Thursday, June 19, 2008

And By "Tomorrow" I Meant Thursday

I have now learned that there should be no promises in unpaid blogging! Sorry if you were waiting with bated breath for my analysis on the Pirates' series in Baltimore last weekend. Let's just add the current series against the Chicago White Sox to the discussion, since it builds on the same theme - namely, my increasing levels of depression.

But first...
Sam Gets Her Wish
One of the most enduring images from Tiger Woods' thrilling victory in last weekend's US Open was his not-yet-one-year-old daughter Sam Alexis reaching out for more time with her father prior to Monday's trophy presentation.

Well, as it turns out, little Sam will be getting plenty of quality time with Daddy Tiger this summer/fall: here's the ESPN.com version of the story if you haven't heard it by now.

So Tiger has been playing on a left knee with no ACL for upwards of 10 months? And he's won five times since then? Sure, I'm impressed, but not particularly surprised. As I've enumerated before, I believe Tiger to be the most driven athlete of our generation. Also, he and Penguins winger Gary Roberts have never been seen in the same place together...I'm just sayin'.

But my slightly embarrassing man-crush aside, did Tiger's utter need to succeed actually damage his chances to hunt down the Golden Bear? He obviously pushed himself too hard too soon after his most recent arthroscopic surgery, hence the twin stress fractures in his left shin. What's to say he won't be so overeager to get back to the course that he rushes his rehab following what will be the most drastic surgery of his life?

Not to make this about me, but when I got mononucleosis four summers ago, it was a blessing in that it taught me to take it easy on myself once in a while. The body needs time to recover, no matter how tough you fancy yourself to be. After my bout with mono, I was humbled, but also able to tell when I needed to take a day or two to let my body repair itself. Maybe this ordeal will be Tiger's moment of epiphany. Despite what we may conclude from his recent performance at Torrey Pines, Eldrick Woods is not invincible and his body will break down if he doesn't take proper care of it.

End of lecture.

Storm Brewing for Buccos?
In the face of all my optimism of a week ago, the Pirates have now dropped four of their first five interleague games, with the matinee finale against the White Sox going on as I type this. (The Bucs had a 6-0 lead after 1 1/2, but the Sox have rallied in the bottom of the second for six of their own to tie the score. I should be shocked, but I'm not.)

After last weekend in Baltimore, I've lost a good amount of faith in the team's ability to finish a ballgame. Friday night, Pittsburgh led 6-1, only to lose 9-6 as starter Phil Dumatrait fell apart and couldn't last beyond the fifth (coincidentally, he started today's game as well). Saturday was a legitimate classic contest, as the Pirates rallied from 4-2 and 6-5 deficits via clutch homers from Jose Bautista and, yes, Adam LaRoche(!) to take a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Matt Capps then promptly gave up the tying home run on his first pitch, then surrendered the winning rally "Capped" off by Ramon Hernandez's RBI single.

Sunday provided some semblance of hope as LaRoche bailed out Capps (who blew his third save of the week) with a game-winning hit in the top of the 10th. Give the Bucs credit for sticking with it in the face of being swept by the comparatively-flawed Orioles, but in reality the Pirates should have been the ones gunning for the three-game tour de force.

It's all extremely discouraging just as it seemed the team was starting to get solid contributions from starting pitching, bullpen, offense and defense. Now the pitching is in shambles again as the ballclub has once again shrunk away from the .500 mark, currently standing at 34-38. (A Jermaine Dye homer has given Chicago an improbable 7-6 lead just one inning after they trailed 6-zip...so don't hold your breath on that 35th win. In fact, never hold your breath on anything related to Our Buccos.)

It doesn't get any easier. The respectable Blue Jays, the resurgent Yankees and the rising Rays are all on tap over the next 10 days at PNC Park. Interleague play has never been kind to the Pirates, but this year it could be downright grotesque if things don't change. Then again, momentum is a myth in baseball, so perhaps things can turn around. Hey, that's been my Buccos mantra for the past 10 years, so why should I abandon it now?

Invasion of the Pod People
Assuming all my hardware is functional, tonight will be the inaugural recording of the Polish Prodigy Podcast. This edition will co-star my brother Mark, who has thoughts of being the Mike Golic to my Mike Greenberg. Sure, Mark is maybe one third the size of Golic, but we'll let the listeners decide if the analogy is sound.

For now, it's time to listen to Pirates-Sox. Simply stunning that they'll have to come from behind in a game they led by six not more than 30 minutes ago. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 Pittsburgh Pirates!

Please hold your applause.

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