New Castle News


April 22, 2014

Greg Huston: Bumbling Bucs, not-so-raging Bull and an Easter Brawl

NEW CASTLE — •The Pirates have lost nine of their last 12 games after Sunday’s 14-inning defeat to the Brewers, and there is plenty of blame to go around as the losses have piled up. The starting pitching has been suspect, with the exception of Edison Volquez, and the only thing consistent about the hitting is the inconsistency. While I don’t think anyone could have done the job that manager Clint Hurdle has done over the past three years, his insistence on sticking with Jason Grilli in the closer’s role borders on the ridiculous. Even when he’s been successful in closing out games this year and at the end of last year after his elbow injury, he has appeared shaky, and that came back to bite the Buccos over the weekend as he blew two saves against the Brewers. In both cases, Ryan Braun and his testosterone-fueled bat played the hero with ninth-inning home runs against Grilli. Those two blown saves were the second and third this year, already giving him more blown saves than all of last year. It may be time to give Mark Melancon or Tony Watson the shot that they have earned through performance, not reputation.

•It seems like no one wants to say it, so let me be the first. Andrew McCutchen has done next to nothing this year. If the Pirates want to be winners, he needs to get going.

•Our Easter Sunday dinner got off to a nice a start with the Pirates and Brewers brawling around third base when Gerrit Cole had some choice words for the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez, after his look-at-me strut to first base ended in a triple. Gomez is a punk, but to be fair, so is Cole. They are both extremely fiery and competitive — the type of guys that you love if they’re on your side, but get your blood boiling if they’re on the other. Hines Ward was the epitome of this type player, whose smile and passion let him feel the love from the home crowd and pure hatred from everyone else.

•The aforementioned Easter dinner, started with conversation on the Bucco brawl but eventually found its way to Pedro Alvarez, who was out of the lineup Sunday against the Brewers. While Alvarez has hit home runs this year, in fact almost exclusively so, his lack of any other type of production is troubling. His numbers will most assuredly pick up as the year goes on, but can the Pirates afford his inconsistency, from both a winning and salary perspective? On winning, since no one is getting on base in front of him, Alvarez is hitting primarily solo shots, which are nice, but not extremely helpful. With salary in mind, the Scott Boras client will get a huge deal from someone when free agency hits in a few years since he does have raw power, making it likely that the Pirates should probably be thinking about trading him while he has value. If they wait much longer, and he continues to slump, he may become useless to them from every perspective.

•If anyone in the world can explain to me why Alvarez takes a golf swing for every warm-up swing, I’d be glad to listen. I’ve been around baseball my whole life as a player, coach and fan, and never once considered that taking a golf practice swing on anything other than a golf course would be a good idea. The whole point of the warmup swing is to simulate what you will do against live action, and Alvarez literally never does that. My brother-in-law may have been on to something when he said that Pedro is probably just practicing hitting the 0-2 curveball in the dirt that he usually strikes out on.

•It came out this week that the PIAA is looking to push some reforms through that may limit the ability of charter schools to field athletic teams, instead having the students who attend those schools play for their home district. This is common sense legislation that if passed, will help to restore competitive balance in a system gone haywire. While anyone who is not affiliated with charter schools would tell you that that idea is great, the push from the PIAA falls short since parochial schools were not also included in the plan. All charter schools have done is take what the parochial schools have been doing for years, to another level. Easy solution is to put them all in one league and let them have at it.

(Questions, comments, ideas? E-mail Greg at:


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