New Castle News

Sports

May 27, 2014

Greg Huston: Forget Wandy, Bucs should follow Harrison’s lead

NEW CASTLE — Well now that the universe has course-corrected itself and the Pirates are back to playing sub .500 baseball, sports fan in the region have precious little to look forward to this summer.

Even though the Pirates eventually collapsed in 2011 and 2012, that didn’t happen until August and September of those respective years, giving those summer months much meaning. Last year’s magical ride toward a winning record, a one-game playoff win over the Reds and a nail-biting series loss to the Cards, gave Pittsburgh sports fans much to chew on well into the fall. If the Buccos can’t turn things around here soon, and nothing about this present lineup suggests that they will, it means that the summer crowds will return to being sparse, and only the long, hot wait until Steelers’ training camp will fill the void.

•The Pirates waived Wandy Rodriguez last week after several dismal performances, and rightfully so. Even though they owe him a large chunk of change for the remainder of this season, regardless of if he’s on the team or not, there was no way they could keep putting him out on the mound without essentially saying that they were giving up on this season.

Here’s the thing about Rodriguez, he never really acted like he wanted to be in Pittsburgh. The forearm injury that sidelined him for much of the past two seasons was just a boring subplot to the fact that his body language screamed, “Get me the heck out of here!” If it had been five years ago, that kind of body language would have been understandable, but the fact that the Pirates have been extremely competitive the past three seasons makes you wonder just what was going on inside Wandy’s head.

•With cases like Wandy, and Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun for that matter, it shows how awful MLB guaranteed contracts can be. These guys get caught cheating, quit on their teams, and do whatever else, and that check just keeps on rolling in. It’s a nice protection for the players who represent themselves well, and is something that is not afforded to the players in the injury-riddled NFL, but it does allow MLB players to do just about anything, including basically quitting, with no repercussions.

•The NFHS, which governs high school athletics, has decided to reinstitute the rule that allows basketball players to enter the lane as soon as the foul shooter has released the ball from their hand, matching what currently goes on in the NCAA and NBA games.

The rule in high school for the past 15 years or so was that players had to wait until the ball touched the rim before entering the lane. I grew up playing under the rule that players could go into the lane immediately, and found the waiting-game rule that has been in place for my coaching career, to be odd.

What will be interesting to see is how coaches adjust their rebounding strategies based on the new rule, and how quickly players adapt. I can remember when the rule switched the last time and how many lane violations that entailed.

•Who knows how long it can last, but Josh Harrison has been a mini-revelation for the Pirates over the last few weeks. As stars Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte continue to do next to nothing, the unsung Harrison has played just about every fielding position with aplomb and has been a spark plug at the plate.

Harrison seems to be just about the only Pirate who did not get fat on the success of last year, and is playing like his job is on the line every day. Michael McKenry did the same thing a few years ago for the Buccos from the catcher’s position, using a little skill and a lot of heart to help win games and win over fans.

It’d be nice to see a few other Pirates pick up that same attitude, especially those that have a ton of skill to begin with.

(Questions, comments or ideas? Email Greg at: hustongregor@hotmail.com)

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