Daily 5: The Penguins and Cody Franson


TIOPS DAILY FIVE RUMBLINGS, MUSINGS, OPINIONS 1. A.J. Burnett on Sunday threw around 70 pitches, 40 fastballs, 20 cuveballs, 6-10 changeups and the velocity was very encouraging. “He threw all three pitches effectively,” GM Neal Huntington said yesterday. “Curveball was good. Changeup was good for A.J. and the fastball showed life.” The Pirates are about 10-14 days from needing to figure out their rotation for Burnett’s expected return for the Cubs series. “We’ll have a challenging decision to make,” Huntington said. Jeff Locke is the prime candidate to come out, but for Huntington and the Pirates, would there really be any drop off by keeping Locke in the rotation and planting Charlie Morton on the bench? For whatever reason there continues to be a narrative that Charlie Morton is a quality starting pitcher. The only difference between Locke and Morton — Morton makes about $8 million, Locke $531,000 — 2.Read More »

Steigerwald: Mike Vick says he learned his lesson and not the lesson everyone is thinking about


MONDAY-COLUMN Mike Vick says he learned his lesson. No, not that one. We’re pretty sure he’s learned his lesson about electrocuting and drowning defenseless dogs. Twenty-one months of hard time probably took care of that. Steelers fans everywhere have had several days to deal with the Steelers’ decision to bring Vick in to back up Ben Roethlisberger and how they will treat him. I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on the people who said they would never root for the Steelers again fulfilling that promise , but there will be thousands of people holding their noses and rooting for Vick to succeed if Roethlisberger goes down. That’s when the Steelers will be hoping that he learned his football lesson. The Jets brought Vick in to back up Geno Smith last season and, from the minute he signed, Vick was considered a good bet to be the starting quarterback beforeRead More »

Daily 5: McCutchen, Penguins-Blueline, Trade Talk


TIOPS DAILY FIVE *Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* Photo: David Hague 1. With Gregory Polanco looking like a potential superstar, I was asked a great question on twitter. “How long before Andrew McCutchen is not the Pirates best outfielder” That is so tough to say. When it comes to which outfielder has the best tools, McCutchen might arguably be third behind Starling Marte and Polanco, but that doesn’t mean both are going to pass McCutchen in the next year or two. What makes McCutchen so special is how consistent he is on a year to year basis. 2. Looking more into the future, three years from now everyone will be fretting over Andrew McCutchen’s long-term future. However, McCutchen will be 31 years old at the end of his deal in 2018. Some good years left in him but can anyone imagine Bob Nutting paying McCutchen $20-$25 million per season for a playerRead More »

Daily 5: Two knuckleheads unable to stay off the reefer could cost the Steelers big


TIOPS DAILY FIVE Rumblings, Musings, Opinions 1. The Pittsburgh Steelers could miss the playoffs because two knuckleheads couldn’t lay off the reefer. Martavis Bryant pending four game suspension is because of a failed drug test (marijuana) and what should have everyone in the organization furious is Bryant obviously can’t kick the problem as this wasn’t the first time or he would not have been in the program in the first place. In fact, Bryant has either failed four drug tests to receive the four game suspension or failed to cooperate recently with the administered testing which would immediately slap the four game suspension after previously failing three tests. There’s some out there who say drinking alcohol makes you more impaired than smoking marijuana, but no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it violates the NFL’s substance abuse policy and whether it should be or not, it remains illegalRead More »

Benz: Michael Vick paying his debt to society doesn’t mean that you’ve paid your debt to humanity


TIOPS WEDNESDAY COLUMN I’m not sure what sickens me more: The Steelers decision to sign convicted dog-fighting killer and washed up QB Michael Vick? Or the length the fanbase is going to in an attempt to justify the move. What Michael Vick did makes him human excrement. And I don’t want him playing on the team I’ve rooted for my whole life. I’m not telling you that you have to feel the same way I do. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t. After all, we are the same fan base that disparaged the Patriots for employing Aaron Hernandez. We mocked Bengal felons over the years. We turn our nose up at the Ravens for building a statue to Ray Lewis and paying Terrell Suggs. And we wag our finger at the legacy on the “White House” era Cowboys. But, sure. Let’s bend over backwards to rationalize the signing ofRead More »

Daily 5: McCutchen’s MVP Surge; Sestito fits certain role Pens brass have identified?


