It’s an exciting time of year in sports with so much to talk about both locally and nationally.
It may be considered a down time locally with only the Pirates of the “big three” teams still playing, however the Penguins are looking for a coach and making plenty of other tough decisions.
The Steelers have made decisions and the defense is the fastest its been in recent memory, which I feel bodes well. Here are six more quick takes on various topics both local and national:
1. Neil Walker’s injury is very unfortunate and will cost the team in the top of the batting order, however this gives Josh Harrison an additional opportunity to prove himself. Who knows how many gloves Harrison owns, but he has needed each one. Harrison continues to surprise me and each day plays as if he has had something to prove. While Walker’s injury is not great, I love seeing Harrison out on the field regardless of position. If Harrison continues to play well, sticking him at shortstop or left field could be the next move when Walker returns.
2. The Pittsburgh Power are having a heck of a season and if you’re missing it shame on you. The Power are in their fourth season of existence and currently have nine wins, which ties their inaugural season mark and is the win total from the past two years combined. I’m sure many of the team’s fans were concerned when the Power blew a lead Week 1 against the Cleveland Gladiators, which caused the firing of head coach Derek Stingley.
Since then, the Power have been very impressive, treating each game as a new week. Tommy Grady has been a tremendous upgrade as quarterback, the offensive line has improved its protection, the receiving corps has multiple threats and the defense continues to be a strong point.
The Power have six games remaining on their schedule and I expect a lot out of this team. I was encouraged by the off-season signings and the addition of new coach Ron James has been huge. He already had a relationship with several players, having coached the Utah Blaze, and quickly earned the team’s trust.
With that trust has come wins and with the wins comes the potential for a playoff berth – which would be a first for this team. The Power are getting stronger each week, gaining back from injury and recently defeating the Gladiators, handing them their first loss of the season. The Power have nothing to lose and are playing well together which is nice to see. I am encouraged about the team moving forward.
3. Matt Niskanen said his desire to stay with the Penguins would depend on who the new coach would be. Meanwhile GM Jim Rutherford said of Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Jussi Jokinen that he would try to keep one or two of those. If I had to cut one it would be Orpik. He’s becoming more injury-prone and I feel as though now is the best chance to get rid of him. Niskanen has become more of a leader and could take Orpik’s place. Jokinen had a nice season and playoffs. His confidence has to be high and hopefully Rutherford sees that and will keep him as a result.
4. People who think the San Antonio Spurs are boring do not understand basketball. They are very fundamentally sound and also can shoot the ball, as proven by their record first-half clip in Game 3. The Spurs are well-coached and almost always all five players on the floor know where they are supposed to be. In a league where many fans only care about superstars, the Spurs quietly go about their business and play to their strengths.
5. My U.S. Open pick is Matt Kuchar. Eight out of the past nine Open champions were first-time major winners. In addition with the quick green speeds at Pinehurst No. 2, the statistic of strokes gained putting will be important. Kuchar is 12th on the PGA Tour in the statistic. He’s won big tournaments like the Players Championship, Accenture Match Play Championship and the Memorial Tournament. It’s time for Kuchar to step up and win the major that has eluded him. He’s ready. Phil Mickelson’s putting will cost him this week which is a shame since he is getting the ball in the fairway more than ever.
6. World Cup action starts tomorrow. America will not get out of the first round of action. Germany is very talented and Ghana is a U.S. killer. Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be overlooked either. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann already said winning the World Cup is not realistic and he is honest but not what fans want to hear. My pick is Brazil, they’re just too good.