Sunday, July 31, 2011

Derrek Lee a Bucco and Other Random Trade Deadline Thoughts

Back here at Bucco Central ...

Late last night, your Pittsburgh Pirates completed a trade for Derrek Lee from the Baltimore Orioles. Per the Post-Gazette, the Pirates had to give up single A prospect Aaron Baker in the trade -- no big whup. Also, the Pirates will be responsible for $2.6 of the money owed to the power-hitting 1st baseman this year. Again, no big whup.

I think this is going to be a great deal for the Pirates.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Worst Call in MLB History? Top 5 Worst Calls in MLB History.

Back here at Buccos Central:

When I saw the video of Jerry Meals' safe call at home plate (yeah, yeah, so I fell asleep in the 14th inning -- wanna make something of it?), I channeled my inner-Gene Hackman and shouted, "Do you have pigeon shit in your eyes?" This call is bad. Horrendously, obviously bad. The throw is in, McKenry swipes him, but Meals makes the safe sign before Julio Lugo touches home plate. I'm not sure how a base-runner can be called safe before he touches the bag (or plate as the case may be) ... Still, as heinous as this call is, I don't rank Meals' call as the worst in baseball history (although it's so pathetic that I understand David Schoenfield's point.)

At any rate, here's how I rank 'em:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Pittsburgh Pirates Wish List

Back here at Bucco Central ...

Our fearless leader, Clint Hurdle is telling his charges to just live in the moment. Talk about your ultimate existential man. I, too, try to live life that way, but I can't help but think of all the ways in which the stars need to align for our small-payroll, small-ball, national media darling, little engine that could Pittsburgh Pirates to make a serious run at the playoffs. So I've taken the liberty of making a wee wish list.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Maybe the Other Shoe Will Not Drop on the Pirates 2011 Season

Back at Bucco Central ...

The excitement is just so intoxicating, so, dazzlingly, temptingly intoxicating. The Pirates winning -- and sitting on top of (or close to the top of) the NL Central  -- it's like a blend of Proseco and crystal meth for 'Burgh fans. We've waited so long.

Now, the question you have to ask yourself as a fan is:  do the Pirates have to win a title this year to satisfy you? Because these Pirates? They're not built for that kind of battle. Not yet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Will It Take for the Pirates to Win the NL Central?

Back in my lair at Bucco Central, with 95 games under our belts, I'm already starting to wonder just what it will take to win the NL Central.

I'm gonna say 90 games.

It's partly hunch. To be honest, this is not the best division in MLB. There is no one great team here, but there are three good teams -- the Brewers, the Cardinals and the Pirates -- teams which I believe over the next two months are going to beat the crap out of each other, keeping any one team from running away with the division.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates Entering Make or Break Time

Back here at Bucco Central, your Pittsburgh Pirates are all alone in first place in the National League Central, one-half game in front of both the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Oh, it's all fun and games here, what with all the scoreboard watching, trade rumors and generally silly joy.

Which brings us to:  are you a glass half-full, or half-empty sort of person? Because the Pirates schedule for the rest of this month is a like a deadly version of Wipeout. You can either view this stretch as a waiting pitfall. I'd understand if you did. Or, you can view it as an opportunity to put a little distance between themselves and the Cards, Reds, and BrewCrew. And see how they stack up against the elite of the NL. I'm gonna go with the latter. I'm going to look at this as a great opportunity for these guys.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Is Third Base Cursed Land for the Pittsburgh Pirates? And Man-Games Lost.

Meanwhile, back at Bucco Central ...

Pirates 3rd baseman Pedro Alvarez continues to toil away in AAA ball, having come off the disabled list a few days before the All-Star break. It is important to remember who Alvarez is -- the guy who was supposed to be the power bopper the Pirates have long needed, the guy drafted to be the savior of the franchise. I screamed, you screamed, we all screamed for Pedro.

The numbers:  Before going on the DL, Pedro had been to the plate 125 times. He had two dingers and 42 strike outs. And yes, for all of you Douglas Adams fans, that's forty-two strikeouts. So yeah, he was whiffing about a third of the time at the plate. The strike-out rate is no better in his brief stint in Indianapolis where, in the course of 10 games, he's been to the plate 34 times and struck out 13 times, with zero home runs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Much Pressure Is on Team USA to Win the Cup?

How much pressure?

All the pressure in the world.

More pressure than can be measured by existing technology.

