Friday, September 21, 2018

Who is Pablo Reyes?

By Noah Hiles
September 20, 2018

Image result for pablo reyes pirates
(Gene J. Puskar/AP)
With football season now in full swing and the Pittsburgh Pirates having to finish nearly perfect to even have a chance at the postseason, it is understandable why some fans have already checked out.
However, the Bucco fans who have yet to jump ship have been introduced to a player that exemplifies what September baseball is all about.
On September 4, the question, “Who the hell is Pablo Reyes?” could be heard echoing throughout the half empty walk ways PNC Park prior to the start of the Pirates game against the last place Cincinnati Reds. Due to the Bucs being a small market team, most of the players in Triple-A are well known prior to making their major league debut.
It is not very often that a player makes it to the major leagues completely under the radar. Yet, unless one was deeply invested in Pirates spring training or following the Indianapolis Indians this season, it would be completely understandable for them to not know who the hell Pablo Reyes was.
That is no longer the case.
After playing in just 10 major league games, fans are now beginning to have some interest in the life of Pablo (A big shout out to All the Kanye fans who get that reference). Standing at 5”8 and weighing in at 170 pounds, it is hard to picture a guy like Reyes as a professional athlete.
I myself thought he was just a family member of another player on the team the first time I saw him in the Pirates clubhouse in early September. However, ever since he has been given a shot to prove himself on the field, he has shown everyone that not only is he a ball player, but he might actually be a good one.
With just 10 games remaining in the 2018 season, it is safe to say that Reyes has been the most productive September call up for the Bucs not only this season, but for a long time. He has been a tough out at the plate, displayed great hustle on the bases and proved to be reliable at multiple positions in the field.
From his 1.060 OPS, to his impressive catches and throws, Reyes has made sure that anyone who is still watching Pirates baseball will remember his name for next year.
With that in mind, where does he fit into the 2019 picture?
Originally, the idea of Reyes making an opening day roster for a major league ball club sounds comical but there are a few factors in play that might allow Pablo to stay in the big leagues.
Unless Gregory Polanco recovers from his shoulder injury faster than the doctors expected him to, the Pirates will be without their starting right fielder to begin next season. Add in the departures of Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison and you have three open starting spots to fill. It is safe to assume that Adam Frazier will be in one of those three spots even if the Pirates do sign a few veterans in the offseason.
Frazier’s spot on the bench can and should easily be filled with Reyes.
Like Frazier, Reyes is versatile in the field, shows the ability to hit at the top of the order and is someone who will give you 100 percent effort any time his name is in the lineup.
The Pirates might have prospects who are bigger, stronger or a higher ceiling than Reyes but what they don’t have is a rookie that has come up from Triple-A this season and outperformed him.
We all now know who the hell Pablo Reyes is.
He is a major league ball player and he should be wearing a Pirates uniform on opening day, 2019.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

