Forget the money. Forget that a qualifying offer wasn't made. Disengage from debating how much A.J. Burnett is worth.
Ask this question instead: Do the Pirates need Burnett in 2014?
Yes, they do. Absolutely.
A.J. Burnett had a career-best ERA. He led the National League in both strikeouts per nine innings and ground ball/fly ball ratio, an amazing and rare double. He only won 10 games, yeah – but it's funny how the same #BUCN Sabermetric geeks that say “wins don’t count anymore” use exactly that stat to vilify Burnett.
If Burnett leaves or retires, who takes his place in the Pirates rotation?
Jeff Locke? His ERA was 6.12 after the All-Star break.
Jameson Taillon? He's pitched zero big-league innings, and exactly 37 above the Class AA level.
Wandy Rodriguez? He didn't pitch after June 5 due to elbow and forearm problems.
Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole ought to be the core of the Pirates' rotation. Charlie Morton is a reliable No. 4. One of the question marks should come through as a No. 5.
If Burnett leaves or retires, the trickle-up probably won't yield much good.
The Pirates need Burnett. That seems undeniable.
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I'm on the panel of ClearChannel’s local version of "The Sports Reporters" and, on this week's episode, I clashed with DVE's Mike Prisuta over the Steelers' style moving forward. Prisuta maintains that the Steelers have to run, and stop the run, that all successful NFL teams do that and the Steelers must do so again.
Prisuta knows more about football than I do, but perhaps can't see the forest for the trees in this instance. I'm not disputing the importance of the run, or stopping the run. But I'm definitely saying that the run no longer comes first.
Consider New England's demolition of the Steelers. The Patriots used the pass to set up the run. QB Tom Brady was their primary threat, throwing for 432 yards. But RB Stevan Ridley rode Brady's coattails and rushed for 132 yards.
Eight of the Patriots' first 13 plays were passes. New England didn't ignore the run, but it was obviously secondary. Play No. 13 was a 37-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Danny Amendola. Patriots 7, Steelers 0.
The Patriots came out using no-huddle and consistently mixed it in. The Steelers didn't use no-huddle until they trailed, and not with any regularity until they were down 14-0. QB Ben Roethlisberger’s strengths aren't often exploited before the situation is desperate. The Steelers don't appear to like what works best.
Balance isn't possible when you always trail, and the Steelers have been outscored 61-19 in the first quarter. Why not come out no-huddle?
I'm no football analyst. But when I watch random NFL games, it doesn't even seem like the Steelers play the same sport. They seem deliberate and Neanderthal.
Maybe I’m overanalyzing. Maybe the Steelers just stink. 2-6 doesn't lie. Maybe the Steelers don't have enough quality personnel to exploit any strategy.
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Those calling for the 2-6 Steelers to make major changes in the wake of their admittedly horrific 55-31 loss at New England shouldn’t hold their breath. That’s not going to happen, at least not yet.
And it shouldn’t.
Football is a sport of continuity and cohesion. As flawed as the Steelers are in both departments, an overhaul now serves no purpose beyond further confusing.
So, here’s what the Steelers should do between now and season’s end:
Don’t worry about winning. That doesn’t mean tanking – though 3-13 gets a much better draft pick than 6-10.
But anytime you can’t make the playoffs, winning should assume second priority. Don’t say “anything can happen.” It won’t. Don’t bleat about the pride of any given Sunday. Did the Steelers display much pride in last night’s second half?
The Steelers need to find out everything they can about every player on their roster. If that means the “best” players don’t play every snap, so be it. The Steelers’ “best” players obviously aren’t getting the job done.
How far is S Shamarko Thomas from being able to start? Will on-field experience help LB Jarvis Jones cut down his errors? Is S Ryan Clark as washed-up as he looks? Can you count on OT Marcus Gilbert? Is OT Mike Adams done at 23? How many of the offensive line’s components are usable? Even respected vets like S Troy Polamalu and TE Heath Miller have to be under the microscope.
The same should go for the coaches. But it won’t. (Truthfully, the Steelers won’t do anything suggested here. The most important thing is beating Buffalo next Sunday, because “anything can happen.”)
Head coach Mike Tomlin won’t be fired no matter what. Nor will coordinators Todd Haley and Dick LeBeau, nor GM Kevin Colbert.
Tomlin and Colbert do jobs that the Steelers imbue with an unusual level of security. Firing Haley would be admitting that running off Bruce Arians was a mistake, and the Steelers won’t do that. LeBeau is a franchise legend and will script his own exit no matter how much the defense stinks (and it does).
You will be amazed by how much the Steelers stand pat this coming off-season. Look for minimal changes with the roster, and with the staff.
What the Steelers really need to do is reconsider their philosophy. The Steelers prefer to play a certain way: Balanced and close to the vest on offense, bend but don’t break on defense. That way is outdated and doesn’t work anymore. Personnel and coaching are problems. But the rot runs much deeper.
The Steelers will be lucky to win 2-3 more games. A) It’s a bad team. B) The Steelers show every sign of total collapse. The Steelers gave up in yesterday’s second half. Let a bad situation become hideous. Quit. That may start a trend.
The Steelers’ problems are many, and they are great. But their biggest problems are lack of humility, and an unyielding desire to prove themselves right. The Steelers would rather lose adhering to their traditional methodology than change and win.
That means the Steelers are going to keep losing for at least a few more years, maybe longer. They will do so with the same staff and a lot of the same players. They will do so in largely the same fashion, with mostly the same problems.
The Steelers have met the enemy, and he is them.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Alex Rodriguez and MLB are waging a war of words leading into the arbitration case that determines whether A-Rod’s 211-game suspension stands.
MLB COO Rob Manfred was unsparing, to say the least:
"This latest, sad chapter in Mr. Rodriguez's tarnished career is yet another example of this player trying to avoid taking responsibility for his poor choices… Mr. Rodriguez's use of PEDs was longer and more pervasive than any other player, and when this process is complete, the facts will prove that it is Mr. Rodriguez and his representatives who have engaged in ongoing, gross misconduct."
But A-Rod should be suspended 50 games. No more.
Under MLB’s drug policy, A-Rod is a first-time offender. He has never been suspended before. Rodriguez tested positive during MLB’s survey testing in 2003, but that was not subject to penalty, nor can it be used to designate A-Rod as more than a first-time offender moving forward. 2003 = freebie.
A-Rod’s link with Florida’s Biogenesis clinic is undeniable. He has not flunked a drug test since MLB’s PED policy began its penalty phase, but discipline may be levied for a non-analytic positive. Guilt can be determined by evidence and documentation.
A-Rod is guilty, but only for the first time. Any attempt by MLB to extend his suspension beyond 50 games is arbitrary and capricious.
The old and crusty purists might be chapped because PEDs have destroyed the grand old game.
But if you’re concerned about right and wrong, be concerned at every level. Identify this sham for what it is: An attempt by MLB to aid the New York Yankees by bum-rushing A-Rod out of baseball, thus saving the Yankees $86 million in salary plus the potential for $30 million in home-run milestone bonuses.
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PASCAL DUPUIS got high-sticked in the face by Kris Letang, his own teammate. So he went to the bench, calmly yanked out two teeth, and didn't miss a shift. Dupuis is a REAL MAN. After the game, the real man said, "My wife is gonna be SO MAD."
Dupuis pulled out more teeth than Claude Giroux has goals. #HaveYouEverSeenTheFlyersWinTheCup