Thursday, September 22, 2022

My Wimbledon Lie

Serena Williams, arguably the greatest female professional tennis player ever, retired at this year’s US Open. She had an incredible career with 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most by any player in the Open Era. For years, I shared a story that I tried to see Serena and her sister Venus compete in a doubles match at Wimbledon in 2000. I recently found a journal I kept from my summer in England, and it turns out that this was a complete lie. Basically, I’ve been a lying liar for well over a decade. This is the journal entry:

Monday, July 3, 2000

I first tried writing this entry last night but was too tired to get very far. I spent this past weekend in London. I really enjoyed the tour J gave us of London. We went to Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Tower Hill Friday night. I also liked seeing the Tate Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Madam Tussaud’s, and Madam Tussaud’s Rock Circus. (I got a picture with the Spice Girls.) The Tate Modern was not as enjoyable since it was way too crowded, and I got lost and passed the same exhibit several times.

While I enjoyed all of this, the highlight of the weekend was going to Wimbledon. Several months ago, when I first knew I would be coming to England, I tried to find the dates for Wimbledon. I realized that it was going to take place the same time I was in England, but I didn’t think I’d be able to go. I’ve played tennis since junior high and possibly longer before that. Although I never had a favorite tennis player, I enjoy watching the major events. I have always had a great deal of respect for professional tennis players because of how much time and energy they put into their games and their ability to seemingly hit the ball wherever they want and at what speed.

Anyway, let’s write about this past weekend. After unsuccessfully trying to get a ½ price ticket for a show, we each had different opinions about what to do. J got a ticket for The Graduate with Kathleen Turner. E and JK wanted to check out a museum. L and I decided to try our luck and see if we could get into Wimbledon. By the time we arrived at Wimbledon, there was an extremely long queue (line). We had nothing planned for the rest of the day, so we decided to stay. We queued at Wimbledon (I have a sticker that says this) for three hours before finally reaching the ticket office. The seats for Centre Court, Court 1, and Court 2 were already sold out, which we figured because Agassi, Venus Williams, and Tim Henman were playing, and it was after 5:00PM. General admission tickets were only 4 pounds ($6) after 5. Nevertheless, we were in and very excited. To quote L, “you couldn’t rip the plastered smiles off of our faces!”

We walked around for a few minutes trying to fully comprehend that we were really at Wimbledon. Then, we tried to find the best matches available on the other courts. Court 3 was definitely the best because after a Men’s singles match, Martina Hingis and Mary Pierce were playing doubles, followed by Martina Navratilova in a mixed doubles match.

This is the lie. I really thought we hoped to see the Williams sisters, but it was actually Hingis and Pierce. Both were amazing players but definitely not in the same category as Venus and Serena.

We made our way to Court 3 and watched two Swedes, Thomas Johansson and Magnus Gustafsson. It was a very even match. The problem was it was a very even match. It ended up going 5 sets. Because of that, the other matches were moved to other courts. At one point, we left to go see Hingis and Pierce on Court 6. It was packed. We could barely see the court and kept getting bumped. After we got a few pictures, we went back to see the Swedes. After Johansson emerged victorious, we started waiting for Navratilova. One problem: the crew started taking down the net. On the scoreboard, we saw the score of her match, and it said Centre Court. We decided that we had nothing to lose, so let’s try to sneak in.

I should mention again that we were smiling the entire time and every few minutes would remind ourselves that we were in fact at Wimbledon. Anyway, the Southwest entrance (or a different entrance, not exactly sure) of Centre Court was right behind Court 3. We walked right in. There were no problems and no one checking tickets. I learned later that this double match had been postponed by darkness the night before and had just resumed. We only missed a game or two and the score was 6-4, 7-6, 9-9. I should mention that it was Jan Siemerink and Miriam Oremans against Martina Navratilova and Mahesh Bhupathi.

Lie #2. I thought Martina played with Leander Paes. I really am a lying liar!

