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Temporary Revival?

The Pittsburgh Pirates won their third straight game, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight 4-1. This puts them exactly one game over .500.

The Pirates haven’t been over .500 past the first week of the season in seven years, when they last topped .500 on May 29, 2004.

That’s how bad it’s been for the Pirates, whose fans have had nothing to cheer about since Francisco Cabrera’s two-RBI single in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. No winning seasons, just life as an also-ran for 19 seasons. In the 21 seasons prior, Pittsburgh won two World Series and six division titles. Pittsburgh’s a football town, sure, but baseball ran a close second.

These days, it’s not so much a baseball town unless locals are discussing Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente or Bill Mazeroski. It’s a shame, and I HATED the Pirates in their heyday of the early 1990s.

Baseball has some problems, and as tough as it is for small-to-medium market teams to be competitive, it’s not unheard of. Kansas City and Cleveland are enjoying a nice start, and Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, Atlanta, San Diego, Oakland, Seattle, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Milwaukee have all enjoyed runs of at least a little sustained success.

It’s management that screws it up in Pittsburgh. They haven’t had a good ownership situation in some time, and while they have developed some of the league’s better players, they don’t hold onto them long enough to get any dividends out of them.

Improvement is incremental, but decline seems to be exponential until you hit bottom. One thing cascades into another into another, and soon you are the Pittsburgh Pirates. Or the KC Royals. Or the Cubs.

19 seasons of futility is pretty bad, though.

Family Business Paralysis!

Apropos of nothing, here’s a new twist to the continuing Frank and Jamie McCourt divorce saga.

Major League Baseball has moved to seize control of the Dodgers, a famed franchise that fans and much of the baseball world had come to see as crippled by an owner who does not appear to have enough money to operate the team.

A lot of employees will be hurt in this spectacle. And by employees, I do not mean Andre Ethier. The 9-to-5ers for the Dodgers (ticket sales, customer relations, etc., etc.) will have some sleepless nights as this mess gets sorted.

I suppose when ownership is at 50-50, you need to make it work out somehow, or be a selfish ass and screw everyone else, even when you say you care about them out of the other side of your mouth.

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Another $10 million arm, $.10 head

Mike Leake was supposed to be one of the Cincinnati Reds’ top young pitchers, an ace in the making. Strangely, he was shut down in the last month of last year to preserve his fragile rookie arm. Whatever, Leake was expected to come back and take a prominent spot in the rotation.

Leake is 2-0 so far this year for the Reds, but the news out of Cincy makes me wonder what his future will be.

Leake stole six shirts from Macy’s. The value of the shirts was less than $60.00. Leake makes $425,000, which makes him a relative pauper in the Major Leagues, but quite comfortable in this country.

Since the first bonus baby was signed, we’ve heard of pitchers with “Million Dollar Arms and Ten Cent Heads.” They get the tag for different reasons.

Take a look at another pitcher, a right-hander who as far I know is not a felon. Jake Peavy has been on the comeback trail since last year’s gruesome injury. He pitched lights out in spring training and then admitted he felt some shoulder discomfort all along. The White Sox put him on the disabled list and had him continue to rehab in Arizona before sending him on a few rehab stints in the minors.

His first two starts went swimmingly. He pitched well, and he reported no disomfort.

His third start was tonight. Peavy didn’t last 15 pitches. Shoulder discomfort. While I know that Peavy desperately wants to return to the Major League mound, he hasn’t done himself any favors by being less than honest with the Sox trainers. For his sake, I hope his $0.10 head doesn’t devalue his $10 million arm.

A few pointed questions for the NBA

I watched the last three minutes of the Bulls’ 104-99 win over Indiana in Game One of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Pacers outplayed the Bulls for the first 47 minutes, by all accounts, but the Bulls were able to pull off the win. I expect a sweep.

However, the whole scenario sucks.

The Bulls won 62 games in the regular season, yet they have to screw around with a team that finished 25 games behind them during an 82-game season?

I suppose it’s a reward to the Bulls, who would rather spend the first round playing a near-lottery team than anyone else. But why not a bye? Should the Pacers win a seven-game series, what does it day about the integrity of the NBA regular season?

The NBA and NHL are the biggest offenders by allowing 16 teams. But the NFL’s system allowed a 7-9 team (Seattle) to make the playoffs last year. And they won a playoff game, beating the defending Super Bowl champs.

In baseball, a wild card team can beat the champion from its own division in the league championship series. Then again, baseball’s schedule has enough problems with balance.

The regular season should mean something — enough that a team that has proven itself so bad should not get an equal chance at beating a 60-win team in a playoff series.

I know why they do this. Same reason as they do anything else: money. So, if they want to keep the expanded playoffs, how about this modest proposal:

If the difference in seeds is more than three, then the better team needs to win just three. The team with the worse seed needs to win four.

Tailgating at Wembley?

Yes, there’s a lockout and there’s a distinct possibility there will be no football next fall. But if there IS football, the Bears will have a road game in London against Tampa Bay.

This game somehow excites me to no end. Three years, one much smaller mortgage and no children ago, I’d be booking this trip. I don’t know what about the trip excites me. But the idea of a bunch of meatball Bears fans attacking England to eat a ton of sausage, drink copious amounts of beer, and butchering the Queen’s language somehow makes me all warm and fuzzy.

London is a fun, fun city and I suppose it’d simply be a good excuse to go there. Even if I can’t go (and barring lottery winnings or bus parts being deemed the new gold, I can’t), I’m thrilled about it.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the Cubs were losing 7-0 when I lost interest tonight. Who knows?