Bob Smizik: No stars, no problem for Penguins

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Nobody asked me, but...

• You heard it here, there and everywhere: The Penguins would have immense difficulty winning without goal-scoring from their biggest stars. That theory would increase tenfold, at least, once they fell behind two goals very early to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Turns out there were no goals from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz or James Neal and, what's more, no power-play goals in six attempts. The result was not defeat but a 4-3 Penguins’ win. Go figure!

• Nothing official, but the Blue Jackets have to lead the NHL postseason in stupid penalties.

• Congratulations to Jory Rand, who is leaving KDKA-TV next month for KABC in Los Angeles, where he will be a news anchor/reporter. Jory was never afraid to ask the tough question in the toughest situation, even if it made him appear to be the bad guy. Anyone who thinks that’s easy has never been there. Good luck, Jory!

• With Pitt assistant Barry Rohrssen leaving for Kentucky, there has been immediate speculation that highly ranked 6-4 guard Mustapha Heron, Class of 2016, will eventually follow. Rohrssen was Pitt’s lead recruiter on Heron, who is ranked as high as 15th nationally. Chris Dokish ranks Heron as the second-best (potential) recruit of the Jamie Dixon era, behind only DeJuan Blair.

• The Pirates were not included in a recent ranking of the 10 best rotations in MLB by SI.com. The bad news on that is this: Three other NL Central teams were. St. Louis was second, Cincinnati third and Milwaukee 10th.

• The two keys to winning the remaining games in the Penguins-Blue Jacket series: Don’t score first; don’t take a 3-1 lead.

• Why would anyone pay to attend a golf tournament to sit in the bleachers at a certain hole? That’s roughly the equivalent of watching a baseball game and only being able to see second base.

• Clint Hurdle’s explanation of why he removed Gerrit Cole after eight innings Sunday is a bit of an insult to Cole, who is nothing if not the fiercest competitor: "I felt that he had competed very well, and I didn’t want to see a bad mark for him today. Still cutting teeth, four or five months of major-league experience." Hurdle seemed to be suggesting Cole can’t handle the ninth inning, which should, rightfully, infuriate Cole.

• Concerning the frequent complaints that the Pirates don’t hit in the clutch: Going into Monday night’s game, they were second in the NL in batting average with runners in scoring position, .279, and first in OPS, .824. They added to that by going 2-for-5 with a home run in the 6-5 win over Cincinnati.

• The way Mike Tyson was treated in Pittsburgh last week, you would have thought he was visiting royalty and not a convicted rapist who once bit off part of the ear of an opponent in a boxing match.

• Mind-boggling stat: From June 2006 through April 2012, the Tampa Bay Rays did not give a single start to a pitcher older than 29.

• Never a good idea to predict trends in any best-of-seven series, particularly in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Blue Jackets had to be devastated by Monday night’s loss.

• Digger Phelps is out after 20 years as a basketball analyst at ESPN.

• Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs is arguably the best coach on the planet and here’s another reason why: He gets the regular season. No San Antonio starter averaged more than 30 minutes this season, which is the first time since the ABA merger (mid-1970s) that has happened.

• Gazillionaire Rupert Murdoch on his Fox Sports 1, the challenger to ESPN that appears to be gaining little traction: ''We certainly expect to lose a couple hundred million dollars for a year or two, and then we expect it to turn, and we'll gradually make it into a major alternative to ESPN. We're not going to put ESPN out of business." Murdoch referred to ESPN as a "gold mine" and indicated it makes more money than his Fox News, which, he said, made $1 billion last year.

• Checking up on Vic Black and Dilson Herrera, the two players who the Pirates traded to the Mets for Marlon Byrd. Black, who will be 26 next month, was expected to make the Mets bullpen but didn’t and was unscored on in five games, 6⅓ innings, in the Pacific Coast League. Herrera, 20, is playing in the Florida State League (high Class A) and was batting .338 with an .843 OPS (stats through Sunday).

• After a promising rookie season with Houston last year (.268), Robbie Grossman fizzled in April (.125, 6-for-48) and was demoted to Class AAA. Grossman was the key player sent to Houston in the Wandy Rodriguez trade in 2012.

• Raise your son to be a baseball player. The career earnings, thus far, of Zach Duke -- 50-76 lifetime with a 4.56 ERA -- are $11.8 million.

• There has been criticism of what some consider the overuse of the OPS stat on this site. I’m guessing if batting average had been used instead of OPS, there would be no complaints. OPS is not a perfect stat. It is the best stat available, in my opinion, to convey the offensive performance of a player.


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