Did I already write that I was seeing Navratilova, one of if not the best women’s tennis players ever? Did I mention that I was at Centre Court Wimbledon? It was incredible! We were at the Mecca of tennis. The match itself was also great. This was Marina’s return to Wimbledon after retiring five years before. (Sean’s note: You can definitely see Serena returning to play mixed doubles in a few years, right?) The crowd (including us) was pulling for her. Between each point, we heard many people yell some variation of “C’mon Martina.” At one point, someone yelled “C’mon Martina’s partner!” Martina and Mahesh ended up losing a thrilling third set, 18-16.

Wimbledon was definitely the highlight of the weekend, and it may be the highlight of my summer. L and I had an incredible time, and the queue was definitely worth the wait. I can’t wait to see the pictures, and I am still on a high from being there. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be at Wimbledon, and I was there.

22 years later, I still haven’t been to a tennis grand slam. Or since I’m a lying liar, maybe I can claim that I’ve been to Paris, New York, and Melbourne for all of the Grand Slam events!

I'm thinking now that since Venus had a singles match that day, maybe Venus and Serena were on one of the side courts practicing, and we tried to see them. No matter what happened, I can no longer blame Thomas Johansson and Magnus Gustafsson for causing me to miss watching the Williams sisters play in person.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Friday Videos

I'm going back to the early 2000s today to share two songs that I haven't heard in a while and enjoy. That's it. That's the post!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Introducing Pittsburgh Steelers Wine

It is a tough time to be the owner of an NFL team. Sure, the league signed television contracts with Amazon, CBS, ABC/ESPN, NBC, and FOX through the 2023 season for $113 billion, but $113 billion doesn’t go as far as it used to. And yeah, teams continue to make money through ticket sales, sponsorships, and merchandise sales, but the cost of running a team is exorbitant. So during this time of high inflation, teams are looking for new revenue streams just to make ends meet. For the Steelers, I guess the contract to name the stadium Acrisure wasn't enough, so the team announced the launch of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ new wine brand and club, Steel Curtain Napa Valley.

The text above is an introductory message on the Steel Curtain Napa Valley website. When I hear someone discussing “blue-collar grit that is forged in the fiber of the Steel City,” clearly the first thing I think about is “Immaculate,” a red wine selling for $95 a bottle (or $75 for members) made in Napa Valley. For those of you not familiar with American geography, I should probably mention that Napa Valley isn’t part of the Mon Valley.

The website also includes messages from the Steelers organization and the winery:

While I’m not a sommelier or someone who plays one on the internet, I’d love for Ryan Huzjak or anyone else to explain how this wine brand reflects Pittsburgh and the Steelers. You can make a case that Iron City beer represents Pittsburgh or look in a history book to see where the Whiskey Rebellion took place (Spoiler: Western Pennsylvania), but a wine?

I appreciate wine handcrafted with the same values forged in the fibers of Pittsburgh, though I’d prefer wine forged from grapes.

Look, a wine company partnering with the Steelers makes sense. For the winery, you get a loyal, established, and enthusiastic following and access to the team’s logo and marketing capabilities. (I learned of Steel Curtain Napa Valley through an email from the team.) Meanwhile, I’m sure that the Steelers will make money from this venture simply by having its name associated with the product. However, the blue-color grit and wine brand reflecting Pittsburgh is ridiculous. Just say that you’re selling wine to Steelers fans.

Update: @LloydStoleFirst on Twitter mentioned that the Pittsburgh Penguins have their own wine partnership. The website layouts are identical, but while the marketing for the Steelers wine is about blue-collar grit and a wine reflecting Pittsburgh, these are absent for the Penguins brand. Apparently, there is no overlap between the two fan bases.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Game Changer

Our neighbors/friends recently remodeled their entire kitchen with brand new cabinets and appliances including a refrigerator. They offered us their old frig which we graciously accepted and put in our garage. This has turned out to be a game changer. (Hey, that could be the title of this post!) With three kids, we tend to go through food quickly. There are weekly trips to Wegmans and Aldis (yes, I know the store’s name is Aldi, but I call it Aldis) and at least 1-2 visits each month to Trader Joe’s. They have great frozen meals that the kids enjoy.

