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Insider Only Monday Buzz Column on Gregory Polanco reaching potential/expectations; Pens ready to roll

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MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN

This should be a pretty good week for Gregory Polanco.

You would think that knowing you’ll be making at least $35 million over the next five years and maybe as much as $60 million if the Pirates exercise their options would put you in a pretty good mood.

According to multiple reports, that’s the deal the Pirates made with Polanco to buy out three years of his free agency.

That’s a lot of money, but it looked like a lot of money when the Pirates bought out some of Andrew McCutchen’s free agency a few years ago for $51 million and that turned out to be a steal.

It also probably cost McCutchen somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million.

McCutchen did the right thing and so did Polanco.

Neither should ever have to worry about money ever again and both should have great grand kids who will never have to worry about paying bills.

Both are young enough to get at least one more $100 million deal.

McCutchen gave the Pirates even more than they could have expected when they locked him up. He’s become one of the best players in baseball.

Now it’s time for Polanco to produce the kind of numbers that match his contract. The salary amounts aren’t anything close to astronomical when compared to what other stars are making, but most baseball stars are paid the big, big bucks because of past production.

The Pirates are betting on Polanco.

Polanco’s potential has been compared to the greatest players in Pirates’ history.

He’s a right fielder and he’s big and fast with a great arm. That has brought comparisons to Dave Parker.

But, in his first full season, Polanco’s 10 home runs were two fewer than Doug Frobel had in 1984 when he was, 25, about the same age as Polanco.

Of course Frobel only hit .203 and drove in 28 runs compared to Polanco’s .258 and 52 RBI.

But Polanco has a long way to go to produce as well as past Pirates right fielders have at his age.

So far, Polanco is a little behind where Orlando Merced was at 24. He had 10 HRs, 50 RBI and batted .275 in 1991.

And Polanco has a long, long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as Bobby Bonilla, who, at 24 in 1987 hit .300 with 15 HRs and 77 RBI. The next year he went to 24-100, .274.

Dave Parker?

He’s the guy with whom Polanco has been compared the most. When he was 24 in 1975, Parker hit .308 with 25 HRs and 101 RBI.

It’s not fair to expect any kid to become the next Roberto Clemente, but Clemente hit .314 with 16 HRs and 94 RBI when he was 25 in 1960. And 16 home runs at Forbes Field translates to somewhere around 30 at PNC Park.

Willie Stargell wasn’t a right fielder but when he was 24 in 1964, he hit .273 with 21 HRs and 78 RBIs. The next season he went to 27, 107, .272. Again, add at least 10 home runs to that total if he had been playing in PNC Park.

Polanco has superstar written all over him. He has the size, the speed, the arm and the swing and both he and the Pirates did the right thing by locking him up for six more seasons, but now it’s up to Polanco to start proving that he’s closer to Dave Parker than he is to Orlando Merced.

PENGUINS MUST STICK TO THEIR IDENTITY IN POST-SEASON

–The Penguins appear to be ready for the playoffs. They have scored 21 goals in their last four games.

After scoring five in three consecutive games they put a six spot on the Flyers at Consol Energy Center Sunday.

This is 2016, NHL teams just don’t score five goals a game.

The amazing thing about the Penguins’ streak is that they are not just putting up ridiculous numbers. They’re putting them up against teams that are going to be in the playoffs or teams that are desperately trying to get in.

Mike Sullivan has created a new identity for the team and it’s obvious that everybody has bought in. This team is all about speed and shooting the puck.

The Penguins have been so good for the last month and a half that you have to wonder if they’ve created something that the rest of league just can’t figure out how to stop.

Whether it will work in the playoffs is not as much of a question as will they try to make it work.

The worst thing the Penguins could do now is to allow themselves to be overcome by the playoff mentality that says you have to win every game 2-1.

The only way they will make a long playoff run this year is by playing just as fast or faster than they’ve been playing for the last month and a half.

Let the rest of the league figure out how to slow them down.

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Photo: David Hague

About The Author

John Steigerwald

TIOPS Columnist

John Steigerwald, a life long Pittsburgher, has been covering PITTSBURGH sports since 1977 as a TV anchor/reporter, columnist radio reporter/commentator and talk show host. He is also the author of one of the best selling local books in Pittburgh history, “Just Watch The Game.”

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