in time, for the Ryan Reaveses of the world. With Reaves in the Pens’ lineup, maybe Tom Wilson would have thought twice about running people, maybe not, but considering what, oh, you know, every forward on the Pens’ second, third and fourth lines produced in the playoffs, Reaves could not have been a downgrade and could have provided the physical presence that Jim Rutherford made such a big deal about when he acquired him last offseason.
Last time I checked, they still hit in hockey.
And how about that game-winner from Reaves that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Finals?
We’ll meet James and G. in future columns, so let’s refocus our attention on the Buccos.
Polanco’s Adventures in Hitting:
I may be the only Pittsburgher not enamored with the Pirates’ Sunday throwbacks, but I am definitely not the only Pittsburgher who’s not okay with Gregory Polanco.
“Move him down in the order.” Won’t help. He is guessing at best when he is at the plate. Most Major League pitchers have figured out that his incredibly long, slow swing is best offset by center-cut fastballs.
“Maybe give him a few days off.” Won’t help. If “El Coffee” were introspective, surely he would have done some serious reflection by now and tried something different. There never seems to be an adjustment no matter the results.
“Put him back in right field where he is comfortable, and then he will hit better.” Won’t help. Polanco is a terrible outfielder. Left, right, rover, doesn’t matter with Polanco. Every fly ball is an adventure.
Can’t trade him, right? Have to live with him – after all, he’s cheap. At least this year. At $4.1 million, he does not have horrendous numbers, but at $26.3 million in the next three years – his guaranteed salary – he is a waste of precious cash for a franchise very concerned with the bottom line.
This past weekend’s misstep against the San Diego Padres notwithstanding, the Pirates are moving into a part of the schedule where they cannot afford to have a slumping bat in the two spot of the order. With the next 13 coming against National League Central teams, the Pirates need to grab as many wins as possible, and Clint Hurdle is going to have to look long and hard at Polanco and his value in the batting order.
Other sports tidbits from Pittsburgh Beautiful:
- Austin Meadows (he’s probably on his way back to Indy sooner than later) showed he can handle himself in a Big League lineup. Whether or not he can be consistent is another question, but it was fun to watch a player with his pedigree show up and show off.
- While something called rookie minicamp (football in shorts) was taking place last week, Cameron Heyward was hosting his 4th annual, “Heyward House Birthday Bash,” which provides a special birthday celebration for those who otherwise have no chance to celebrate their birthdays in such a way. Heyward, always a solid citizen, understands that gratitude and charity are virtues that inspire sports fans as much as great performances on the field. Good look, Mr. Heyward.
- Two new Pitt basketball coaches, Jeff Capel on the men’s side, and Lance White on the women’s side, continue to build momentum and coaching staffs. Both have surrounded themselves with energy and experience. The last two season for both programs were so disappointing, many were left wondering if there was a future. Capel and White have done all the right things since arriving on campus. Seems logical success should follow for both.
- The four-game series with the Padres drew an average of 17,171, or 1,361 more than the season average of 15,810. The Pirates surprisingly good first quarter has not gone entirely unnoticed, but more than half a stadium full of empty seats is a pretty big hint that a large number of Pirates fans still do not believe the team will contend for anything of relevance this season.