More pressure than Freddy Mercury and David Bowie memorialized in song, which they described, if memory serves as, 'under pressure - that burns a building down.'

This group of athletes, to their credit, created this intense pressure by winning through a set of unbelievable circumstances in the quarterfinals. Let me be clear - a women's athletics team got the attention of an entire nation, a nation which remains a male-centric sports culture even in the 21st century. But Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo got our attention.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Questions Answered and Grading the Pirates

Here at Bucco Central, about a month ago, I wrote a post asking if Pittsburgh could ever be a baseball town again? Now that we're sitting smack dab in the middle of the dreaded All-Star break, I can say this:

Question. Answered. In the affirmative. 

Just one quick example:

--  Attendance at the Pirates game against the Cubs, the Friday before the All-Star break:  37,140.

--  Attendance at a comparable game in 2010, also right before the all-star break, also against a division rival (the Milwaukee Brewers), also on a Friday night:  27,767.

Where'd those extra 10,000 fans come from?

Winning. It's such a simple formula. Nobody goes to a baseball game because they can hear .38 Special and all of their hits like, "Hold on Loosely," and "Hold on Loosely," and, er, um, "Hold on Loosely." (Okay, this is Pittsburgh, so probably some people go to a baseball game to see .38 Special, but not that many.) I've been to  four sellouts this season -- four -- which, I think may be more sellouts than they had all of last year.

Behold, the power of winning.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

USA! USA! U.S. Women Win Wild Game Over Brazil

It seemed impossible. Everything was against them.

They were down a goal, on an officiating gift, no less.

They were down a player, on another officiating gift from Referee Jacqui Melksham. (Does this look like a red card to you? Seriously?)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sunday Recipe: Trofie with Perfect Pesto

I distinctly remember the first time I had pesto -- sublime insouciance, a revelation on my tongue. Then the 1990's happened and everybody served pesto on everything. On bread, on fish, on pasta, on pizza, on your breakfast cereal. It was served year round with old, flavorless basil and too much garlic. It turned me off pesto for a good long time. In fact, I don't think I had eaten pesto in more than a decade.

This passed winter, while perusing my mother-in-law's bookshelves, I discovered Waverly Root's comprehensive guide to the regional foods of Italy, titled, simply enough, 'The Food of Italy.' (Published in 1972 by Vintage Books, a division of Random House. I think it is out of print now, but if you can lay your hands on it, give it a look.) At any rate, in Root's book, I discovered that pesto was invented in Liguria (as was ravioli, so I personally owe those crazy sea-faring Ligurians a big debt of gratitude.) Liguria is the province right around the knee-cap of the peninsula that extends out into the Mediterranean as you can see in this map, and the basil grows thick and lush on the hillsides there. From Root's book:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jeff Karstens Leads the Way to 2nd Place for the Pittsburgh Pirates

More random thoughts from Bucco Central:

Last night, Wandy Rodriquez brought his 3.25 era and 7-2 record into PNC Park and the Pirates laid 5 runs on him, none bigger than Brandon Wood’s 2-run dinger in the 2nd inning. Your battling Buccos added on more runs, but really, Wood's homer would have done it because Jeff Karstens was,once again, masterful.

As we round the bases into the All-Star break, consider these facts about these Pirates:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Andrew McCutchen, Joel Hanrahan and the Great All-Star Snub of 2011

Random thoughts from Bucco Central.

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan is headed to the All-Star game, a well deserved honor. Center-fielder Andrew McCutchen should be going with him, but the All-Star game is an honor conferred largely based on reputation and McCutchen is still building his. [Although a quick stroll through the stats would reveal these facts:  McCutchen is 3rd among all National League center-fielders in OPS (.892), 3rd in Slugging (498), 2nd in RBI (after today's win over the Astros he has 46), and 3rd in stolen bases (15.) It doesn't take a nuclear physicist to figure it out.] However, there's a bright side for Pittsburghers, which is, in the two games since his All-Star snub, he's gone 4-for-9 at the plate, with a two-bagger and three RBI's. Let's hope he stays motivated by The Great All-Star Snub of 2011. (tm)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ray Shero Does Not Play Footsie: Pens Offer to Jagr Withdrawn

Today at noon, Penguins GM Ray Shero withdrew his offer to Czech sniper and former Penguins great, Jaromir Jagr.

I am on record wanting Jagr to come back. I think he can still be a productive player and I stand by that. My mistake was thinking that he had matured some in last decade. I guess not.

Meet the new Jagr. Same as the old Jagr.