Bob Smizik: Chavez is Pirates' best option at first base

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Nobody asked me, but . . .

• Free-agent Eric Chavez, 36 and a left-handed hitter, is the best available choice to platoon at first base for the Pirates with Gaby Sanchez. He has little experience at first -- just 10 career starts -- but as a six-time Gold Glove winner at third base, a transition would be smoother than for most. Chavez had an .827 OPS against right-handed pitching last year with an RBI every five at bats. Lifetime his OPS vs. RHP is .867. Get it done, Neal! And overpay, if necessary.

• Here’s what SI.com/MMQB columnist Andrew Brandt had to say about the Steelers salary-cap management: ''I don’t think there’s a team in the last three years that’s mortgaged the future as much as the Pittsburgh Steelers.” To back up that statement, Peter King wrote this: ''As their contracts stand now for 2014 — according to the underrated site overthecap.com — the Steelers are set to spend two-thirds of their cap on seven players: Ben Roethlisberger ($18.9 million cap number), LaMarr Woodley ($13.6 million), Ike Taylor ($11.9 million), Lawrence Timmons ($11.8 million), Troy Polamalu ($10.9 million), Heath Miller ($9.5 million) and Antonio Brown ($8.5 million).’’ The 2014 cap is $126.3 million.

• No Orpik, no Letang, no Martin, no Scuderi, no matter. Proving again that truth can be stranger than fiction, the Penguins continue to overcome a plot line no one would believe. They’re winning -- four straight -- without their top four defensemen.

• The Steelers get faulted too much for their drafting and development and not enough for their cap management.

• The utter lack of urgency the Pirates are displaying in filling their needs is perplexing and alarming.

• What a career for Pitt’s Aaron Donald, and capped off as a unanimous All-American selection. The last two Pitt players to do that were Larry Fitzgerald and Hugh Green. Nuf sed!

• No better story in college basketball than T.J. McConnell, who made the gutsy decision to leave Duquesne after two years to try his skill elsewhere. He ended up as the starting point guard for Arizona, where he is a key component in what is now the No. 1 team in the country.

• Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the world, is eligible for arbitration for the first time next year. The speculation is he’ll receive an award of $15 million -- if the Angels don’t first tie him up with a long-term deal. If not, the speculation goes further, Trout could receive $60 million in his three arbitration year.

• On-site parking at the Super Bowl: $150.

• In the comment section recently, someone referred to Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley as the '' former ball boy.’’ Haley needs to apologize to no one for his credentials. He is a former NFL head coach and a former OC of a Super Bowl team. Sticking the ball-boy tag on him is chicken feathers.

• Where are all the people who venomously attack Roger Goodell for suggesting an 18-game schedule for the profit-based NFL when it comes to criticizing the non-profit PIAA, which asks high school kids to play 16 games -- without an off week? These so-called educators are shameless in their pursuit of dollars on the backs on high school athletes.

• With the going rate for fourth outfielders being about $5 million in free agency, Jose Tabata’s contract is looking larcenous on the part of the Pirates. For the next three seasons, Tabata is scheduled to make $3 million, $4 million and $4.5 million. Nate McLouth signed a two year, $10.75 million contract to be a backup with Washington. Tabata’s 2013 batting line: .282/.343/.429 -- .771; McLouth’s: .258/.329/.399 -- .729.

• The off-season isn’t over but that doesn’t stop people from predicting how the 2014 MLB season will finish. At ESPN.com, David Schoenfield wrote, '' . . . the Pirates are likely to take a step backward before taking another step forward.’’

• In his subscribers’ newsletter, Joe Sheehan predicted the Pirates to finish third in the NL Central with an 82-80 record. He also wrote that the Pirates have ''a fantastic farm system,’’ and ''the future of the Pirates remains bright.’’

• Before attacking Schoenfield and Sheehan as too-stupid-too soon, ask yourself this: Would you be saying the same if they predicted a championship season for the Pirates.

• This from Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers have scored 20 or more points for seven consecutive games, which is the first time they’ve done that since 2002.

• The value of throwing left-handed: Seven or eight teams reportedly are interested in Jonathan Sanchez, who posted an 11.85 ERA in five appearances, four starts, with the Pirates last April. And it’s not like Sanchez found himself after being released. The Dodgers signed him and he posted a 5.13 ERA in the Pacific Coast League

• The firing of linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden at Penn State was a shocking story. Vanderlinden had the reputation of being a good recruiter and his work as linebackers coach speaks for itself.

• Is this a record? Pitt went nine minutes without a field goal in the first half and almost 14 minutes in the second half in losing to Cincinnati last night by one point.

• Biggest question concerning the Steelers the remainder of the way. Can they sign outside linebacker Jason Worilds before he hits free agency?


First Published December 17, 2013 5:30 AM

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