Y'know, I really didn't intend for this blog to be so sports intensive, but considering everything that's going on in and around the three local pro sports teams (and considering my high interest in all three), it's hard not to talk about what's going on with the Pens, Pirates and Steelers.
So, today's blog will be devoted to the good, the bad and the ugly of Pittsburgh sports. See if you can guess which team is which...
This one should be pretty obvious. It's hard to imagine that after the Penguins lost the first game of the playoffs (at home, no less) to the Senators one week ago today that I'd be putting them in the good category. It's amazing the difference a week makes. After a 7-4 throttling of the Senators last night, the Pens now own a commanding 3-1 lead in the series with a chance to clinch right back at the Igloo tomorrow night.
The fact that the Pens put up 7 against the Senators shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. When the Pens are clicking, it's hard to stop them from scoring. And if not for a bunch of really dumb penalties that allowed the Senators to score two 5-on-3 goals, the Pens could have put 10 goals up on the board. Like I said last week, the Senators cannot play with the Pens 5-on-5, and if Fleury continues to be just slightly above average, the series should come to a conclusion tomorrow night.
And what else is there to say about Sid? Another two goals last night and another two assists, giving him 11 points in four games. That's just shy of three points per game, kids. I guess that vaunted switch that the Pens were hoping to turn on does exist because after the game one debacle, they've completely dominated this series. Ottawa doesn't have the firepower, goaltending or experience to match the Pens. Oh, I don't expect the Senators to roll over and give up tomorrow night, but I think that if the Pens keep playing like they have, they'll win comfortably tomorrow and move onto the second round.
Also, has anyone else noticed how Max Talbot's game has picked up significantly since the playoffs started? He was all-but invisible during the regular season, but since the playoffs have started, he's reminded us all just how valuable he is.
And finally, kudos to Jordan Staal for being nominated for the Selke Award which is given to the best defensive forward. This was definitely Staal's best season since his rookie year, and anyone who watches how he kills penalties, throws his body around and back checks knows how deserving this nomination is.
I try not to pay too much attention to the Pirates, but I'll admit to feeling pretty good after they swept the Reds over the weekend (including consecutive walk-off wins Friday and Saturday). Then reality reared its ugly head in the form of Charlie Morton.
Look, I think Charlie is a nice guy who has a live arm and a fastball that can touch 96 on the gun. But having a live arm doesn't mean you can throw strikes, and that's been his problem all season. Early on in games, he looks like a Cy Young Award winner, but as the game goes on, he pitches more like Mae Young (wrestling reference). Case in point - last night's "masterpiece" against the hated Milwaukee Brewers in which he gave up 6 runs in two innings (though I can barely count it as two innings since he didn't record any outs in the second).
Charlie has joined the pantheon of Pirates pitchers with good stuff who just feel the need to not trust their stuff and nibble around the strike zone (see: Wells, Kip and Benson, Kris). Charlie does this and gets deep into counts and has to throw his fastball over the plate, ofter getting pummeled. Dude, trust your stuff. I don't know what I and everyone else in the organization has to do to get this through your thick skull. And Ryan Doumit? This is your fault, too, since you obviously can't call a good game when Charlie is on the mound since he gets pounded every single time he takes the mound. I know you can't stop Charlie from nibbling, but you had better try (and while you're at it, start hitting, too).
I find it hilarious that the Pirates' two best pitchers never hit 90 on the gun. But that's okay because Zach Duke and Paul Maholm know how to pitch and can (gasp!) get guys out. With Morton stinking up the joint, Ross Ohlendorf on the DL until the end of the month and Daniel McCutchen unable to pitch more than 4 innings, the Pirates rotation sucks. And in spite of only having 3 quality starts all year, the Buccos are somehow 7-6.
If Neal Huntington had just signed a bargain basement veteran starting pitcher who would be able to eat up innings and help out the younger starters, the Pirates might actually have the makings of a team just below mediocre, but no, he had to show off the guys he got in his lousy ass trades (Morton and Kevin "Wild Thing" Hart). I think Neal has proven he is a lousy talent evaluator, and I think there's a damned good chance he'll be fired this year. At least I hope he will. Yes, I said that, and yes, I mean it. It's a gots to go situation, and Neal has gots to go.
Well, word came down from Roger Goodell today that Big Ben will be suspended for 4-6 games at the start of the 2010 season. If Ben's a good boy and does whatever the commish tells him, then the suspension will only be 4 games.
I'm torn on this in some regards. On the one hand, Ben did not get charged for his actions of total douchebaggery that night in Milledgeville, and I don't see how he warrants such a severe suspension for basically being an idiot and not carding the girls he was buying shots for (which, by the way, isn't his job). On the other hand, maybe this is the only way he'll learn.
There's a pattern of behavior here that stretches all the way back to Ben's bike accident the summer after Super Bowl XL. He is notorious for not using his head (or thinking with the wrong head, if you know what I mean). After being warned about riding his motorcycle, he does so and does so without wearing a helmet and nearly dies when he wrecks it. But that wasn't enough. Then he goes and gets into that big ol' mess with the whackadoodle out in Nevada in which he admitted that he did have sex with her but denies raping her. And the icing on the cake is whatever happened in Georgia (which most likely was him banging a girl so drunk she probably didn't know what planet she was on yet still managed to say no, god love her). I mean, just how big of a douche bag is this guy? And how many things don't we even know about? Yet, I still can't help but feel the commish went overboard with the suspension. I think 2 games would have been plenty.
Whatever the case, I think the Steelers are damned close to cutting their losses and getting rid of Ben. And you know what? I'm totally in favor of it. As Mr. Tony always says, it's a gots to go situation. I've had enough of his act. Let some other team/city deal with him and let's move on with a high draft pick and some combination of Leftwich/Batch/Dixon at QB. Yes, I realize that this would probably doom any chances the Steelers have of making the playoffs next year (unless, of course, they get back to Steelers football and, y'know, run the ball), but if the Steelers are really all about zero tolerance and having a good image, then Ben has to go. Now.
That all said, I'll still be relatively surprised if Ben is dealt. But this is his last chance. If he effs up one more time, then I think he's done. Not just with the Steelers, but done done. As in no more NFL. I just wonder if he has the maturity to clean up his act. Kobe Bryant did, and he was accused of something quite heinous, so maybe there is hope for Ben yet. I guess time will tell.
For those of you interested, I will be live blogging during tomorrow night's first round of the 2010 NFL Draft offering ongoing updates on the picks, little tidbits I've gleaned about the picks, discussion about any trades that happen (involving the Steelers and otherwise) and, of course, constantly making fun of Mel Kiper's hair.
Be there, aloha.