Hello everyone, my name is Eric Scot and I’m the newest writer here at City of Champions. It’s an honor to be here.
I’ve been a Pittsburgh sports fan all of my life, having been born the year of the Steelers’ first Super Bowl win, Black and Gold (or is it Yellow now?) is in my blood. I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of details about me for my first edition so let’s get to it.
Let’s start off with the Pirates since they are most in the news recently and Tuesday night, we get treated with the debut of top prospect Gerrit Cole. I think there will be a ton of fans at PNC Park for this game and for good reason. Cole represents the hope and future for this team, along with the likes of Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, Alan Hanson, Gregory Polanco, Stetson Allie and others waiting in the wings.
Tonight’s debut would have been even bigger had the pitching staff been just OK to below average this season, but since it’s been really good, maybe some of that luster is taken away. Don’t get me wrong, Cole debuting tonight is huge and I can’t wait to see him on the mound but there is a difference between a team under .500 and needing an injection of youth compared to a team 11 games over .500 with a pitching staff that is excelling. Granted, the great thing about this call-up is that the Pirates are replacing an injured starter with a guy we think will be more than capable of winning in MLB.
I also want to comment on Clint Hurdle and his ideas on the line-up and how many times he’s shuffled it to try and find the right fit. Here’s the answer. There is no “right” fit, but neither is moving guys all over the place hoping that a move from Nos. 2 to 7 will somehow make them a better hitter. I get that sometimes guys get protected by the next hitter and that’s very true with a guy like Andrew McCutchen; however, I don’t see anyone being pitched too directly to try and avoid the next batter.
All this means to me is that Hurdle tries to tweak and tinker so much that we sometimes end up with starting catcher Russell Martin playing right field while Michael McKenry gets the catching duties. Since Martin hasn’t played the outfield since he was in the minors about 10 years ago, it made total sense (although the Pirates did almost win that game). Here is my advice for Mr. Hurdle: set a lineup, stick with the lineup and force these guys to either hit in their selected slot, or they will be replaced with someone who can.
Here is my ideal lineup with the current team:
LF Starling Marte
RF Travis Snider
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
1B Garrett Jones
2B Neil Walker
C Russell Martin
SS Jordy Mercer
The Steelers open mini-camp shortly and most of the guys should be there, with almost all of the draft picks signed (Hello, Landry Jones?) and maybe one (Markus Wheaton) who might not be able to be there because of school. The recent news of tackle Mike Adams being stabbed is quite alarming because the Steelers will need Adams to be healthy this season for the team to be successful.
I am a huge fan of this offensive line and they need to be together starting today. However, Adams won’t be there because of the stabbing but word is, he’ll be fine for the start of training camp. Ben Roethlisberger also had surgery recently and puts his return around the start of training camp. I have a question, could Big Ben have the surgery a few months ago as to not cut it so close? I’m sure that he hoped the knee would clear up on its own but you have to take in account recovery time and any kind of setbacks that could occur. I’m sure in the end, Ben won’t miss any time and he’ll be lined up as the starting quarterback for the first game of the preseason but still, timing is everything.
I love the potential of the Steelers’ draft class this year, I love that they were able to select Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones. I might be in the minority to think he could be the first defensive draftee to start from Day 1 in quite some time. Running back Le’Veon Bell is another pick that I’m pretty excited about, even though I wasn’t thrilled at first.
With Alabama’s Eddie Lacy sitting right there for the taking, I was watching the draft, talking to a buddy of mine and I heard running back (excited!) Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State (what!?!), all I could think is “Why?” I understand a lot more now because despite Lacy having the big name, Bell was really good himself. We’re talking about 3,346 yards and 33 TD’s in the Big 10, that’s impressive stuff.
Third-round pick Wheaton has all of the tools to be an excellent wide receiver for the Steelers, he just needs to put it all together much like his predecessors Mike Williams and Hines Ward. Fourth-rounder Shamarko Thomas has the hype of a first-round talent. The media has been all over this pick.
I think the Steelers’ picking QB Landry Jones with their second pick of the fourth round was interesting but I also believe it was needed. Jones had a successful career at Oklahoma and the Steelers need a guy to back up Roethlisberger and maybe groom to replace Ben in four or five years. The Jones pick isn’t quite the head-scratcher most pundits have said and he could be an Aaron Rodgers type.
The rest of the draft are guys with a hope and a prayer and fall into that “you never know” category. All in all, I’d give the Steelers draft a solid A-minus which could improve to an A-plus if three of these guys become starters. It’s an A if two start an A-minus if only one becomes a solid starter. One word: potential.
The Penguins have just finished up a pretty disappointing loss and ouster from the playoffs to the Boston Bruins but it wouldn’t have beenso bad had they lost in seven or six games. The problem here is they couldn’t muster a single win and going down 4-0 is just plain embarrassing.
Whatever Boston did to shut the Pens down, it’s quite mind-blowing to even understand what ultimately happened here. I watched the games and what I saw looked like an old team, exhausted from the previous series or two and unable to match the intensity, speed and aggressiveness from the opposition.
Let’s research: six games against the Islanders and five games against the Senators. Nope, no seven-game series there. Are the Pens old? Sidney Crosby is 25, Evgeni Malkin is 26, their oldest center is 29. The wingers are a bit older with the youngest being Beau Bennett at 21, James Neal at 25, while Cooke and Morrow are 34 and Adams is 36 – not super old but getting close for hockey players. Defense shows Simon Despres at 21 while Mark Eaton is 36. Goalie Tomas Vokoun is 36 and Marc-Andre Fleury is 28. Again I say, it’s really difficult to understand them looking old.
Here is what I think the problem was: the coaches went in with a game plan and stuck to it to the end. Whether or not they had the capacity to make in-game adjustments, overhaul some things that weren’t working in between games, not being comfortable playing guys like Bennett and Despres because they don’t have a lot of experience, or flat out not giving them a sense of urgency throughout the series as to say, “Hey guys, we have the talent to win the whole thing, everyone thinks we are going to win the whole thing and no one wants to see us win the whole thing so let’s win the whole thing!”
My point is, the Bruins went in with a game plan and really didn’t need to adjust their plan because it was working and the Pens didn’t adjust their plan. At the end of the day, it was a terrible loss, an opportunity lost and the dream of the Stanley Cup coming back to the City of Champions is gone until next season.