We Know Drama; Steelers enduring another bumpy patch

By Will Graves, The Associated Press
September 19, 2018
Image result for steelers september 16 2018
Antonio Brown (Don Wright/AP)
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree just smiled earlier this month when asked what would happen if the "Hard Knocks" cameras decided to spend a month embedded with the team during training camp.
"We're too real for TV," Dupree said with a grin.
Dupree meant it as a joke. Two weeks later, nobody is laughing.
The Steelers (0-1-1) are winless heading into next Monday's visit to Tampa Bay and the distractions they stressed the importance of avoiding in 2018 only seem to be multiplying.
The latest arrived in the aftermath of a loss to Kansas City when All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown opted to skip work on Monday, though he did find the time to hop on Twitter and respond to criticism by a former team employee who believes Brown should be thankful that he plays alongside quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
No one took Brown's suggestion of "trade me let's find out " seriously. Coach Mike Tomlin's bigger concern was Brown's absence from a mandatory day of meetings, a misstep that led to an extended sit-down between the two on Tuesday.
"I'll leave the nature of that conversation between us," Tomlin said Wednesday. "There was discipline involved for his missed meeting for Monday. Some of the other things we talked about extensively, he'll speak for himself in some of those things. Really our focus is preparing to win this game on Monday night."
Tomlin did not outline Brown's punishment. The only player in NFL history with five consecutive seasons of at least 100 receptions practiced alongside his teammates on Wednesday and there appears to be no plans to have him sit when the Steelers play the Buccaneers (2-0).
Asked if he expects Brown to face Tampa Bay, center Maurkice Pouncey responded "100 percent" and insisted there would be no blowback against Brown in the locker room for another in an increasing line of highly visible missteps.
"People don't know the things he has going on in his life, he's totally fine," Pouncey said. "He talked to the people he needed to talk to and confirmed why he wasn't here and we move on as a team and that's totally fine."
Pouncey's remarks came two weeks after he and the rest of the offensive line vented about running back Le'Veon Bell's decision to stay away from the team rather than sign his one-year franchise tender and two months after Pouncey opened training camp by saying "I know it's all fun and games for everybody at the beginning but man it's time to win."
And yet here the Steelers are, tied with Cleveland for last place in the AFC North while Bell jet skis in Florida and Brown flouts team rules . Roethlisberger did his best to downplay any sense of the off-the-field issues swallowing the team whole.
"I mean any team, any sport is going to have some kind of distractions throughout the year," Roethlisberger said. "I think that's what makes you professional. How can you respond and recover from it."
The best chance Pittsburgh has at crawling out of its self-created funk must come with Brown in the fold. Cameras caught him shouting at offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner in the second half, hardly the first time Brown has let his anger bubble to the surface when things aren't going well.
"I think that he's the best in the world and when you're the best in the world you want to participate, you want to win football games," Roethlisberger said. "We're all a little frustrated because we're not winning right now."
It's not as if Brown has been frozen out of the offense. He's been targeted a league-high 33 times and his 18 receptions are tied for the team lead with JuJu Smith-Schuster. Brown, however, is averaging just 8.9 yards per catch, a byproduct of defenses determined to take away his breakaway ability.
"AB is a very passionate football player," Roethlisberger said. "We know that. The fans know that. That's what makes him special is his passion for this game and the passion to be great. We're not going to want to take that away from him."
If anything, at least Roethlisberger and company have become accustomed to talking about the latest off-the-field dustup. They won 13 games in a 2017 that often felt chaotic and why they shrugged when asked if there's a cumulative toll of spending so much time answering questions that have little to do with their play.
"It can if you let it control you," cornerback Artie Burns said. "I think we do a good job of trying to keep the camaraderie together as a team and just focus on week to week. You never know what may come up on the headlines or whatever, so you've got to prepare for it."
The Steelers are certainly getting plenty of practice.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