Last month, Wegmans was out of its boxes of chocolate chip waffles which Pedro Tulo often eats for breakfast. However, the store had a bulk 48-pack of waffles. With the second refrigerator, there was plenty of room to store the additional 38 waffles instead of the traditional box of 10. So now, instead of getting one or two bags of Trader Joe’s gnocchi with gorgonzola, a favorite of the kids, we might get 3 or 4. Having a little ice cream party for Luigi’s birthday? We got multiple containers and various flavors of ice cream!

Next up is the ultimate question. After saying good bye to Costco several years ago, is it time to go back?

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Dad Camp 2022

The week before school begins every year is Dad Camp. It started when The Moose was only about five months old the week prior to his beginning going to day care and continues up to today as my kids entered 6th grade, 3rd grade, and kindergarten. Now is probably a good time to mention that all three kids are at the same school for this first (and only) time ever. One drop off in the morning and everyone is in the same location. It’s wonderful!

Over the years, I’ve taken the kids to a variety of places in the DC metropolitan area. Dad Camp was rather limited in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid restrictions and the lack of vaccinations for kids, but we were able to visit some new places over the last few years. I should mention that the real purpose of this post is a reminder for myself of activities I can do with the kids for Dad Camp 2023 and beyond! Anyway, here’s what we did this year:

Monday: Mini golf

Fairfax County’s Park Authority has several miniature golf locations across the county. The ones we’ve been to at Oak Marr and Burke Lake are quite enjoyable. Burke Lake also has a disc golf course which I took my kids to for the first time recently separately from Dad Camp. It wasn’t a disaster, so we’ll try again later this fall.

Tuesday: Puppet show and a movie

I don’t want to call out the production company, but the puppet show was just odd. Others we’ve seen over the years have been more interactive. The Moose was definitely too old for the show. Not doing that again. Meanwhile, Regal Cinemas have $2 kids’ movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Even though my kids watched the film several years ago, we saw The Secret Life of Pets for our first trip to a movie theater since the experience ended with a trip to the emergency room. As a bonus, Regal has half price deals on popcorn on Tuesdays, so yes, I bought the largest tub possible for us to share.

Wednesday: Cubs-Nationals Game

I’d like to thank Major League Baseball for scheduling a weekday afternoon game during Dad Camp. The stadium wasn’t crowded, and possibly because the Nationals are pretty terrible this year, the team has a kids eat free promotion to encourage families to attend. I’d also like to thank the person who handed me 4 free tickets while we waited in line to buy some.

Thursday: Meet the Teacher Day

I really appreciate that the school has separate times based on grade levels. All-school activities are an absolute nightmare for crowds and parking. Unfortunately for me, the open houses were 10:00-11:00 for kindergarten, 12:00-1:00 for grades 1-3, and 2:00-3:00 for grades 4-6. That meant three separate trips to school and lots of back and forth.

Friday: Hirschhorn Museum

While my kids would generally be quite happy playing and watching sports every day, occasionally, I try to sprinkle in a little bit of culture in their lives. Enter the “One With Eternity” exhibit by Yayoi Kusama. The Hirshhorn hosted a Kusama exhibit several years ago, and while it looked amazing, I never made it to the National Mall. Now, The Hirshhorn has several Kusama pieces as part of its permanent collection, and I thought the kids would enjoy it. They did!

We arrived on the National Mall right around 9:30 AM, which turned out to be perfect since that’s when you can begin to park on most streets like 7th Avenue SW between the Hirshhorn and Air & Space Museum with beautiful views of the Washington Monument and US Capitol. We got in line to get timed passes for the Kusama exhibit and got 11:15 tickets. This gave us plenty of time to walk on the mall and explore the Hirshhorn’s sculpture garden and other parts of the museum before seeing “Pumpkin” and her two Infinity Mirror rooms. I highly recommend checking them out.

Weekend Bonus: A Loudoun United soccer match. 

The Moose and Pedro Tulo were able to be part of the pregame ceremony where kids lined up on the field as the players gave high-fives and walked through. 

