Archive for category Stu Wilkinson

Road Rash - The 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates

By Stuart Wilkinson

The Pittsburgh Pirates are making a run at history. If you take their record at face value, this team just looks like a standard addition to the Pirates record-breaking eighteen year losing streak. Nothing to see here, move along.

If you take a deeper look at MLB’s standings, however, something should pop out at you. The Pirates have won 14 games on the road this year. They’ve played 67. That means the team is clicking along at a road winning percentage of 0.209. That means for every ten games the Buccos play on the road, they win two. That’s not going to get it done in the juggernaut-laden NL Central.

I don’t blame this team for playing poorly away from the friendly confines of PNC Park. There are some tried and true explanations for the poor road performance: young players, lack of talent, Bob Nutting being evil, etc. What interests me is how this record of futility stacks up against other bad road teams in the history of baseball and what it means for the team’s future.

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Dear Scottie Reynolds

I haven’t written anything for The On Deck Circle in a long time. After this weekend’s Pitt-Villanova game I had to once again fire up MS Word and let the Internet, and more specifically Scottie Reynolds, know how I feel.

Before you read my letter to Scottie, know that I am a Pitt basketball fan. I went to high school in Pittsburgh and started following them when they were a Big East also-ran playing in the pressure cooker known as Fitzgerald Fieldhouse. The turning point for the program was the 2001 Big East tournament, when Brandin Knight, Ricardo Greer, and Issac Hawkins led the Panthers on a surprising run to the championship game (where they were pumped by Troy Bell’s Boston College Eagles).

I remember that run because we were vacationing in Mexico at the time, and whenever Pitt was on my Dad and I would desperately scour Playa del Carmen for a bar showing ESPN’s coverage of the tourney. Whenever you’re turning down sunny beaches for very unspectacular sports bars to watch a team in the bottom third of the Big East, you might just be a Pitt fan.

That run in the Big East tournament set the stage for the program’s success in this decade. This year was supposed to be the culmination of that success. Pitt had two excellent senior leaders at key positions and one of the nation’s best big men. They were built for tournament success and battle tested in the Big East all year. They achieved their first ever number one ranking during the season.

This was the year for Pitt, and then Scottie Reynolds and Villanova happened. Let’s just say that I wish American could have finished them off.
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Gary Roberts Wednesday - Chris Kaman

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

Welcome to the Beijing Olympics version of Gary Roberts Wednesday. I was going to pick Chinese synchronized divers Lin Yue and Huo Liang after their gold medal performance in men’s synchronized diving, but then I remembered that they can’t Google Tiananmen Square. You have to be able to Google Tiananmen Square in order to get your own Gary Roberts Wednesday. Dems da rules.

Anyways, Chris Kaman is apparently playing for the German men’s basketball team this year. This gives Germany a three-headed frontcourt monster of Kaman, Dirk Nowitzki, and former Penn State big man Jan Jagla (Jagla really should have been a hockey player, just so I could hear Don Cherry say “Janny Jagla” once). In their first game against Angola those three picked up 57 points while only missing seven shots, alerting the rest of the world that the German team had some top-tier bigs.

Of course that was against Angola, the traditional punching bag of Olympic basketball. In their second game, against those pesky Greeks, the Germans lost by 23. For some reason Kaman only played 16 minutes. Coincidence? I doubt it. The Germans are obviously playing possum right now, waiting for the medal round to fully unleash the devastating 260 pounder from Grand Rapids.
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Don't Sleep on the Jets

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

That’s right folks, it’s time for some NFL talk on The On Deck Circle! Patrick Tye got us started the other day with his “Fantasy Football Focus” (by the way, who the heck is Shaun Hill?) and now it’s time for some more in-depth analysis. I’m pretty sure the last article we had on professional football that didn’t involve teams that exist only in people’s imaginations was the debut of Alex Pennycook’s ill-fated “Thursday Top Tens” weekly feature back in February. Obviously if you’re relying solely on this website for your sports news and analysis needs (and you are) you need to get up to speed on what the NFL landscape is going to look like this year.

You probably already know which teams will be expected to make the playoffs – New England, Indianapolis, Dallas, Pittsburgh, the Bills. But do you know which team will be this year’s biggest surprise? Last year it was the Cleveland Browns, the year before that it was the New Orleans Saints. The year before that it was some other team that I can’t name off the top of my head, so let’s just say it was the Super Bowl XL Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

These sleeper teams not only captured the hearts of football fans everywhere with their underdog status and determined style of play, they also made gamblers a lot of money. Exactly one assload of money, to be exact. Cleveland went 12-4 against the spread last year and in 2006 the Saints went 10-6, and that’s with the surge of fan support for them because of Katrina. Those numbers are why we’re all here, right? It’s all about finding an edge to help you chase the Yankee Dollar. You’re going to need to know which team will be rising from the bottom third of the league to make the playoffs if you want to cash in on your NFL wagers.
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Gary Roberts Wednesday - Jason Bay

