Bob Smizik: Possible explanation for Pirates' offseason malaise

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Nobody asked me, but . . .

• Writing in his newsletter, Joe Sheehan suggested the Pirates' decision to virtually stand pat in the offseason was calculated: ''They should take a step back from last year, and I suspect their quiet winter shows that they know this.'' For anyone who believes their pursuit of James Loney and Josh Johnson proves otherwise, let’s just say the Pirates have a thick history of ‘almost’ getting their man.

• The Penguins are not exactly headed into the playoffs with a large dose of momentum. After going 40-19 through February, they are 8-9 in their past 17 games. The latest bad news was a 4-1 loss Tuesday night to Carolina, a team that is in seventh place in a division the Penguins lead by a wide margin. Coach Dan Bylsma doesn’t seem to have any answers. The Penguins might not be a team trying to get their coach fired. They’re just playing like it.

• They’re crying at Augusta and at CBS with news of Tiger Woods' withdrawal from the Masters. No athlete of this generation, if ever, has impacted the interest/viewership in an event like Woods.

• For those who find goaltending statistics meaningful: Of the 30 NHL goalies who played in five or more games in March, Marc-Andre Fleury ranked 18th in goals-against average and 13th in save percentage. Jeff Zatkoff was 16th and seventh.

• Critics of Jamie Dixon’s coaching ability should remember this: Pitt earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with this starting lineup: Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, Ashton Gibbs, Nasir Robinson, Gary McGhee. And, yes, I know that team lost in the second round to Butler. A primary reason for that loss was that Butler had the better talent.

• MLB’s decision to add instant replay was the right move and it worked superbly on opening day at PNC Park. Now if they’d only allow electronics to call balls and strikes -- the technology is available -- the game would be so much better.

• Go figure! Over the past three seasons, Paul Maholm was 32-28 with a 3.93 ERA and Edinson Volquez was 25-29 with a 5.09 ERA. Both were free agents in the offseason. Maholm got a $1.5 million contract. Volquez got a $5 million contract.

• Amazing Barry Bonds stat. In his first season, which was a partial one, he struck out 102 times. He never struck out more than 100 times again.

• Hometown fans I: Ryan Braun received a standing ovation in his first at-bat in Milwaukee since being suspended in absolute disgrace last year. Those, myself included, who believed Braun would have a hard time regaining favor with Brewers fans for his lying, despicable ways were badly off base.

• Hometown fans II: When he allowed a bad goal to trickle past him Monday night -- the third of nine shots he failed to stop -- a chorus of home-crowd boos rained down on Marty Brodeur, who is merely one of the greatest goalies in NHL history and arguably the greatest player in New Jersey Devils history.

• David Todd of 970 ESPN is spreading his wings. In addition to his duties with 970, Todd will begin a Saturday 6 to 9 a.m show on 225 stations on Fox Sports Radio. There is no Pittsburgh outlet for FSR but the iHeart Radio app on phones and computers can be used to find a station by typing FSR in the search bar.

• Catching up with former Pirates: Joe Beimel, who hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2011 when he posted a 5.33 ERA with the Pirates, made the Mariners' roster. Evan Meek, out of MLB since July 2012 when his ERA was 6.75 with the Pirates, pitched on opening day for the Orioles, allowing two walks in 2/3 of an inning. Utilityman Steve Pearce also is back with Baltimore.

• Not every good pitcher begins his career on the fast track. Left-hander Kevin Siegrist was drafted in the 41st round out of junior college by St. Louis in 2008. He played in the Class A level or lower until mid-2012. Since joining the Cardinals last year as a relief pitcher, he has a 0.45 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and a 11.25 K/9.

• Hitless wonders/pitching marvels: There were 48 games in MLB last season that ended in 1-0 scores. The Pirates won five of them. The average winning percentage for MLB teams when scoring 1, 2 or 3 runs was .270. The Pirates were .390 (25-39) in those situations.

• How about that Baltimore lineup 1-6: Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz and Matt Wieters. That group has 21 seasons of 20 or more homers, six seasons of 30 or more, and one of 50 or more. Leadoff hitter Markakis has two seasons of more than 110 RBIs.


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