Another successful week of Dad Camp! I’d like to try Luray Caverns next year. If you have any other ideas for things to do in the DC area, please share them in the comments section.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Jayson Werth and the Nationals Ring of Honor

I took my kids to the Washington Nationals-Chicago Cubs game on Wednesday. The Nationals lost 3-2 and are now 39-80. They are a bad baseball team and that says something from someone who follows the Pittsburgh Pirates! While looking around the stadium, I noticed that Jayson Werth’s name is included in the team’s Ring of Honor. Apparently, this induction occurred in 2018, but I have no recollection of this happening, and I guess I never noticed this before.

I’m not a Jayson Werth fan. I think he’s a bully who should have got suspended for attacking a mascot and is a jerk for pouring chocolate syrup on Nationals' reporter Dan Kolko. Nats fans like Werth though. My question is this: why does Werth deserve to make the team’s Ring of Honor? According to this September 2018 article, the team credits Werth for changing the culture from the Nationals being a mediocre (and sometimes awful) team to a team that won 4 NL East titles in his 7 years. Pay almost anyone $126 million over 7 years, and I’m sure they will help bring a winning culture too. Of course, let’s not forget the addition of guys like Bryce Harper Stephen Strasburg, and later Max Scherzer. Ryan Zimmerman was also really good during this time. They helped the culture too. Oh, and for all of that winning culture Werth brought, do you know how many playoff series the team won with him? It rhymes with “Hero.”

In 2012, the first year the Nationals won the division, Werth had 5 home runs and 31 runs batted in over 81 games in an injury-filled season. Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Mike Morse, and even Tyler Moore had more, and in some cases, significantly more home runs that season. Werth ended up with a 9.0 WAR (wins above replacement) during his time as a National. He made 0 all-star teams. For $18 million a year, I think you would expect more. You know who should have been inducted into Ring of Honor before Werth? Ian Desmond who had a 16.5 WAR and an all-star appearance in his 7 seasons on the team. Maybe Alfonso Soriano with his 6.1 WAR with 40 home runs/40 stolen bases 2006 season. Maybe even Mike Morse who had 67 home runs in 1353 plate appearances during his 4 seasons in DC compared to Werth’s 109 home runs in 3427 plate appearances. And if you want to talk about culture, put Howie Kendrick, Adam Eaton, and especially Gerardo Parra in the Ring of Honor. Everyone loved Baby Shark during the team’s World Series run.

Basically, what I’m writing is Jayson Werth was a good baseball player in DC, but the team put him in the Ring of Honor to justify $126 million contract. And that’s one of my hills I’m willing to die on.

Werth photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Imagess

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Bret Michaels' Concert Uniform

There are many jobs where you have to wear a uniform. Professional athletes in team sports wear jerseys with their team name on them. Many restaurants require employees to wear uniforms or hats with the restaurant logo. I remember working at Blockbuster* and wearing the dashing navy shirts with gold trim and store logo. This brings me to Poison lead singer, fellow Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and Rock of Love star Bret Michaels. (Man, I miss Rock of Love.) Poison recently played at PNC Park in Pittsburgh with Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. I saw this picture of Michaels with a Terrible Towel and thought it would make a perfect addition to my Celebrities in Pittsburgh gear series. 

Then, I noticed that Michaels was wearing a Poison T-shirt. This seemed odd to me. I don't ever recall seeing a musician wearing a shirt of the band they are in or of himself/herself. It turns out that Michaels is wearing Poison shirts throughout the tour.


Marysville, Ohio:





Council Bluffs, Iowa:


I think you get the point. So now I'm wondering if Bret is constantly doing laundry and wearing the same shirt each show or if he's just grabbing various Poison shirts from the merchandise stand at each tour stop.

* If you're under 25, you may have only heard of Blockbuster, a chain where you could rent movies on something called VHS tapes and DVDs. You would enter the store, walk around aisles to select your movie, pay approximately $5 per film, and then you had to return it by noon the day after you rented it. (If you rented a movie on Friday night, you had to return the film by noon on Sunday.) I'm convinced Blockbuster made much of their profits through late fees. Oh, here is one of my Blockbuster shirts:

Friday, August 12, 2022

Live From Camden Yards

Timely is not one of the words to describe my writing. I mean, would now be a good time to share my thoughts on the Steelers drafting Kenny Pickett? Maybe I can write about the Tokyo Olympics. While this isn’t quite as old, this post is about attending the Pittsburgh Pirates game at Camden Yards in Baltimore last week.
Welcome to Baltimore!

