Bob Smizik: Which Pittsburgh team has brightest future?

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Nobody asked me, but...

• Let’s start with a poll question: Of the three major Pittsburgh pro sports franchises, which figures to have the greatest success over the next three years?

• Deliberately or not, by firing general manager Ray Shero and by not only keeping coach Dan Bylsma but by praising him, the Penguins effectively made Shero the scapegoat for the team’s postseason failures. And that’s not right.

• There have been suggestions the Pirates should pursue free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew after the June draft, when signing him will not cost a high draft choice. It’s highly unlikely the Pirates would get involved with Drew and it’s even more unlikely they could win the probable bidding war for his services.

• Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports calls the Pirates the fifth biggest disappointment in MLB this season, behind the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rays and Diamondbacks, and says this about them: ''These look like the old Pirates. Their run differential is actually worse than the Cubs' (who at minus-3 have, admittedly, hit a stretch of bad luck). The Pirates, on the other hand, are about as bad as their minus-18 indicates.”

• When the White Sox designated Jeff Keppinger for assignment last week despite the fact he was due $4 million this season and $4.5 million next year -- all, of course, guaranteed -- this is what stand-up general manager Rick Hahn said: ''We are focusing on the future as opposed to trying to justify a decision from the past. ... [Keppinger’s signing] didn’t work. That’s on me.”

• NBA mock drafts show no sign of Pitt’s Lamar Patterson. Schenley’s DeAndre Kane and former Pitt player Khem Birch of UNLV are projected to go mid to late in the second (and last) round.

• ESPN.com insider and former MLB general manager Jim Bowden on the Pirates (via Twitter): "It's like they're not even trying. ... You owe it to this team right now to bring (Polanco) to big leagues."

• The Pirates gave up an MLB-low 101 home runs last season. They are on pace to serve up 173 this season.

• In his last start at Indianapolis, Jeff Locke pitched seven shutout innings and allowed one hit. He and Brandon Cumpton are possible future alternatives to Edinson Volquez and Wandy Rodriguez.

• Checking up on former Pirates: Casey McGehee has 28 RBIs, 10th in the National League, with the Marlins; in 103 at bats with the Astros, Alex Presley’s batting line is .223/.243/.350 -- .593; in 69 at bats with the Nationals, Nate McLouth’s batting line is .116/.247/.188 -- .435. After posting a 2.15 ERA in six April starts, A.J. Burnett has a 5.29 ERA in three May starts. (All stats through Sunday.)

• The changing game: Honus Wagner had 221 sacrifice bunts in his career. Babe Ruth had 113 and Lou Gehrig 106. Roberto Clemente had 36, Willie Stargell 9 and Barry Bonds 4. Andrew McCutchen has 3, none since 2011, and Pedro Alvarez 1, none since 2011.

• Wei-Chung Wang, the pitching prospect taken from the Pirates by Milwaukee in the Rule 5 draft last year, might be coming back. With the Brewers down a run last night, Wang came into the game in the eighth inning with an ERA of 12.86. His first three batters: home run, hit batsman, home run. In all, he gave up five runs in ⅔ of an inning to push his ERA to 17.61. Lyle Overbay relieved to get the final out -- a pop up by Ryan Doumit, who opened the inning by homering.

• Concerning how to handle the alarming number of elbow injuries among elite pitchers, one MLB executive told ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, ''I think by now we should all realize that we don't have a clue.”

• Pirates catchers vs. base stealers: Russell Martin has thrown out five of 15, 33 percent; Chris Stewart four of 15, 27 percent; Tony Sanchez 3 of 20, 15 percent. Yadier Molina of St. Louis has thrown out 58 percent.

• Talk about bad luck: The Washington Nationals just added starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez to their disabled list, which already includes left fielder Bryce Harper, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and first baseman Adam LaRoche.

• Some might consider it too early to be concerned about the Pirates, but not Neal Huntington: This is what he told the New York Times: “Right now, we’ve got to do some things to climb back into that discussion, and we probably need to start doing them pretty soon.”


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