BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 30: Jaromir Jagr of Czech Republic looks dejected during the IIHF World Championship group D match between Czech Republic and Latvia at Orange Arena on April 30, 2011 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Jaromir Jagr Might Possibly Sign With The Penguins
The Penguins have made a contract offer to their old star forward, Jaromir Jagr, and have given him until today to make up his mind as to whether or not he wants to return to Pittsburgh to finish out his career. I'm far from a hockey-guru, but I do know that when Jagr was here the first time, he was a polarizing figure both in the community and in the Pens' locker room--clashing with coaches and even teammates. He was also one of the greatest players of his era or any era, winning scoring titles and helping the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups in the early 90's. Jagr is now 39 and that, along with the fears of him being a distraction in the locker room, has made some fans leery of the prospect of his return. However, Penguins fans have been screaming for a top-line winger to play with Sidney Crosby for years, and the only perfect scenario is for the Pens to develop from within, and they haven't been able to do that. Another option would be for Pittsburgh to go out and sign a top forward, but since they're paying Crosby--as well as Evgeni Malkin--top dollar to play center on the top 2 lines, they don't have much money to go around. The only top wingers they can bring in to Pittsburgh are via trade. In other words, a rent-a-player. The Penguins tried that in 2008 when they acquired Marian Hossa for their Stanley Cup run. Hossa left for free-agency after the season, and the fans still haven't forgiven him for it. So much for rent-a-wingers. I think the Penguins should sign Jagr. What's it going to hurt? For those worried about Jagr's attitude, it's been ten years since he left Pittsburgh on bad-terms and by all indications, he's matured. I don't think he'd poison the Pens locker room this time around even if he was a cancer because the Penguins' new leader is Sidney Crosby and he's one of the best, young leaders in all of sports. And I don't think age should be that big of a factor with Jagr. He was still performing at a high level the last time he played in the NHL two or three years ago. I don't see much of a drop-off this time around. The Pens have put some older journeymen wingers on Sid's line in recent years like Billy Guerin two seasons ago. They might as well try an older winger that just happens to be one of the greatest hockey players of all time.
Hey, how about them Buccos?
-If you've been following the Pirates at all over the last 18-plus years, you know that there normally isn't too much to get excited about. However, this year is a totally different story. Not only are the Pirates competitve, they're actually over .500, and we're approaching July! I was watching some highlights of the Pirates weekend series against the Boston Red Sox at PNC Park over the weekend, and it was cool to see the fans getting so into the game and cheering on the Bucs. The Pirates took 2 of 3 from Boston and have actually been quite respectable in interleague play this season after struggling against the Junior circuit for so many years. Right now, the Pirates are 40-38 overall and only 3-games back in the NL Central division. Obviously, I'm not ready to go overboard and get my hopes up for them to make a run at the postseason, but it is nice to see the Bucs near the top of the standings for a change.
-Speaking of those standings, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is going to have to walk a fine-line between wanting to contend and continuing to rebuild the farm-system. The fans are desperate for a winning baseball team in Pittsburgh and many are calling for Huntington to be a buyer and not a seller when the trading deadline approaches in about a month. As recently as late May, it was assumed that starting pitcher Paul Maholm would be gone at the deadline because of his contract status and the fact that he's due to make $10 million next season. Even the fans were on-board with this because Maholm was seen as a symbol of the old losing attitude of the Pirates. Well, now that he's picked-up his game a bit, and the team is competing, suddenly, the fans don't want Maholm to leave. Maholm is a left-handed pitcher and even though his record may not indicate it, he's pitched fairly well overall and has a 3.21 ERA. Decent left-handed pitching is hard to come by in MLB. It'll be interesting to see what direction Huntington goes when it's time to deal players, and it will be very interesting to see the fan-reaction.
Pitt and Penn State to resume their rivalry starting in 2016
This is fairly-old news, but I still would like to mention it. As a life-long Pitt fan, I'm excited about this. It's kind of disappointing that the fans have to wait five seasons for the rivalry to resume, and it's kind of sad that there are only two-games scheduled once it does resume, but I'll take anything at this point. The two teams haven't played since 2000 and stopped playing on an annual basis many years before that. Pitt fans seem to be a little more excited about the renewal than Penn State fans who seem to have this arrogant stance that they don't need Pitt. As far as a lot of them are concerned, the rivalry is old news, and they've moved on to bigger and better things in the Big Ten. If you have any sense of history with regards to Penn State football, you should know about the old Pitt/Penn State rivalry. Even if you're too young to remember it, you should still appreciate it. I know a lot of Steeler fans who weren't even born the last time the Steelers played a meaningful game against the Raiders, but they still know the history and hate the Silver and Black with all their heart. I think Pitt and Penn State playing on a yearly basis again would be a good thing for both schools. I know the programs went their separate ways many years ago when they joined different conferences, but imagine if Alabama left the SEC to join the Big 12 (or whatever it's called these days), don't you think the Tide would still make room on their schedule to play Auburn every season? I think Penn State fans and alumni should stop being so arrogant, realize that they don't really have a traditional rival in the Big Ten, and petition their athletic director to make a deal to play Pitt every season.
The Pittsburgh Power actually won on Saturday?
I didn't go to the Pittsburgh Power's arena football game this past Saturday, and I actually forgot it was on television because I was busy following the Pirates' game online. I turned it on just in time to see the ending.....or at least I thought I did. The Power were trailing Milwaukee, 38-32, very late in the game, but they were driving for the go-ahead score with less then 30 seconds remaining. During the drive, Pittsburgh's starting center was injured and on the very next play, there was a poor-snap exchange between the quarterback and the new center and Pittsburgh fumbled the ball to Milwaukee. There had to be 20 seconds left in the game, and I thought it was over. Why wouldn't it be? I turned the television off and went back to following the baseball game. The very next day, I looked in the sports section of the local newspaper and was shocked to discover that the Power had won. Milwaukee fumbled the ball back to Pittsburgh, and the Power scored on a touchdown pass on the last play of the game. How is that even possible? Do they not have the "victory formation" in the Arena Football League? No way would that ever happen in the NFL or even college football--not today.
Anyone else have any thoughts on these subjects?