Thursday, March 29, 2012

Can The Pirates Finish Over 500?

I was sitting here this morning reading all the current happenings in the Pirates world and got to thinking about whether or not they have a legit chance at ending the insanely long losing streak they are on.  I have been saying they will, as a matter of fact I posted it in a previous post on here, but the last few days I haven't been so sure.  Maybe that's just the disappointed fan in me that is afraid to expect anything good out of the Pirates anymore.

I think maybe what has really disheartened me this week is the fact that the Pirates organization is sticking with Pedro Alvarez on opening day.  He is NOT getting any better.  If he comes on strong and hits everything thrown his way then I will eat my words happily but I just can't see that happening.  Through March 27th he was hitting a horrible .135.

I completely understand that sending him down to Triple-A might give him a false sense of confidence if he has success but, how is having him continue this massive slump in the majors going to help at all?  I would think it would crush whatever mental strength he has left.  Maybe a little false self confidence will help.

I'm getting off topic here, I wanted to talk about the Pirates finishing over 500.  Even with this doubt floating around in my brain today I am sticking with my decision to say YES, they can.  I think that all the injuries last year that allowed some young guys to get big league experience is going to benefit them this season.  Guys like Alex Presley, Michael McKenry, and Josh Harrison (who hasn't officially made the roster yet) can take what they learned and help generate a few more defensive plays, hits, runs, and wins.

I also think the addition of Bedard and Burnett is going to generate at least a few more wins.  Were they the best available guys to help the Pirates.... no. But are they going to help them..... Yes.  They bring some experience that the Pirates just don't have.  If nothing else maybe they can help some of the rest of the pitching staff step up their game a little.

The Buccos may not finish the season by winning the World Series, however I do think they are going to finally end that horrible losing streak, even if its only by a game or two.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

William Gay to the Cardinals

Earlier today William Gay tweeted that "I'm #birdgang now west coast" to let all of Steeler Nation know that he is headed to Arizona. My reaction was immediately "awesome, now I can unfollow this fool".  Yea, I don't care for him, never did.  Even when he made a great play I gave him credit for the play but stuck by my opinion that he is not even close to as good as he thinks he is (or a lot of other people think he is).  He was way to inconsistent for my liking so I guess you could say that I'm not heartbroken at all over this move.  I actually think it's a great opportunity for the Steelers.

There are a few young guys that could take this opportunity to really shine, Anthony Madison and Keenan Lewis jump to mind.  Sure they are young and unproven but could really make an impact here now that they may get the chance.  I'd also like to see what Ryan Mundy can do on the corner.  I think the Steelers have some options here, including the draft.

Good luck out there in Pittsburgh West Willy...... I hope you enjoy the weather a little before you realize that the grass isn't greener in Arizona.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pens collect another win!

The Pens officially clinched a playoff birth with tonights 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.  It was a GREAT game to watch.  If the Pens play this way in the playoffs no one will be able to stop them, I don't care who they are.

James Neal came out tonight and set up everyone he possibly could as he collected 4 assists on the night. Evgeni Malkin was right there with him scoring 2 goals (both from Neal) picking up number 44 and 45 on the season.  Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz both added a goal and an assist while Matt Cooke also tallied a goal for the Pens.

Marc-Andre Fleury remained solid in the net tonight stopping 29 of 30 shots he faced. 

There is so much to say about this Penguins team and the way they are playing but I think people really need to just watch a game to see.  Watching tonight I couldn't help but notice that they are everywhere.  I know, your thinking of course they are there is only so much room on the ice.  Thats not what I mean.  What I mean is, they are hitting, getting hit, avoiding big hits, making passes, taking passes, throwing everything they have into every second they are on the ice. Even if you aren't a Pens fan (why aren't you????) you need to watch them play just once without whatever biased you have that makes you not like them.  If you can honestly tell me that you think there is another hockey team out there right now that can beat them..... I'd like to know who it is an what on earth makes you believe that?

I hope they can maintain the momentum that they have going right now and make a solid run for the cup.  I have no reason to believe they won't but there is still a lot that can happen..... so for now I am going to sit back and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Will we see Pedro on opening day?

After 2011 Pedro Alvarez really needed to come into Spring Training and show the Pirates that last year was a slump that he has worked his way out of.  From what I have seen so far he is still knee deep in slumpville.  Pedro is batting a .148 over 12 games with 11 strikeouts, the only bright spot in that is he has hit 2 homeruns. 

He hasn't been completely aweful defensively but when you look at what some of the guys who could take over at third base are doing during Spring Training you can't help but wonder why the Pirates would have him on their opening day roster.  He would be better off starting the season in Triple A Indianapolis working on getting that batting average up.  Lets be honest here folks the Pirates need bats in their lineup.  Thats not going to change over night so they really need to go with the better bat here. I really don't see Pedro stepping onto the field on opening day.