Here are some tips for anyone looking for the least expensive way to attend a baseball game (at least in Baltimore).
1. Find a night where there is a thunderstorm but with rain expected to end within an hour of the scheduled first pitch.
2. See that the game is delayed and arrive at the stadium parking lot 30 minutes after the scheduled first pitch. Discover that there is no one working the lots which means free parking.
3. Bring kids. The Baltimore Orioles have a promotion where for every paid upper deck ticket, you get two free tickets for kids 9 and under. Thanks to arriving at the ticket office about 45 minutes after the scheduled first pitch and in some rain, the person at the box office declared my niece to be 9 even though she’s 10. Therefore, 6 tickets (for me, Pedro Tulo, Luigi, my brother, my niece, and my nephew) cost $26. That’s less than $4.50 per ticket!
* The game ended up starting around 8:50 after a 109-minute delay. You’re killing me…

* I ran into a good friend from high school at the game. It was great catching up as it was the first time I’ve seen him in probably 15 years.
* As I’m typing this, Orioles’ OF Brett Phillips is hitting .149 this season and is 2 for 11 (.182) since joining the team from the Tampa Bay Rays. In his 6-year career with 4 separate teams and 894 plate appearances, Phillips is hitting .190 with a .275 on-base percentage, a .350 slugging percentage, and a career WAR of -0.1. While he’s a good defensive outfielder, he’s not a very good hitter. I write all this because between innings he seems to engage with fans in left field. He’s smiling and always throws a ball into the stands. Seems like a good dude.
* In the 7th inning, Oneil Cruz attempted to check his swing on a 1-2 count. The home plate umpire signaled to the third base umpire to make a determination if it should be a strike or a ball. It was at this exact moment that I (and many others) noticed that there were only 3 umpires on the field. One umpire was sick and that was the first time I realized an umpire was missing. The umpire located near second base ruled that Cruz swung and called him out. While I think it was the right call, the Pirates bench was obviously upset based on the position of the umpire.
I bring this up because the same situation happened in the 8th inning. With Phillips at the plate, the same umpire in the same position ruled that he did not swing on a play. Pirates manager Derek Shelton was rightfully angry and got ejected. In my opinion, the home plate umpire should have made the decision himself. With that written, I think it was the right call again. You can watch it all here:

* Hot take alert! I want Kevin Newman on my team.  He’s really solid at shortstop and 2nd base and is great as a defensive replacement or an occasional starter. The problem is that he seems to have lost any power he had when he hit 12 home runs in 2019 as he only has 6 home runs in 891 plate appearances over the last 3 years including 0 home runs in 2022. He shouldn’t be an everyday starter.
* Mitch Keller didn’t seem to have his best stuff and only had 1 strikeout, but he only had 1 walk and allowed just 1 run in 6 innings. He’s pitched well lately, and I really hope he’s a solid starter for the Pirates for years to come.
* I really don’t have much else to write about the game itself. The Orioles won 1-0 as the Pirates managed just 6 hits. I saw the Orioles play in Toronto in June, and based on my large sample size of seeing the team twice in person this season, the bullpen (and in particular Felix Bautista) is legit!
This is the AP game recap.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The CVS Optical Experience

The Moose recently received a letter from CVS informing him that the optical department at a store in Quincy, Illinois was closing. This was interesting for several reasons. First, The Moose is 11 and has never had an eye examination outside of the normal review at his annual physical. This probably will change soon since I started needing glasses around his age. The bigger surprise about the letter is that The Moose has never been to Quincy. Or Illinois. Or the central time zone. To my knowledge, no one in my family has been to Quincy either. Plus, I’ve never watched an episode of the TV show Quincy M.E. or seen Quincy Jones in person.

