Bob Smizik

Veteran sports commentator Bob Smizik offers his strong views on the major sports topics of the day.

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Bob Smizik's Blog

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As is widely known, the Pirates recent history is not good. The team has a streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons. Worse, it is coming off two successive monumental collapses.  This might figure to have management up in arms and fighting mad over such a lack of success.

Alas, this is the 21st century and jobs are far more secure than they were in the past. The Pirates, in fact, almost are standing pat.

Seven of the eight positions in the field are set: The catcher, indisputably, is Russell Martin; the infield is equally set with Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez platooning at first, Neil Walker at second, Clint Barmes at shortstop and Pedro Alvarez at third; Andrew McCutchen is set in center and Starling Marte in left.

Only right field is open. So if you’re one of those who delights in spring training competition for jobs, short of a couple of compelling issues with the pitching staff, right field is for you.

There are four candidates: Alex Presley, Jerry Sands, Travis Snider, Jose Tabata. With the exception of Snider, the winter-book favorite, the other three are not only competing for right field, they’re competing for a spot on the team.

Snider: It was unfortunately noted when the Pirates acquired him from Toronto in July that Snider was ``dripping with power.’’  He then proceeded to hit one home run in 129 at bats. Snider might be the quintessential ‘rushed’ to the majors player. He was with Toronto at 20 and produced an .804 OPS, which, in turn, gave him three more years to prove himself. That he was traded to the Pirates last year indicates he never did with the Blue Jays. Still, although the job might not quite be his to lose, his left-handed bat and his history gives him the edge.

Tabata: Another player who has failed to live up to his potential. He was supposed to be a speed guy who could bat at the top of the lineup. But a disappearance of much of that speed, combined with an `I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude' sent him back to the minors last year. It might have been the best thing to happen to him. He hit .343 in September with an on-base percentage almost 100 points higher. His ticket to the lineup is an ability to leadoff, a desperate need of the Pirates.

Sands: His minor-league numbers are terrific. He hit 90 home runs from 2010-12, although most of them came in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. It will take a special spring training for him to make the team, but it’s not impossible. The Pirates probably would prefer to see what he can do in the International League, where homers are harder to come by. He also has an option remaining, which hurts his chances of making the 25-man roster.

Presley: At 27 and coming off a disappointing year, he’s fighting for his MLB life. He doesn’t have nearly the minor-league pedigree of the other three and is more of a late bloomer who stopped blooming last season. That’s not good.

Prediction: Snider and Tabata, a right-handed hitter open as a starting platoon. Sands starts in the minors. Presley, depending on roster composition, has a chance to make the team.

User Rating: / 23

If the NFL didn’t know well enough the hazards of playing the Super Bowl outdoors in a cold weather site, last week’s blizzard in New York and New England reinforced the belief. The league has extensive contingency plans, including moving the game up that is set for New Jersey next year. But no plan can cover everything in Mother Nature’s playbook.

By Daniel Kaplan, Terry Lefton, John Ourand, Sports Business Journal

With more questions than answers surrounding the Super Bowl being played outdoors in a cold-weather climate next February, one thing is for certain: The NFL will have an extensive contingency plan in place to account for bad weather.

The league is considering various options that include the possibility of delaying the contest several days in the event of a weather emergency on game day. The league even could decide to play the game on Saturday if faced with an ominous forecast, sources said.

While contingency plans are in place for all events of this magnitude, the New York/New Jersey setting offers new challenges for the NFL. It is not a typical snowstorm that concerns the league but rather a weather crisis like a nor’easter, something that is capable of shutting down the city.

Read the rest of the story.

User Rating: / 26

The Cleveland Indians are not allowing market size, smaller than Pittsburgh, nor attendance, fewer fans than the Pirates, stand in the way of their ambitious rebuilding program. They added Michael Bourn yesterday and, among others, Nick Swisher earlier in the offseason.  With Swishers and Bourn alone they’ve added over $100 million in payroll committment.

By John Heyman,

The Indians and Mets are both rebuilding. They are just doing it at different rates.

Cleveland's surprise signing of Michael Bourn for $48 million over four years -- plus a vesting option that could take it to $60 million over five -- was the punctuation mark on a wild winter engineered by young GM Chris Antonetti that also brought native son Nick Swisher back to Ohio for $56 million over four years. So that's more than $100 million for two outfielders when they already had a decent outfield.

The Indians got in the game. Good for them.

Read the rest of the story.

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Beginning tomorrow, the Post-Gazette is implementing a new system of commenting on all Community Voices blogs, which includes this one.

All commenting will have to be done through Facebook.

If you wish to comment on an article, you must have a Facebook account.

I understand this is a radical change. But it provides the P-G with a more stable platform from which to run its blogs. It also prevents the kind of  meltdown that occurred a few weekends ago when the system went down for about a day.

Facebook is easy. If I can do it, you can do it.

Anyone needing assistance can contact Mila Sanina at the Post-Gazette. Her e-mail address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . She will be happy to walk you through the process of signing up for a Facebook account.

The process of finding the blog and reading it will not change.

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The Joe Paterno side of the Jerry Sandusky scandal might never go away. The Paterno family, understandably, presented its side of the story this week, with Sue Paterno and Dick Thornburgh as the front people. In my estimation, they presented a good case. But it makes no difference. As Bill Livingston writes, there’s no changing Paterno’s legacy.

By Bill Livingston, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Remember the day the forklifts carted off the Joe Paterno statue, which workers took apart in front of the Penn State football stadium in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal?

The Paterno family is trying to put Humpty Joe together again in an all-out media offensive, featuring the coach's widow, Sue Paterno, on afternoon television with Katie Couric on Monday.

Paterno once was the grand old man of college football. The football wasn't so grand after Penn State joined the Big Ten, nor was the program's patriarch after former FBI director Louis Freeh got through with him in an independent study into the child-abuse case. Penn State authorities meekly accepted its searing conclusions and the draconian penalties imposed by the NCAA, despite its lack of jurisdiction in criminal cases.

The last thing Penn State wants is a two-pronged attack, rehashing the most despicable behavior and cruelest cover-up in sports history. Recruiting is tough enough as it is there. But that is what the school faces, both from the Paterno family and from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

Read the rest of the story.

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