TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. The Pirates disaster of a series with the Washington Nationals was capped off with a 9-2 loss on Sunday where the Nationals put up nine runs in the first inning. Pittsburgh was outscored 19-3 in the series and the Pirates saw first hand they weren’t playing the White Sox or Phillies anymore.
The Pirates after getting within four games of first place, have now fallen back to six games behind the Cardinals.
Still so much baseball to be played but the National League playoff picture remains the same as a month ago.
There are six true playoff contenders, Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Pirates and Cubs. Don’t expect any of that to change from now until September. Can’t buy into the Mets, Braves as legitimate contenders.
With the way Pirate hitters can be so overmatched against an elite pitcher like they were against Max Scherzer Saturday afternoon and Madison Bumgarner in last years Wild Card game, it’s another reason the Pirates need to avoid the Wild Card play-in game but catching the Cardinals is going to be daunting despite their injuries. They’ll just keep adding.
2. Count me among those who was rooting for history once Max Scherzer went into the ninth with a perfect game and leading 6-0. Jose Tabata ended up becoming the most hated man in Washington D.C. for 24 hours, which is pretty hard to do, and even outside of D.C. in some circles. The blame, though, goes on Scherzer for taking the risk in pitching inside. Tabata is not at fault in any way. Tabata appeared to lean in a tad but for someone who is regarded as having an I don’t care attitude, this was good for Tabata. Criticism should be towards the ump for those who feel Tabata illegally leaned in. At the end of the day, Scherzer didn’t seem too upset about it, he knows he made a mistake and the pitch got away from him, and therefore, no one else should be.
3. The Penguins have their list of specific targets but league sources say Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is kicking the tires on multiple top-6 forwards who are in play, including several big names, putting many feelers out there. As one source put, last summer the Penguins were the hunted in trade talks because they had a huge available trade asset in a 40 goal scorer in his prime with a good contract in James Neal who everyone around the league knew the Penguins were determined to trade.
This off-season the Penguins are not operating from that type of strength in trade talks as they don’t have that type of player to pitch to other teams. They’re more in the boat of having to get into a bidding war for the Patrick Sharps, others, with picks/prospects and get creative this summer in deals with the Penguins also trying to move a contract or two.
4. Dave Molinari of the PG reported this morning that the Penguins are believed to have kicked some tires on Phil Kessel. Not surprising but this would sure be the gutsy type of move, rival GM’s are expecting from Rutherford but unlikely this one happens. The talk around the league on Kessel is the Leafs are willing to pick up $1-$2 million in salary (per year) of Kessel’s $8 million cap hit and even take on a bad contract with a short-term left on it but in return they’re still seeking a 4-for-1 deal, two high draft picks, top prospect, top tier NHL ready prospect. The Leafs have made it clear to teams, this is still a 40 goal scorer in his 20’s who they don’t have to move.
5. The Penguins have made a qualifying offer to Beau Bennett and have begun discussions on a two year deal. The discussions, though, mean nothing regarding his future with the team. The Penguins tendered Tyler Kennedy at $2.2 million in 2013 and traded him days later. It’s just proper business right now with restricted free agents. Don’t read anything into it.