'It's a Circus There': Antonio Brown No-Show Confirms Tomlin Has Lost Steelers

By Mike Freeman
September 18, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin meets with reporters after an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. Photo: Gene J. Puskar, AP / Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Mike Tomlin after Sunday's 42-37 loss to the Chiefs (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
For those of us who like Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, there is a hard truth that must be said: He has lost his locker room.
It's all but impossible to consider all that is happening in Pittsburgh now and conclude Tomlin, now in his 12th year with the club, has a firm grasp on what's happening with his players.
"It's a circus there," one NFC South assistant coach told B/R, "and Mike has no control over it.
"He's one of the best coaches of my generation, but the players have too much control there."
Has Tomlin lost every Steelers player? No, of course not. I've spoken to plenty of Steelers who believe he is the best coach they've played for—and ever will. And as an assistant coach from Tomlin's division said, "It's not Mike's fault that Antonio Brown sometimes acts like an idiot."
But would Brown sometimes act like an idiot under another coach? 
Most coaches around the sport have great respect for Tomlin, but some of those same coaches will tell you privately that Tomlin doesn't keep enough control over his players. 
Things that have happened in Pittsburgh simply don't happen with other great franchises. Not in New England. Not in Green Bay. Not in Philadelphia anymore.
Aaron Rodgers doesn't simply decide to not show up to meetings.
Yet that's what Antonio Brown did this week. Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Brown skipped work on Monday. That is a massive middle finger to Tomlin.
Earlier that same day, in response to a tweet from a former Steelers employee who suggested Brown was lucky to have Ben Roethlisbergerand not the other way around, Brown responded
That was another family unfriendly gesture directed toward the Steelers organization.
It's surprising when you look at all Tomlin has accomplished, who in more than a decade as the Steelers coach has never had a losing record, won 10 games at least eight times and captured a Super Bowl.
Yet there's no question, at times, players have shown a startling lack of respect for him. Brown once broadcast a team meeting on Facebook Live, a shocking breach of trust that would never happen in a New England locker room.
Joey Porter, a former player and current Steelers assistant coach, argued with Bengals players during a wild-card playoff game three years ago. 
Former linebacker James Harrison, after leaving Pittsburgh, said Tomlin lacks discipline.
"Mike Tomlin is good as a head coach," Harrison told Fox Sports 1's Undisputed. "He's a players' coach. I think he needs to be a little bit more disciplined. The big thing with Belichick is he's very regimented, he's disciplined, everyone is going to be on the same page, there's not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing. I think over there [in New England], their whole coaching staff is like that."
Harrison added that Tomlin needs to be "more consistent across the board with everything, from your stars to your special teams players."
Harrison himself wasn't innocent of stretching the coach's patience, forcing his way out of Pittsburgh by leaving games early and sleeping through meetings (according to a report by's Jeremy Fowler)—more slaps in the face to Tomlin.
With Brown's latest actions, though, it's no longer theory or just talk, but truth. Tomlin has lost control of this locker room, and he needs to get it back.
Too many Steelers players see Tomlin as one of the guys. When you're chest bumping with players, sometimes the line between coach and player, management and employee, gets obliterated.
Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw made this point two weeks ago, and he was criticized for it, but it's important to note, especially now.
"I played for a tough sucker, and I was afraid of him, and we played our [butts] off for him because we feared him," Bradshaw said in an interview on Pittsburgh's 97.3 The Fan, referring to Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll. "I don't see that with [Tomlin]. He's chest bumping and all that. I'm the head of the corporation, I'm the CEO, I'm the chairman of the board, I'm talking to the stockholders telling them here's how we're gonna do at the end of the quarter. I'm selling this thing, and I'm not delivering the goods, which is championships. You've got to face the criticism."
Bradshaw's remarks weren't the first time he questioned Tomlin's coaching abilities. He said something similar before on Fox Sports 1's Speak for Yourself.
"I don't think he's a great coach at all. He's a nice coach," Bradshaw said. "To me … he's really a great cheerleader guy. I don't know what he does. But I don't think he is a great coach at all. His name never even pops in my mind when we think about great coaches in the NFL."
When I asked Bradshaw recently to expound upon his criticism of Tomlin, he responded, "I meant what I said."
Other head coaches and assistants have quietly whispered what Bradshaw said aloud.
There's little question there has to be a dividing line between players and coaches or you risk chaos. Players should, and do, have a voice, but there's voice, and then there's what Brown is doing, which is essentially telling Tomlin to take a hike.
To be fair, when Tom Brady blows up at coaches on the sideline, he isn't criticized for disrespecting Belichick. It's framed as Brady being a competitor, even though he's being as big a jerk as Brown. The difference is that Brady shows up for work all the time. Brady wouldn't miss a day unless he was missing several limbs. He has too much respect for the game and the organization.
Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, attempted some damage control by telling ESPN's Adam Schefter that there's nothing to see here.
"Antonio had a personal matter," Rosenhaus said. "I talked to the team about it. His issue was unrelated to the tweet or his relationship with the team. Third, AB has an incredible drive to win. He just wants to win. That's all that that is."
The problem with this explanation is that Tomlin did not make it clear at his Tuesday news conference that Brown's absence was excused.
It's possible Brown had a personal issue he didn't want to discuss with the team, but that would have been easy enough to communicate to the team without it becoming a bigger issue. It also seems odd that as of Tuesday afternoon, Tomlin hadn't talked to Brown about it and Brown hadn't called Tomlin.
These are uncertain times in the Steelers locker room. Le'Veon Bell is holding out. Brown is not on board for some reason. And the team has yet to win a game. It's time for Tomlin to do something simple. It's time for him to gain total control of that locker room.
Because he's lost it.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are having a horrific start to their season — and now Stormy Daniels is adding to the drama

