Sports Saturday: Bucs, Steelers, Pens, Paterno...
July 3, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
> If you’re worried about Pedro Alvarez, don’t be. Dude can mash and he will at the big league level. During his brief time in Altoona, it was easy to discern that he’s a hard worker and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s obviously made conditioning a priority and is more svelte than the pudgy Pedro who we saw in AA just last year. But if you’re expecting 40 homers and 125 RBIs you’re likely going to be disappointed. Alvarez will grow into a 25-100 guy but we just don’t see 40 homers in his future, even with PNC Park’s short porch in right, because he’ll also drive a lot of balls into PNC’s cavernous left-center field for doubles or long outs. All of which makes Garrett Jones an unexpectedly key piece in the Pirates plans for the next five years. The Pirates will need 20-25 round trippers from Jones, who’s 29, to keep the pressure off Pedro.
> The most important Pirates player to watch in July is closer Octavio Dotel, the guy who’s likely to fetch the most on the trade market from a contender. If Dotel can continue to be as effective as he has been of late the Pirates should be able to get an above average prospect for him, likely a starting pitcher. Dotel is late in his career and the Bucs have several “closers in waiting” behind him so this would be one late-season trade that made perfect sense for everyone involved.
> We’re not sure why so many Steelers fans are worked up over the loss of Willie Colon. Tony Hills is ready to step in.
> Seriously, any injury hurts a team, but history has shown that offensive line injuries can be overcome and it’s not Colon is Jonathon Ogden. In fact, the two free agent, end-of-line behemoths being mentioned as possible replacements – Flozell Adams and Levi Jones – would likely both be upgrades, warts and all.
> This is all setting up a real under-the-radar type year for the Steelers who likely will be picked to finish 6-10 or 7-9 in most preseason pubs and possibly last in the division in a couple of them.
> Most Penguins fans (present company included) know what they lost with the departure of Sergei Gonchar, but they have no idea what they’re getting in Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin, even though each is commanding a salary in excess of $4 million a year. It says a lot about us as sports fans that we realize defense is so important to the game (any game, really) but we still can’t bring ourselves to pay much attention to it.
> One of the reasons we’ve be blogging so infrequently this summer is that we’re tied up with the editing of a book about Joe Paterno that the Mirror will publish this fall. “They Know Joe” takes a different tack on sports biography, telling Paterno’s story through the eyes of the people he’s known, loved, worked with and competed against. And it’s going to be fantastic. The stories are personal, poignant, informative and funny. There are big-name contributions from Bobby Bowden and President George H.W. Bush, but some of the lesser-known contributors have the best stories. You can learn more about the book by visiting paterno.altoonamirror.com.