TIOPS DAILY FIVE Rumblings, Musings, Opinions 1. Andrew McCutchen making his MVP surge, was 2-5 with a home run and 4 RBIs in the Pirates 7-2 win over the Florida Marlins Wednesday night. On pace for 110 RBIs this season, which would be a career high (previous 96 in 2012), McCutchen’s 85 RBIs currently place him 3rd in the NL. McCutchen’s 2013 NL MVP winning season he drove in just 84 runs. Hitting with runners in scoring position has been an area of improvement for McCutchen. In 2014 McCutchen posted an .887 OPS with runners in scoring position. This season McCutchen’s OPS with RISP is 1.172, batting .394. A fun stat to keep an eye on for McCutchen — His slash line is currently .300/.400/.521. — The last center fielder to post a .300/.400/.500 slash line in four consecutive seasons was Mickey Mantle, courtesy of the Yes Network. 2. TheRead More »

Daily 5: Crosby’s power in the organization


TIOPS DAILY FIVE Rumblings, Musings, Opinions 1. Mike Johnston when constructing his lines believes in pairs of two’s. What’s good to see is he isn’t overthinking things and Sidney Crosby will get the first shot at playing with Phil Kessel. “You’d probably find Kessel starting on the right side with Sid to begin with,” Johnston said today at the Penguins Alumni Outing. Malkin will surely get some looks with Kessel in the preseason but the Penguins plan going into the season with Eric Fehr injured is: Crosby – Kessel Malkin – Hornqvist Bonino – Dupuis And let the other pieces fall into place. 2. There was a report in Canada on the day the Penguins traded for Phil Kessel that Mike Johnston at the draft was already kicking the idea around of Kessel playing with Evgeni Malkin. What changed? Sidney Crosby is not LeBron James when it comes to dictatingRead More »

Daily 5: Pirates should forget trying to be fundamentally sound defensively


TIOPS DAILY FIVE *Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* 1. Sunday night the Pirates capped off their toughest 18 game stretch of the season going a combined 13-5 against the Giants, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers and Cubs. The Pirates own the best record in baseball since May 7th and maybe it’s the 20 years of losing that still causes some reluctance to peg this team as a World Series contender but this team is really good despite some of the flaws they have and unlike the past two seasons, they have a swagger about them. They truly believe they can win a World Series. Enjoy the run. 2. There hasn’t been a more important development for the Pirates than Gregory Polanco’s emergence over the last four weeks. Hitting .330/.379/.511 in month of August, Polanco has changed the entire dynamic of the Pirates lineup and the Pirates $60 million offer to him isn’t looking soRead More »

Daily 5 Weekend Edition: Walker 1B Talk; Hurdle; Brown/Tomlin Connection; Gonchar likely to get contract & more


TIOPS DAILY FIVE: WEEKEND EDITION *Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* 1. Josh Harrison during his rehab stint in Indianapolis has seen playing time at second base and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle believes Harrison’s best position is second base. The ideal scenario for the Pirates that has been obvious for weeks and maybe months is Neil Walker at first base, Harrison at second base, Jordy Mercer at shortstop and Jung Ho Kang at third base. However, the friction between the Pirates and Neil Walker ever since the Pirates made a low-ball 6 year offer in the range of $18 million to Walker way back in 2011 has never been resolved and unless Walker has a new long-term contract in his hands, the Pirates are in the difficult position of asking Walker to move to first base. Would they love to? Absolutely, especially in the off-season where it’s more ideal, but the Hendricks brothersRead More »

Daily 5: Burnett, Harrison, Boyd, Ehrhoff Chatter, NHL/MLBAM partnership


TIOPS DAILY FIVE *Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* 1. The competitor A.J. Burnett is, I’d bank on him making at least one more start but the Pirates are at the point where there’s no way you’re sitting bank and relying on him being a productive pitcher again this season.. Jason Grilli at age 36 with the Pirates in 2013 suffered a strained flexor tendon on July 22, he pitched again on September 4, 2013 but was never the same pitcher that season or even in 2014 when the Pirates parted ways with him. When Grilli returned from the injury in 2013, still a lot easier to tolerate the pain to pitch an inning than trying to go out and throw six, seven innings like Burnett will have to do. 2. Being a first year coach, Pat Narduzzi had no choice but to suspend Tyler Boyd for the season opener and the PittRead More »