Bob Smizik: Hurdle had the leverage in contract negotiations

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Nobody asked me, but ...

• The guess here is the reason contract extensions for Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington were not done, as expected, before the season is that these were seriously hardball negotiations. Hurdle, in particular, had a ton of leverage and could have been asking for more money than Bob Nutting was used to paying his manager. Hurdle was out of managerial work when he accepted the job. He was Manager of the Year when these negotiations took place.

• The Steelers' first three draft choices, according to Mel Kiper: 1. Odell Beckham, WR, LSU; 2. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame; 3. Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech.

• Only by the bizarro standings compilations of the National Hockey League could there be 25 of 30 teams with more wins than losses, as was the case as of yesterday. In the NBA 16 of 30 teams have winning records. In MLB last season, 15 of 30.

• Edinson Volquez gave the Pirates a nice jolt of optimism with his splendid performance yesterday against St. Louis. Beating Adam Wainwright made it even better.

• Perhaps the only aspect of MLB growing faster than players’ salaries is owners’ revenue. In 2003, according to the Sports Business Journal, player percentage of revenue was 63. Last season it was, according to estimates, 50.

• The Pirates often are accused of moving prospects slowly. Not so with Stetson Allie. After batting .227 with a .697 OPS and four home runs in 236 at-bats at high Class A last season, Allie, 23, started this season at Class AA. He had a 35 percent strikeout rate at Class A. When Pedro Alvarez played in Class A, his whiff rate was 29 percent.

• Winning changes everything: There was a time when Huntington’s top lieutenants, Kyle Stark and Larry Broadway, were bombarded with criticisms, mainly over their lack of experience. No one is saying a word these days.

• Might be a good idea if in the future the Pirates avoid the doctor who told Jameson Taillon his ligament was "strong."

• NCAA president and nationally renown blowhard Mark Emmert called the attempts at unionization of football players ''grossly inappropriate." Penn State fans might see some irony with those words. Emmert also said such a movement ''would blow up everything..." Kind of like what he tried to do to Penn State football.

• An intriguing concept: Writing in ESPN The Magazine, Howard Bryant said that Tampa Bay and Oakland are pushing for a new way to slot the annual MLB draft. Instead of won-loss record determining the order, they would have revenue being the determining factor. It might be difficult to monitor, but in the absence of a salary cap, it makes perfect sense.

• As color analyst on the Final Four, Greg Anthony is really good.

• What exactly was the purpose of inviting Barry Bonds to be part of Pirates Opening Day ceremonies? For the team to rebuild a relationship with Bonds? Or to offend the significant portion of the fan base that detests him?

• It has been widely reported that it was a black ball from Boston College that kept Connecticut out of the ACC. Wonder if BC and the ACC are having second thoughts after the conference’s disappointing regular season and more disappointing NCAA tournament now that UConn is playing for the national championship?

• For all those people who think the Pirates or any team can bide its time with substandard talent and then upgrade at the trading deadline, it’s not that easy. For starters, there’s no guarantee such teams will be in a position to buy at the deadline. For seconds, there’s no guarantee the player or players they need will be available. For thirds, if such a player is available, there’s no guarantee he will produce once acquired.

• People are forever criticizing MLB for the late start of some of its postseason games. But there’s rarely criticism of the NCAA basketball tournament, where games routinely start well after 9 p.m. and sometimes after 10.

• The fact Gerrit Cole pitched the fourth game of the season shows attempts by some to give numerical designations to members of a starting rotation are nonsense. Cole is not the Pirates' fourth-best starter.

• Why is the site of the NCAA Final Four consistently referred to as being in North Texas rather than Arlington. That’s like saying the Super Bowl last year was in Northern New Jersey. Or calling them the Southwestern Pennsylvania Pirates.

• According to Team Marketing Report, the Pirates' average ticket price of $18.32 is third-lowest in MLB, higher than only San Diego ($16.37) and Arizona ($17.78) At Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, the average price is $53.33 and $51.55, respectively. Average prices in the NL Central: Chicago ($46.66), St. Louis ($33.84), Milwaukee ($24.96) and Cincinnati ($22.03).

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