Mark Madden: Pirates’ collapse, Pat Narduzzi’s bluster and more

September 16, 2018

Pirates center fielder Starling Marte returns to the sugout after striking out during the ninth inning against the Braves Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, at PNC Park.

So many opinions, not enough time. That’s why God created refreshing sports notes. Size doesn’t matter.

• Urban Meyer mangled the Zach Smith domestic violence situation at Ohio State in clumsy and dishonest fashion. But Ohio State still wants to win football games, so Meyer got a three-game suspension and was retained as coach. That decision will play well in Columbus and among alumni, and if Ohio State feels that matters more than the mob’s finely tuned moral compass, that is the university’s right. It’s refreshing when the echo chamber doesn’t make a decision. (I would not have fired Meyer, either.)

• At Pitt football’s kickoff luncheon, coach Pat Narduzzi said the Panthers will play in the ACC championship game. Preseason bluster is fun, but Pitt will be lucky to reach .500. But Pitt has a tradition of illogical optimism, as exhibited by making a sophomore quarterback with one start sound like the next Dan Marino.

• It is perfectly logical for networks not to televise the national anthem before NFL games. The networks and NFL are in a partnership worth billions. The former won’t (and shouldn’t) do anything to harm the latter. It’s not “Meet the Press.” It’s a game broadcast. The president is mad. Good. Those who support the protesting players are mad because part of their platform has been taken away. Good. As long as everybody’s mad, it seems a fair decision.

• Perhaps water just found its own level with the Pirates. But what’s happened this month is a collapse. On July 31, the Pirates were 56-52 and three games out of the last wild card. They since have gone 7-14 and are 8½ games out of the last wild card. That sure reads like a collapse. A few of the pitchers have done great. The bats bailed. Starling Marte is hitting .228 in August, Gregory Polanco .208. Each has one home run this month. Those two define inconsistency and indifference.

• Marte’s indifference was on display Aug. 19, when he didn’t run hard on a ground ball and avoided manager Clint Hurdle in the dugout immediately after. Later that game, he gave up on a rundown. Marte didn’t start the next game by way of punishment but wouldn’t admit his faux pas and chastised fans for booing him. Hurdle completed the idiocy by pinch-hitting Marte in the game he was benched. So Marte sat for part of one game. How can Marte not learn from that sort of rigid discipline?

• Hurdle has done a terrible job this season. But he’s signed through 2021, so his job is beyond safe. Owner Bob Nutting won’t pay Hurdle to not manage, let alone do so for three years.

• Sean Rodriguez and his .162 batting average are off the DL. My tested IQ is 166. The race is back on. Will Rodriguez out-hit my IQ? #SaveUs166

• The trades for Chris Archer and Keone Kela will help the Pirates beyond this year. But they were supposed to help provide meaningful baseball into September of this season. They didn’t. Kela has pitched well, but Archer’s Pirates ERA is 4.91. For this season, acquiring Archer failed the Pirates.

• The NHL tweeted that the Penguins need Phil Kessel to have a “bounce-back year.” Kessel just had a career high in points, so that seems demanding.

• More absurdity from the NHL’s Twitter feed: a poll asking voters to choose between Mario Lemieux and Connor McDavid. That has no potential to be a reasonable debate for the best part of another decade, if ever.

• The one-on-one golf match for $9 million between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will be on pay-per-view and the Bleacher Report app. Greed never takes a holiday. This concept interests me, but only if it’s free.

• For the first time in three decades, none of WPIAL football’s championship games will be televised. The WPIAL reportedly wants more for the broadcast rights than AT&T SportsNet wants to pay. The WPIAL should drop its price and get the games on TV. The WPIAL needs to do right by its athletes.

• Defending WPIAL and state Class 6A football champ Pine-Richland got routed 42-0 by IMG Academy of Bradenton, Fla., on Friday. IMG is a football factory, with players from 18 states and Canada. Kudos to Pine-Richland for taking on the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, but IMG violates the credo of high school football: Kids from one neighborhood vs. kids from another neighborhood. That’s the romance. IMG maxes out opportunities for its players. But if a scholastic athlete is quality, colleges will find him/her.

• ESPN’s Michelle Beadle said she won’t watch football because the sport doesn’t care about women. She did the same with wrestling, turning in her WWE “fan card” only to show up on WWE TV not long after, popping like a mark in the front row. Beadle excels at three things: martyrdom, failing upwards and, especially, making any situation about her.

• TheBigLead.com wants the volunteer umpires at the Little League World Series replaced because of bad calls: “It is abundantly clear that Little League has a problem on its hands. Continuing to ignore it won’t make it go away.” A) Joe West wouldn’t help. B) It’s Little League. Dial back the gravitas.

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