Bob Smizik: Hurdle, Huntington due new contracts

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Nobody asked me, but ...

• Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington are about to begin the final year of their current contracts with the Pirates. The team has a club option on both for 2015 but extensions are due, if not overdue. It’s standard practice when warranted -- and it is -- to extend before the final season. Expect an announcement soon. Of course, there’s the possibility Pirates already have done all this and told no one.

• Predictions of an ACC title, complaints about unfair rankings and talk of Player of the Year honors for Lamar Patterson don’t look so good today in view of Pitt’s 15-point loss to Duke last night at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers are 18-3 and tied for third in the league, but without a win to impress anyone. They’re still a good team, still an NCAA tournament team, but maybe not as good as a lot of people thought.

• My feelings about the upcoming Winter Olympics and the entire movement were summed up superbly in this column by Charles Lane of the Washington Post.

• insider and former MLB GM Jim Bowden wrote the following about Andrew Lambo: "Multiple pro scouts [told] me that they believe Lambo has a chance to put up the same type of numbers as [Justin] Morneau did for the Pirates in 2013." Was Bowden simply misinformed, or was he being cleverly honest in his opinion of what Lambo can do? In 101 at bats with the Pirates, Morneau has no homers and three RBIs.

• When the Penguins beat the Islanders last week, much was made of the fact it was the eighth win in the past nine starts for goalie Jeff Zatkoff. Lost in the celebration of his "win" was that he allowed four goals to a team that averaged 2.7 and he "won" only because his team scored six times.

• The widely held notion that Pedro Alvarez will head directly to free agency as soon as he is eligible because his agent is Scott Boras is not necessarily true. Just last year, Carlos Gomez of the Brewers, a Boras client, signed an extension a season away from free agency.

• Department of the Utterly Ridiculous: The New York Post ran a story listing the top ten Super Bowl winners. The only Steelers team to make the cut was the 1975 club that beat Dallas, 21-17, in Super Bowl X. Among the teams in front of the Steelers -- two from San Francisco and the St. Louis Rams. If you have some time to waste, here’s the story.

• Since rejoining the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have had eight coaches. The three other teams in the AFC North have seven combined during that span.

• Frank Coonelly at his finest: "The Pittsburgh Pirates will sign a $100 million contract at some point. I just can’t tell you when."

• Serious questions: Considering what we’ve learned in the past five years about the destructiveness of concussions, why is boxing, where a primary goal is to deliver multiple concussive blows, still allowed to continue in its present form? How can the respective state athletic commission in good conscience sanction these bouts?

• Writing in the Beaver County Times, John Perrotto says the Pirates offered A.J. Burnett $8.5 million to return this season. He provided no substantiation, but I doubt Perrotto, a guy with a lot of sources, pulled the figure out of thin air.

• A Harris Poll out this month offers more proof the NFL is not crumbling before our very eyes under the leadership of Roger Goodell. Thirty-four percent of the poll respondents said the NFL was their favorite sport. A distant second was MLB at 14 percent, which was followed by college football (11 percent), auto racing (7 percent), the NBA (6 percent), the NHL (5 percent) and college basketball (3 percent).

• Missing from the leader list of popular sports was soccer. We’ve been told for something like three decades that soccer is "fast growing" or even "the fastest-growing sport in America." Gorgonzola! It’s a fabulous game for kids to play; a terrible game for adults to watch.

• Just like MLB, in college sports the rich get richer. Notre Dame signed an agreement with Under Armour, the apparel company, for 10 years that will pay the school in cash and merchandise $90 million.

• Jerome Bettis was just about the classiest athlete I ever dealt with and his style has not changed now that he’s retired. Concerning his Hall of Fame chances, Bettis said, "The fact that I’m [a finalist] is an incredible honor. Whoever gets in deserves to be in because all of the names on that list deserve to be in, but you can’t put everybody in."

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