By Allan Smith
September 19, 2018
Image result for steelers chiefs antonio brown september 16 2018
Antonio Brown (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a season's worth of drama take place just this week.
On Sunday, the team became the first NFL franchise in at least 78 years to score 37 points and commit no turnovers in a home game and lose. The loss put the preseason Super Bowl hopefuls at 0-1-1 after a tie with the Cleveland Browns, a team that had won one game in the past two seasons.
Afterward, star wide receiver Antonio Brown went at it with a former Steelers public-relations employee who said he wouldn't be able to put up the same eye-popping numbers if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger weren't throwing to him.
"Trade me let's find out," Brown tweeted on Monday, a day when he didn't bother showing up for work.
Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree also got into a tiff on social media. And TMZ posted footage of Le'Veon Bell, the team's star running back who has refused to end his holdout for a long-term contract, on a WaveRunner.
If that wasn't enough, Michael Avenatti, the attorney for the adult-film star Stormy Daniels, hinted that Roethlisberger would be featured in his client's upcoming book detailing her alleged affair with President Donald Trump and other topics. Avenatti tweeted on Tuesday that the pair had "no further comment at this time regarding the details relating to" Roethlisberger.
Avenatti did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
The Steelers now have to prepare for a tough Monday-night game in Florida against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are off to a surprising 2-0 start riding the hot hand of backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"Steeler Nation, know we're all down right now, got to stay positive and move forward, better days to come!" wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster tweeted Monday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, nothing had been published on details about Roethlisberger in Daniels' book, "Full Disclosure," set to be released next month.
But in January, when Daniels' allegation of an affair with Trump was made public, it was revealed that she told the celebrity gossip magazine In Touch in a 2011 interview, published this year, that Trump had Roethlisberger walk her back to her hotel room a day after she and Trump slept together at a Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament in 2006.
Daniels told the magazine she caught the Manhattan billionaire at a party with the Steelers quarterback, who had won his first Super Bowl earlier that year. Trump, she said, made Roethlisberger "promise to take care of me."
"I stayed another 15-20 minutes, and Ben Roethlisberger actually walked me up to my room that night because Donald told him to," she continued. "Yeah, he walked me all the way to my hotel room."
Roethlisberger has twice faced allegations of rape. A civil suit was settled in 2012 over an accusation that he raped a woman in his hotel room in 2008 at the same Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament. Meanwhile, Trump has promoted his relationship with Roethlisberger.
Reflecting on the Steelers' woes so far in this young season, head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that issues with the team abounded and that there was no shortage of areas on the field that needed addressing.
"It's not one constant area that's below the line," he said. "It's usually popping up in a lot of areas."
If there's any sign of hope for the Steelers, it's that the next venue on their schedule is at least a place where they've enjoyed success. The last time Roethlisberger led a Steelers team into action at Raymond James Stadium, they won Super Bowl 43, in 2009.

For Pirates, shooting for a winning season only makes sense

By Kevin Gorman
September 18, 2018

Lavarnway drives in winning run, Pirates top Royals in 11
Ryan Lavarnway (63) celebrates after his 11th-inning walk-off single that gave the Pirates a 2-1 win over the Royals on Tuesday night. It was their second consecutive walk-off win and pushed their record to 76-74. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