I have already mentioned several times I really like what Matt Hague brings to the plate, literally and figurtively as well as Josh Harrison.  Harrison already has a little experience with the Buccos, having started several games at third last season (among other locations) and while he wasn't brilliant, I will still take him over what I am seeing out of Alvarez.  Plus Harrison brings more of a threat on the basepath, he might generate an extra look from opposing pitchers and catchers, I like that too.

Just over 2 weeks left till opening day. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pens grab a "W" from the Jets

The Penguins bounced back huge from their loss Sunday to the Flyers by throwing down an 8-4 victory against the Winnipeg Jets.  The Jets jumped up early but behind a James Neal hat trick (and 4 total points), Evgeni Malkin scoring 5 points and Sidney Crosby collecting 4 points, not to mention so many other contributions that the Jets never had a chance.

Most impressive of all of these was Tyler Kennedy.  All the talk involving Kennedy lately has been how much he has been under producing.  You can count me as one of those who were greatly disappointed in his play.  Lately though I have been even more disappointed in him, and by lately I mean since Sidney Crosby has returned and joined TK on a line with Matt Cooke.  Kennedy hasn't been able to capitalize on many things the last few games (and by the last few games I mean the last 17), but not today..... today he stepped up and scored not once but twice, both off Crosby assists.

A few other notes from the game....

Pascal Dupuis scored his career high 21st goal of the season.

Malkin has had 4 (including today's win over the Jets) 5 point games this season.

Malkin also currently has a league high 93 points, 9 points ahead of Steven Stamkos of Tampa and Claude Giroux of Philadelphia.

The Pens have won 8 in a row at home.

James Neal's hat trick today was only the second of his career, the first as a Penguin.

At this point I just want to say, lets go PENS!!!

Hines Ward

Well, the announcement just came that Hines Ward will be holding a news conference at noon today at Steelers headquarters.  My gut says this is a retirement announcement, but as with everything else my gut has been wrong.  When the Steelers released him it sent a shock wave through Steeler Nation, although it probably shouldn't have.  His playing time was drastically cut last year as younger guys stepped up their game.  I guess fans (myself included) thought the Steelers would let him leave on his own terms after all those years but as we have found in many situations in the past the Rooneys know best.

It seems that since he has been on the free agent market I have heard zero talk about him ending up anywhere (other than the spoof about him becoming a raven before he was even technically released).  Thats right guys, zero talk, zero rumors, zero buzz at all.  Other teams just haven't (publically) been interested.  Thats why I feel like this is a retirement annoucement. Perhaps if it is then Pittsburgh can find room for him on their coaching staff?  I guess we will find out at noon today!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pens fall to Philly 3-2

Sundays game between the Pens and the Philadelphia Flyers started off fantastic the Pens jumped to an early lead and seemed to not look back..... until the third period.

The Pens started off dominating everything, they out shot the Flyers 27-10 in the first 2 periods, while at times it seemed like the Flyers forgot where they were trying to go with the puck.  They were rarely even near Marc-Andre Fleury.

Then the third period rolled around and I am not sure how on earth anyone could say it was the same Penguins team on the ice.  They got sloppy and it cost them a chance to catch up to the Rangers.  The only bright side is that going into overtime gave them a point despite the loss.

The real test is how they bounce back from this loss, they have to come back out strong and fight to catch and pass the Rangers and of course to stay ahead of the Flyers.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pens Beat the Devils 5-2

Today the Pens left no doubt in my mind that they are legit contenders to bring the cup back to Pittsburgh when they convincingly beat the Devils 5-2.  Even the most casual of hockey fans has taken notice of the Pens current win streak (11 games!) and the fact that this team is really playing beyond solid hockey.  Even on nights when they don't look like they are playing their best, they are still playing good enough to win.

What is even more amazing is that the "star" player on this team, Sidney Crosby, hasn't even been playing but now that he has returned from injury he has picked up right where he left off.  In the second period of the game verse the Devils, Crosby set up Evgeni Malkin for the one timer from his knees!  So many players couldn't make that pass on their best day, and yet here's Crosby in only his second game back dishing these amazing passes oh and don't forget collecting his 5th assist in 2 games.

We can't overlook the play of the rest of this team.  Pittsburgh is getting points from everywhere including Matt Cooke, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis..... I could keep going but you get my point.  While we are at it I can't forget to at least mention how well the defense is playing as well as the PK units and the PP team.  Oh yeah, and finally it should be said that Marc-Andre Fleury is playing SUPERB hockey right now.  I have been known to bash Fleury pretty hard sometimes but I will 100% give him props right now, he is on it.

If what we are seeing is only the build up to the playoffs...... I CAN'T WAIT!!!

Up and Coming Buccos!