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

Welcome to baseball that matters, Jason Bay “Watch.” For all but three games of your pre-Red Sox career you played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, baseball’s version of whatever opened against The Dark Knight. Those years were full of individual accolades and team losses. Now you have your chance to collect the accolades while playing on a team that matters, a team that undoubtedly will win a World Series in the next decade.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I was hoping that Jay Bay would get traded away from my Pirates, in part because I wanted the team to turn over a new leaf and in part because I wanted to see him play for a decent team. The Red Sox were the last team I wanted him to go to, as I’ve been their sworn enemy from the moment Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore celebrated their World Series win so many years ago. Now that Bay’s on the Red Sox, however, I’ve become Boston’s number one fan. That, my friends, is the power of Jason Bay.
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Gary Roberts Wednesday – Andris Biedrins

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

Congratulations are in order for Andris Biedrins of the Golden State Warriors. Mr. Biedrins recently signed a contract worth $62 million (that’s more than People paid for Tom and Katie’s baby pictures!) over the next six seasons. Mr. Biedrins has also never, ever, made a jump shot. I’m serious. His form makes Chuck Hayes look like J.J. Redick. Having a shooting form worse than Shaq and still getting paid more than $10 million a year? That definitely makes Andris deserving of his very own Gary Roberts Wednesday.

Biedrins might just be worth that silly amount of money for the Warriors. He’s a great fit for them – a big that protects the painted area and can finish around the hoop. The best part of his game is his ability to play within himself and not steal shots from GSW’s absolutely ridiculous core of guards. Do you realize that the Warriors have Stack Jack, Corey Maggette, and Monta Ellis? With Al Harrington in the frontcourt? I don’t think Andris will be getting any less selective in his shot choices next year.

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Bring Back Barry

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

It’s time. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is over, which means it’s time to get down to business for the teams that consider themselves contenders for a berth in the World Series. As we saw last year with the Colorado Rockies, the goal for teams not named the Boston Red Sox should be making the playoffs. Once you’re playing in October, anything can happen. Of course, absolutely nothing will happen if your team ends up playing the Red Sox. That’s just a juggernaut.

To increase their chances of getting into the playoffs some teams will make big trades on or around the July 31st trading deadline. We’ve already seen Milwaukee deal prospects for C.C. Sabathia and the Cubs do the same for Rich Harden. More swaps involving prospects and established players will be made as the summer wears on. Why on Earth, however, would a baseball bigwig pull the trigger on giving up some blue chip prospects for a rental player when the greatest player of all time is available as a free agent and willing to play for the league minimum? Ladies and gentlemen, you have forgotten Barry Bonds!

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Gary Roberts Wednesday - Trevor Linden

PhotobucketThis article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

For the last couple of weeks the retirement status of a certain Green Bay Packers quarterback has been deemed by the sports media to be incredibly important news. This quarterback has probably gotten more face time on PTI than Wilbon and Kornheiser combined, while the retirement of one of the greatest Canadian kids of all time has received minimal attention. The only coverage I remember from Trevor Linden’s retirement was seeing it on The Score’s bottom line. Pretty pathetic effort, media.

Trevor Linden deserves more than the tidbit that I saw while watching Cam Stewart and Gabe Morency talk about finding value in the day’s baseball games. No, Trevor Linden deserves his very own Gary Roberts Wednesday. This man played in the NHL for 20 years and scored thirty or more goals in six different seasons. His nickname is Captain Canuck! Nuts to GRW, Trevor Linden deserves a statue and a life’s supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
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Gary Roberts Wednesday – Ryan Hollweg

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans know they have a lot to look forward to next season thanks to the brilliance of Cliff Fletcher and the rest of MLSE. Bryan McCabe’s return to relevance. The Finger-banging of opposing forwards that dare to enter Vesa Toskala’s airspace. The inevitable emergence of Curtis Joseph as a top five goalie in the Eastern Conference. All of these future events are obvious to even the most casual Leafs fan, but I don’t think the citizens of Leafs Nation know about the excellence that will be coming from one of their club’s best new additions: Ryan Hollweg.

Before being sent to the Leafs in exchange for a fifth round draft pick, Hollweg skated for the New York Rangers, the team that originally drafted him in the eighth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He was drafted from the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers after four seasons (he sat out most of another season with a concussion). Those four seasons resulted in a respectable 94 goals and 233 points, not to mention a hard-working 476 penalty minutes. As those numbers would lead you to believe, Hollweg is a somewhat scrappy player.
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Never Trust Duke Basketball Players

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

We all know that Duke University is an awful academic institution with an embarrassment for a men’s basketball team. Although I’ve never met a Duke graduate, I’m sure that they are all complete jerks, as jerkiness pretty much comes with a diploma from Duke University. Most guys on the men’s basketball team probably don’t even have a diploma, despite Coach K’s best efforts to bribe their professors with bags of dollar bills given to him by American Express and Chevrolet. Even without a full Duke education, however, Duke’s men’s basketball players do consistently manage to be the jerk store’s best-selling item.

Maybe some of what I said in that opening paragraph was harsh. Some of it probably came pretty close to libel, which is okay since libel is perfectly legal on the internet. There was a point to all of those cruel words though: Duke basketball players cannot be trusted. That’s not a baseless accusation, it’s a fact. Other than Grant Hill, there are no high character Duke players in the NBA. Let’s take a look at the facts, starting with the newest member of the untrustworthy Duke players club.
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