CVS sent a second letter apologizing for the first letter. While that's all fine, I'd much rather they sent a coupon for a free candy bar or greeting card too.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Friday Videos and Links

It's been a while since I shared some of the great things I've read and watched, but today is a day to change this! Let's start with some music. This is "Fall" by Temple Brothers, who are amazingly talented and still can't legally buy alcohol! In full disclosure, I knew their mother in high school, and I previously included their father in my annual "Best Of" posts for his incredible nonfiction books. There's some fantastic genes in this family!

One of the benefits of writing this blog is that I've become friends with numerous people that I never would have interacted with otherwise. Aaron Brame fits this description. He is a gifted writer and shared his first blog post in a long time recently about being an accordion-playing busker. I really missed seeing his writing! [Aaron Brame]

In Josh's most-recent blog post, he shared that he's scaling back his writing. I really relate to this post since there are a lot of similarities to what I've been thinking about regarding my writing. [Josh's World]

Sue Kerr threw out the first pitch at Pride Night at PNC Park. So cool! [Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents]

Fellow Ithaca College graduate Veronica Hernandez became the first Latina general manager in minor league baseball history. Go Bombers! []

Fellow Woodland Hills graduate Sarah James recently released her first book, The Woman with Two Shadows: A Novel of WWII. This is her interview with Joshua Axelrod in the Post-Gazette. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Let's close with one more song. Gallo Locknez was recently featured on the YaJagoff podcast. I like this song with Buddhakai. Definitely gets you pumped up! [YaJagoff]

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Stressed Out

I’m stressed. I don’t get stressed very often, but it’s happening right now. I tend to get stressed when I’m concerned about money and home projects/repairs, and those two are often related. We had a leak in our kitchen a few years ago any time there was a heavy rain and thought it was fixed. As you can see, it was not.

While the leak is now fixed and we confirmed that there is no mold, we now need to remove part of the ceiling, put up drywall, and repaint the ceiling. And by we, I mean someone that we pay to do this.

We also had a separate leak coming from our dishwasher. It turned out that the gasket needed replaced. We got it repaired a week or two ago, but the guy didn’t seem to do a good job attaching the new gasket. We opened the dishwasher yesterday to this.

The guy came back today and fixed it, but I have little confidence in him.

What else?

* The washing machine seems to be off balance thanks to an apparent broken leg.

* The Moose just left for 3 weeks to an overnight summer camp, and while I think he’s going to have a fantastic time, he doesn’t know anyone, and this is a brand-new experience for him. I worry a little about him.

* I’m starting a new project at work and constantly questioning myself about if I’m doing everything correctly.

* I received my retirement statement in the mail. Although I’m not going to retire for many years, my account lost a lot of money over the last six months. Like A LOT, A LOT.

* I haven’t watched this season’s Better Call Saul yet this season, but I saved the episodes on my DVR. I finally sat down to watch the first episode, and it was gone. Episodes 2 and 3 aren’t there either. It turns out that my DVR was set to keep only 10 Better Call Saul episodes. I guess I figured that I would always watch them immediately, though that clearly didn’t happen this season. I have episodes 4-10, but the first three episodes were replaced with some 2-minute “Stories from Set” specials and a Talking Saul show. Now, it seems like the only way to see the first three episodes is to buy them on Google Play, YouTube, or Amazon Prime. We have Prime but still must pay for them. Why pay for Prime if we can’t get these episodes?

* We just got a new kitchen faucet and had to get that installed.

* The lease on our minivan is up in several months, and I don’t want to deal with car shopping again.

* I received our county car tax bill in the mail. Ugh!

While some of these things are first world problems, many are not. I have no skills whatsoever in doing home repairs, so any project costs much more money than it probably should since we’re paying for labor in addition to the equipment and materials. Now would be the perfect time to make some money from this blog! Meanwhile, can I just go away to a summer camp for a few weeks and not have any responsibilities? (This might be the theme of Grown Ups, but I never saw the movie.)

Thursday, July 21, 2022

2022 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Recap

Welcome to my annual-ish Pittsburgh Pirates draft recap. As always, this is for entertainment purposes only. While I have not analyzed anyone’s pitching mechanics or bat speed, I found some interesting facts that you won’t read or see anywhere else. Please note that I’m not including every draft pick, and the players mentioned below are in no particular order.