Morning all! It's another beautiful day in the Pittsburgh area, we should take advantage of it while we can.  I wanted to take a minute today to discuss the Pirates..... more specifically a few youngsters that are displaying some talent in Spring Training, Starling Marte and Matt Hague.

Both of these guys are having solid outings at the plate.  Marte leads the team in homeruns and is batting a .500.  Hague has consistently stepped up to the plate and made contact, oh and did I mention he is right behind Marte with 2 HR's and a .429 batting average?  Another big thing that both are doing is collecting RBI's.  On a team that had nothing but trouble scoring runs in 2011, its great to see a few young guys helping push runs across the plate.

These are two guys that aren't going to be immediate starters but they are guys that are helping me buy in to the "team of the future" that we keep hearing about.  After the way injuries dominated the Pirates line up last season its great to have guys like this ready and waiting to help out. It makes me think more and more that I am going to be right on my prediction of finally having a winning season! Stop laughing.... it's going to happen.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pirates offense alive?!?!

19 hits.  Yep, 19 hits in their 17-6 win over the Twins yesterday.  With all the excitement about Crosby and Letang returning to the ice I didn't even mention how crazy the Pirate hitters went!  The Buccos managed to throw together a 10 run first inning, I remember weeks.... maybe even months when the Pirates didn't score 10 total runs and now they did it in one inning.  That makes me very hopeful for what the season may hold.  Do I think they are going to win the World Series, no.  I do however think that we will pull off at least a 500 season. I said it, and I am going to hold firm on that..... a 500 season is coming our way.  Laugh now, its okay, I can take it.  If I am wrong I will suck it up and admit it, but when I am right I will make sure I remind you that for once I called it!

Realistically speaking the Pirates wont hit like this all the time, it is Spring Training after all.  What I like to see is the fact that having success early can help instill a confidence in them that will hopefully carry over into the regular season.  When they hit their mid season slump Manager Clint Hurdle can show a video of yesterdays great first inning and remind them that they really are capable of putting together exactly what they need to win games.

I'm crossing my fingers now..... it's going to be an interesting season!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pens handle Rangers 5-2

Kris Letang returned to the ice tonight and rocked it with a +5 on the night.  Yea, that really happened.  Sidney Crosby also went back onto the ice tonight for about 16 or so minutes and set up Kunitz for a nice goal while finishing +3 on the night.  The story tonight should be both of those guys and their solid returns to the ice but guess what? Its not (although the media is still focused on Sid!).

The story tonight is Marc-Andre Fleury and his strong performance in goal.  Sure he let 2 goals get by him but some of the saves he made tonight were mind blowing.  His stick seemed to just shoot out of the sky to stop a shot while he was sprawled out on the ice.  It's been great seeing him playing solid hockey because we all know when he is in a slump.... he's really in a slump.

With the win tonight the Pens hit a 10 game winning streak..... lets keep it rolling right through the playoffs!

On another side note if any of you would like to follow me on twitter you can find me @Sportchick8.

Crosby and Letang set to return tonight!

As a huge Pens fan I have been waiting for this day since December 6th, but as a concerned human being I also have to wonder if this is the right thing for Sidney Crosby to be doing.  When he takes the ice tonight he will be on a line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, and one can only hope that the fear of what Cooke will do to anyone that hits Sid will help keep his head safe and sound.

Not only is Sid returning to the ice but so is Kris Letang, and not a minute to soon.  On February 29th Letang was hit and suffered concussion like symptoms keeping him out of 5 games.

These two key players are making their returns at just the right time, getting a few games under their belts before making a run at another Stanley Cup Championship.  Here's to hoping they can both stay healthy and bring Lord Stanley's Cup back to Pittsburgh!  Until then, I know I will be watching tonight.... will you?

New Pittsburgh Sports Blog

Finally a spot where I can talk about all things Pittsburgh Sports related!  I should have done this a long long time ago.  Instead I tried my hand on picking one team and writing news style articles..... it went well but I often times had so much to say that wasn't considered news, it was considered my opinion and when writing an article like I was doing, opinions were frowned upon.  With this I can now post a blog about the Pirates followed by one about then Pens and then throw one up there about the Steelers letting go of another veteran player.  Yea, this is going to be great.  I hope you guys will love what I have to say and leave some great comments.  After all, without readers leaving great comments to fuel my next post.... what good is doing this?  I look forward to posting and entertaining you all! A few great Pittsburgh sports stories are unfolding as I type this little intro, the Pirates cut 10 players today.  Not much of a shocker on who they sent packing to Triple A.  Some folks seem shocked to see Chase d'Arnaud leave camp but not this girl.  If they really thought he was capable of staying in the big league right now they wouldn't have picked up Barmes in the off season.  We will see Chase d'Arnaud again this season but let him mature a little more before we bring him back.  That was a good move.

On another note Sidney Crosby is taking the ice tonight..... can't wait to see how that goes!

Stay tuned!