When the Pittsburgh Pirates won by walk-off Monday night against the Kansas City Royals, it marked their 75 th victory to match their win total from the 2017 season.
The Pirates are within striking distance of a winning season, something that might seem insignificant given that they are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture.
With the Pirates on the brink of being knocked out of contention for the NL Central title on Tuesday – either a loss to the Royals or a Chicago Cubs win would do the trick – I asked Pirates manager Clint Hurdle how important it was to finish with a winning record.
“It’s always important to have a winning season,” Hurdle said. “When things are taken off the table – to win the division is taken away – we are trying to win every game we play. We also are trying to improve our team daily, so there’s a methodology to that. Sometimes, it makes sense to other people; sometimes, it makes no sense to other people.
“There is a level of competition that you like to keep in place when you’re playing teams that are fighting – the Brewers, the Cubs, the Cardinals. Different storyline here (with the Pirates and Royals) – there were a lot of young players on the field last night, both sides.”
A winning season should be the goal, if only because the Pirates have had so few over the past three decades.
Consider that the Pirates have had only six winning seasons since 1990. All six of those teams advanced to the postseason, and only one finished with less than 94 victories (88-74 in 2014).
The winning campaigns, however, came in short stretches. The Pirates averaged 96.3 wins from 1990-92, but lost in the NLCS all three years. They averaged 93.3 wins from 2013-15, but lost in the NLDS once and in NL wild-card games at PNC Park twice.
Outside of those six winning seasons, the Pirates haven’t cracked the 80-win in a non-playoff campaign since 1988, when they went 85-75.
That’s an amazing all-or-nothing approach toward winning baseball.
Going into Tuesday’s game against the Royals at PNC Park, the Pirates needed to win seven of their 13 remaining games to finish above .500.
“You keep score for a reason. Winning matters,” said Hurdle, who was hired following a 105-loss season in 2010. “I think, within the context of the clubhouse, we talk about winning way more than you would even guess we talk about winning.
“However, we don’t need to get a shirt that says, ‘Let’s win’ or ‘We need to win 82.’ We had this conversation when I first got here. I get that. I think there’s always a sense of winning more games than you’re losing when you get to that point where it’s real. It’s real for us now. We want to win more than 82 games. However, our focus is to win more games than we lose right now because of where we are.”
The focus, however, seems to be more on evaluating the September call-ups than anything. Or, as Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass put it, for the young players to show their capabilities and what they’re capable of.
Pirates starting right-hander Joe Musgrove won Game 5 of the World Series last fall with the world champion Houston Astros, so it’s no surprise he wants a winning record.
“I think we’d like to finish above .500,” Musgrove said. “I think every team would, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the focus of our team. We’re trying to win as many games as we can. Regardless of whether we’re in it or out of it, you always want to try to go out and win.”
The Pirates had five winning seasons in the 1960s, including a World Series championship in ’60. They had nine winning seasons in the ‘70s, with World Series titles in ’71 and ’79.
To put this in perspective, the Pirates had more winning seasons (four) in the 1980s than in any decade since. And the ‘80s are considered one of the worst decades in modern franchise history, as the Pirates followed the ‘79 World Series championship with drug trials and a slow decline that reached its nadir with a 104-loss season in ‘85.
I would imagine that most, if not all of the Pirates players aren’t aware that the club has had only six winning seasons in three decades. They seem more concerned with trying to finish the season strong, knowing that playing .500 baseball would allow them to finish with 81 wins.
“Once you’re out of it, it takes the ultimate goal out of the picture of making it to the postseason and trying to win a championship,” Musgrove said. “It doesn’t make the season become a waste, and it doesn’t mean you burn your last 20-30 games just to get through the season.”
But there is importance in the experience and experiments that can occur in a stress-free September. The Pirates have tinkered with an all-homegrown lineup. They have started rookie infielders Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman and Pablo Reyes, sometimes at positions they haven’t played much, so that they can make evaluations.
That can be invaluable to a team that has important decisions to make in the offseason, such as whether to pick up the option on Josh Harrison, re-sign free agent Jordy Mercer and go to arbitration with Corey Dickerson or to invest in stopgap measures at their respective positions.
But the goal should be a winning season, every season.
Even if the goal is only 82 wins, it’s better than 78 in ’16 and 75 last year. Not only would it exceed expectations for a club some predicted to lose 100 games after the Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole trades but also give incentive to the front office to invest for a playoff push.
“The goal was to make the playoffs but whatever we do this year sets the benchmark higher for next year,” Musgrove said. “The more wins we can pull out in these last two weeks, we’ll set the tone for next year. We always try to continue to grow and move up. If we get 82 wins this year, we’d like to exceed that next year.”
That was Musgrove’s way of saying winning breeds winning, a mentality missing from the Pirates for the better part of three decades.
When it comes to a winning season, the Pirates need to show their capabilities and what they’re capable of.
Does that make sense?
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.