Want to feel old? The 2022 Major League Baseball draft may be the last one to feature players born in the 20th century. 16 of the 21 Pirates’ draft picks were born in 2000 or later. The remaining 5 were born in 1999.

12th Round: K.C. Hunt – Pitcher, Mississippi State University

There are a lot of upset people in Pittsburgh right now. The home of the Pittsburgh Steelers recently changed its name from Heinz Field to something like "Are You Sure" Stadium. Some people blame the Steelers for selling its name to the highest bidder including one with no apparent Pittsburgh connection. Some feel like Heinz should have continued its partnership with the team. In any event, people don’t like the new name. Enter K.C. Hunt. Hunt’s ketchup is likely the second largest in the United States and clearly inferior to Heinz. However, if K.C. Hunt becomes a star, think of the sponsorship opportunities and possibilities for him if that other ketchup company wants to make larger inroads in Pittsburgh and beyond!

(By the way, KC stands for Kyle Clemente as in the legendary Roberto Clemente. That’s very cool.)

7th Round: J.P. Massey – Pitcher, University of Minnesota

While I wish that JP stands for John Parker (as in Dave Parker) or James Pena (as in Tony Pena), based on his 6.70 career ERA in college with 106 walks in 123.2 innings, I think his name might stand for John Polcovich!

18th Round: Elijah Birdsong, Pitcher- University of the Pacific

If I asked you where the University of the Pacific is located, you would probably guess somewhere extremely close to the Pacific Ocean. You would probably think it’s like Pepperdine University in Malibu overlooking the ocean. Nope. The University of the Pacific is in Stockton, California, about 90 miles from the ocean. It’s not as ridiculous of a name as the University of South Florida in Tampa, but it’s close.

Competitive Balance-A (between the 1st and 2nd rounds): Thomas Harrington, Pitcher - Campbell University

Given the connection with one of the greatest Pittsburghers, I’m amazed that Harrington is the first player from Campbell ever drafted by the Pirates.

1st Round: Termarr Johnson, SS - Mays High School (Georgia)

Sure, Johnson has been called the best hitter in the draft and a combination of Wade Boggs and Vladimir Guerrero Sr. but look at the first name. Termarr has the perfect number of “R”s in his name to be a Pirate! (Credit to @thesteelersnat for this joke.)

Fun fact: Johnson is the only player drafted by the Pirates under 6 feet tall.

8th Round: Cy Nielson, Pitcher - Brigham Young University

With the name Cy, he just had to be a pitcher. Even if he turns into the greatest pitcher of all time, I think it’s safe to write that he’s going to have significantly less wins than Cy Young’s 511. When people talk about records that will never get broken, no one is getting more wins than Cy Young. Or more than Young’s 315 losses. Or more than Young’s 749 complete games. Or his 7356 innings pitched. Seriously, you can spend hours looking at Cy Young’s Baseball Reference page.

10th Round: Tanner Tredaway, OF - University of Oklahoma

Big Enya fan.

11th Round: Dominic Perachi, Pitcher - Salve Regina University

I love this pick. First, I always root for Division 3 athletes to do well. (Go Tim Locastro!) Perachi was the D3 pitcher of the year. While his competition doesn’t compare to a pitcher from the SEC, I’m glad the Pirates are giving him a shot. I’m rooting for him.

Plus, remember several draft picks ago when I wrote about the University of the Pacific? C’mon, that was like 2 minutes ago! It’s right up there! Anyway, Salve Regina could be named University of the Atlantic. It’s in Newport, Rhode Island, and the baseball field is about a 5-minute walk from The Breakers mansion built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the grandfather of Gloria Vanderbilt and great-grandfather of the guy who does New Year’s Eve shows on CNN.

