Bob Smizik: One down, 15 to go

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Nobody asked me, but ...

• Possibly, a 5-0 rout would have been better. But there were a couple of aspects of the Penguins’ 4-3 win over Columbus last night that made the more narrow victory more desirable. For one, it was a much tougher loss for the Blue Jackets to accept than an absolute smackdown. They had a taste of victory -- a two-goal lead -- snatched away and they could not recover. They may not.

• For another, the three Columbus goals in the first 21 minutes might have been the perfect starting point for another infamous Marc-Andre Fleury playoff meltdown. Instead, Fleury grew stronger in adversity and shut down the Blue Jackets for the final 39 minutes, including a clutch save on a wide-open chance by Ryan Murray with about a minute remaining.

• How is it the Pirates are labeled cheap -- by some -- for not signing Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau, but the other 28 teams that did not sign those players are not likewise charged? In truth, the Pirates would have been terminally stupid to sign Morneau after his stint with the team. As for Byrd, Philadelphia ridiculously overpaid for him.

• Pitt quarterback Tom Savage is rapidly climbing in the NFL draft based on the strong arm he has shown in multiple workouts for teams. Todd McShay, an ESPN.com expert, has Savage going to Houston with the first pick in the second round. Mel Kiper has Savage going to Cincinnati in the third round (88th overall).

• A negative from the Penguins' win: If they think they can continue to play at that level and continue to win, they might be in for a crushing disappointment.

• Here's a question for Pirates fans. Which player would you prefer as a right-handed bat? Player A has a career batting line of .258/.337/.420 -- .757 with a home run every 31 at-bats. Player B’s line is 280/.335/.425 -- .760 with a home run every 41 at-bats. Player A is 30 and makes $2.3 million. Player B is 36 and makes $8 million. Answer below.

• Has Pittsburgh's passion for NHL hockey finally met its match with the exceedingly high cost of playoff tickets? You would think so with the team advertising ''good seats still available" for Game 2, after last night’s win.

• According to research done by ESPN The Magazine, five of the top 10 highest-paid athletes in the world and seven of the top 16 are NFL quarterbacks. None is named Ben Roethlisberger, who is not listed in the top 50. No. 1 is boxer Floyd Mayweather, who earned $73 million for two fights.

• Opposing baserunners have been successful on 16 of 18 steal attempts against the Pirates this season. Shades of Rod Barajas!

• Penguins regular-season games drew an average rating of 7.55, which was the largest for any U.S.-based NHL team for the fifth straight season. That rating figure translates into about 235,000 average viewers.

• According to ProFootballTalk.com, the probable unveiling of the 2014 NFL schedule will be Tuesday, although possibly later in the week.

• Nyjer Morgan had a .484 on-base percentage with Cleveland (33 plate appearances) but was optioned to the minors when Michael Bourn came off the disabled list.

• Add Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt to the list of people who want electronic calling of balls and strikes. ''My guess is within the next 10 years – that you’ll see the balls and strikes being treated just like they treat the line calls in tennis."

• Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon’s take on the epidemic of major arm injuries: "Sometimes you have to look underneath the surface, and I tend to agree it has a lot to do with youth sports and travel teams and multiple travel teams and kids pitching to win when they're really young and throwing too many pitches. I think the more recent epidemic curiously might be tied to what they're doing before they even get here professionally." Amen!

• Pedro Alvarez is in a 1-for-22 slump with 10 strikeouts.

• The unimportance of spring training numbers: Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas hit .429 in the spring with four homers, seven doubles, more walks (11) than strikeouts (8) and a 1.290 OPS. In the regular season (through Tuesday), he was 4-for-40 (.100) and no homers. Last year, Moustakas hit .444 in spring training and .195 in April and .171 in May.

• Names from the past: Brad Lincoln, the Pirates' first pick in the 2006 draft and the fourth player taken, was outrighted by the Phillies last week. The wails that accompanied his trade to Toronto for Travis Snider now appear to be wildly out of place. Daniel McCutchen, acquired in the Xavier Nady deal with the Yankees, was outrighted by the Texas Rangers. Jeff Clement, acquired from Seattle in the Jack Wilson deal and memorably handed the first base job in 2010 without accompanying credentials, has retired. His career batting line: .218/.277/.371 -- .648.

• Answer: Player A, Gaby Sanchez; Player B, Marlon Byrd.


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