3rd Round: Jack Brannigan, P/3B - University of Notre Dame

Yeah, yeah, two-way player. Ohtani. Maybe like Bubba Chandler who the Pirates drafted last year. Now that we got that out of the way, Brannigan’s last name reminded me of the late Bennigan’s restaurant chain. I miss Bennigan’s. Turns out that there are still 11 restaurants in the United States. Many are in Iowa, but the closest to Pittsburgh is in Steubenville, Ohio. I think Brannigan should do an appearance there. Amazingly, there are also more than a dozen restaurants internationally. I’m definitely going next time I’m in Bahrain or Cyprus.

Sure, I could have gone with a Jack Brannigan /Laura Branigan joke that I think he has Gloria’s number, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this song and commercial.

Good luck to all of the players drafted by the Pirates. I hope that they have successful and productive baseball careers. 

Please click here to see more of my Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins draft recaps.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Better Future: Pirates or Nationals?

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and have lived in Northern Virginia for about two decades. So while the Pittsburgh Pirates have always been my favorite baseball team, I follow the Nationals closely too. Yes, following these two teams in 2022 has been challenging. At the all-star break, the teams are a combined 70-117 with the two worst run differentials in all of baseball. For weeks, I’ve considered writing a blog post about which team has the brighter future or even if either team has a bright future. Today is the day I finally did it.

Here’s a quick, quick summary of both teams:

Pittsburgh Pirates

* Signed Ke’Bryan Hayes, arguably the top defensive 3B in baseball, to an 8-year contract

* OF Bryan Reynolds was an all-star and MVP candidate in 2021.

* 5 minor leaguers (Henry Davis, Oneil Cruz, Nick Gonzales, Quinn Priester, and Liover Peguero) in the preseason Top 50 of the Top 100 prospects. “Unusually tall” for a SS Oneil Cruz and his incredible arm is now starting for the Pirates.

* Possibility that Roansy Contreras and/or Mitch Keller could become quality, top-end starting pitchers.

* Rookie OF Jack Suwinski had 13 home runs in May and June. Of course, he just got sent down to the minors after going 4 for 37 (.108) in July.

* One of the lowest payrolls in baseball and have traded away any decent player over the last few years.
Washington Nationals

*Juan Soto is only 23 and put up numbers in his first four seasons comparable to Mike Trout, Frank Robinson, and Ted Williams. In 2022, he’s having a “down” season batting only .250 though he still has 20 home runs and a .405 on-base percentage. More on him soon.

Keibert Ruiz is already one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.

22 year-old SS Luis Garcia is starting nearly every day.

24 year-old Josiah Gray could become a top-tier starting pitcher.

Only two top players (Cade Cavalli and Brady House) in the preseason minor league top 100 prospects. Cavalli started the season terribly but has pitched significantly better in AAA over the last few months.

* Traded away or failed to re-sign many top players over the last few years. Josh Bell will probably be gone soon too. The two big signings haven’t worked out well either. The team owes Patrick Corbin about $60 million for 2024 and 2025. Corbin is 4-12 with a 5.87 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 100 innings this season. Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg has pitched 30.1 innings since winning the World Series MVP in 2019. His base salary is $140 million for 2023-2026 with a full no trade clause though there’s $80 million of deferred money for 2027-2029 in there somewhere.

* Team is for sale.
Even with the ownership uncertainty, the Nationals larger payroll and having a generational talent in Juan Soto gives the DC team a slight edge in my opinion. However, this changed after this past weekend. Earlier this season, Soto declined a 13-year, $350 million contract offer. While this is an incredible amount of money, everyone who follows baseball understood that Soto deserved more. The Nationals responded by offering Soto a 15-year, $440 million deal. Although the $29.3 million annual salary would rank 15th among players based on their 2022 salaries, this would have been the largest contract in MLB history. Soto declined this offer too. Apparently, he feels like he could get more and/or he doesn’t want to play in DC. I don’t think the team will go higher, so with Soto set to be a free agent in 2024, it is being reported that the Nationals are open to trade offers. If Soto leaves, this would continue a trend of the Nationals letting free agents sign elsewhere (Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon) or trading away All-Stars (Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber). The Nationals would essentially turn into the Pirates but with a worse farm system though you’d think they would get a ransom for Soto. Without Soto, I'd take the Pirates.
What do you think?

Photo from the Colorado Rockies scoreboard by Brian of RTJR.