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Monday, September 30, 2013

Pirates Are 18-1

So the last I checked, a bet on the Pirates winning the World Series was an 18-1 shot in Vegas.  Not the best I have seen but still something if you drop a pile of money on it.  But what is the real likelihood of that scenario?

I would say they have the same chance that anyone else has going in but a desire that far outweighs any other single team.  Yeah, I said it.  

The curse is over.  Not that we had some superstitious curse or anything silly like that but it has seemed like a curse.  The fact that they made it this far is basically a Pittsburgh Miracle in and of itself when I talk with other friends and family still back in the Burgh.  But you can't deny the fact that they did it playing great baseball.  Despite have a rag-tag bunch of players that most teams wouldn't have given a second thought to, or having only one "star" player on the roster, or having a pitching staff made up of guys that, lets be honest, most casual baseball fans have no idea about, they still won 94 games.  

Why?  They do it with great pitching, phenomenal defensive play, and decent offensive production.  They are where they need to be on the field to make the plays, the pitchers seeming know how to pitch to each and every batter they face, and they are able to put enough points on the board to stay in games to win.  So when it came down to the final inches of the season, they went all out, winning enough against the Cubs and sweeping the Reds in the final series.  They knew what they had to do and they did it, securing home field for this pivotal Wild Card game.

They don't care about the things myself and members of the fickle fandom of Pirates baseball say about them on a daily basis.  They don't care about my concerns about their abilities to wake up the bats and provide run support for their pitchers.  They don't care about the sports writers that say they are playing with "house money".  There is no such thing in their clubhouse.  If you ask anyone in that organization right now, they will tell you one thing.  They are playing to win the World Series.  That picture I posted the other day on here of the locker room celebration with all the champagne and beer flowing freely was misconstrued by many people out there.  The Pirates aren't that team that is just happy to be there.  They aren't that team that just squeaked in and are lucky to have survived.  They worked for this and they deserved to celebrate something that hasn't happened in 21 years.  

I watched those last few games very intently and paid close attention to the reactions, emotions, and mannerisms of the players as those games progressed.  I finally saw it.  I saw the desire.  I saw the passion.  I saw that raw emotion of guys that new they had something special.  These guys know what they did a few days ago and they are determined to make that last.  So am I.  No longer am I going to sit here and pretend that "just happy to be here" is an acceptable attitude for a downtrodden, broken, and beaten Pirates fan.  This team is for real, and it's World Series or bust.

Let's get this one at home, Bucs!!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Steeler 6-pack

The third installment of a new "feature" here on The Real DFG is the Sunday Steeler 6-Pack.  Each Sunday of the NFL season, I will feature 6 random cards from my Pittsburgh Steelers' PC.  There is no rhyme or reason for any of them, just 6 random cards I pull out of one of my many boxes or binders of black and gold (and there are MANY) and maybe a comment or two.  We haven't won a game so far in 2013 but hopefully that will change this week in London.

Here We Go!

 2012 Leaf Draft Red David DeCastro Autograph

DeCastro had so much upside until last season when he took an injury that put him on the sideline for all of 2012.  This year was to be his big debut as a starter in Black and Yellow.  Now his legacy isn't his's the one he caused to Markice Pouncey in the first game of the season.  Pouncey is now out for the season and the Steelers are 0-3 without much protection for Ben up the middle.  Todd Haley said last week that he still thinks the incident is haunting DeCastro.  I don't know if that's the case or not but if it is, he needs to get past it.  Things happen.  This is going to be a long season.

 1992 Topps Dermontti Dawson

I don't know why this picture is so grainy.  I had to have cropped it from something instead of scan it.  I do have the card though (probably many of them.  Dawson is one of the latest Steeler inductions into Canton, back in 2012.

2006 Topps DPP Heath Miller

Boy it sure was nice to see HEEEEEATH out there last week against the Bears.  He only had 3 receptions for 35 yards but that option has been missing from Ben's repertoire all season.  His blocking skills and ability to catch the ball 5-10 yards down the field are unmatched.  This guy brings it, every game.

 2011 Tristar OBAK Football Mini Terry Bradshaw

Fresh out of college....this picture must have been taken not long after Terry donned the Black and Yellow.  Just think....He could have been a Bear.  Shudder.

 1984 Topps Jack Lambert

One of the most menacing players to ever put on a helmet.  This guy's face alone struck fear into opposing offenses.  He was a beast.  But I compare his style of play to today's guys.  I would guess in today's No Fun League, his 11 years of service would have netted him 44 games of suspensions and the equivalent of Peyton Manning's $18 Million/year salary in fines.  Give or take a few game ejections.  Now that's American football.

1969 Topps Bobby Walden

This Georgia Bulldog had been playing in the CFL and the Minnesota Vikings before coming to the Steelers in 1969.  He was their punter in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X.  You don't find many cards of punters in todays card releases.  I think the last ones come from Topps Total maybe?  I don't know.  There are probably some in the larger flagship Topps sets too I suppose.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Spoke Too Soon??

So yesterday I tried my best at a "grounding" type post in order to play devil's advocate with all the jubilation over the Pirates clinching a playoff spot for the first time in 20+ years.  I do that because, like anything else in life, you have to take the good with the bad.  And let's face it, the Bucs have not been playing their best baseball in the last couple months.  Definitely not the type of play that will propel them deep into October.

But alas, the Pirates proved me wrong yesterday by bringing out the whoopin' sticks in Chicago, winning 8-2 and bumping themselves a game ahead of the Reds in the Wild Card Game hosting sweepstakes.  While the Cubs set another loss record for their franchise with the 50th home loss this season, the Pirates managed to pull out 8 runs, 2 of which were knocked in by Gerrit Cole himself.  Not only did he have to work through a bunch of tight innings but he helped out at the plate.  That was his 10th win of the season and the first time a Pirate rookie pitcher has won 10 games since 2002.  

Jobu must be a Pirates fan because the bats were suddenly awakened after my rant.  I'm not taking credit for that or anything but as I mentioned in the beginning of my last post, usually when I post about the Pirates, I end up jinxing them.  It happens all the time.  Alvarez hit an RBI double, Cole hit a two-run single, and all of a sudden it was 3-0 in the second.  Mercer hit his 7th HR to make it 4-0 and in the fifth, with bases loaded, Alvarez doubled, driving in two more.  Marte and McCutchen both picked up a couple RBIs in the 8th inning and it was all over.

Cole said after the game,
"I may not have gotten all the results I wanted tonight, but the bottom line is that we won the game. It doesn't really matter how you get it done, it's just that you get it done."  
That's exactly the attitude I want to hear with the postseason on the horizon.  Beautiful or ugly, a win is a win.
So I half-heartedly apologize to the Bucs for my rant yesterday.  Keep it up, boys.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bucs In The Postseason

I haven't had a Pirates based post in quite a while.  Not that I am not a fan of "the other team in Pittsburgh" but I'm still not convinced I really believe what is happening and I haven't really wanted to jinx it.

The Pirates, with last night's nail-biting 2-1 victory of the Chicago Cubs, clinched their first playoff berth since Jim Leyland led Barry Bonds, Mike Lavalliere, Andy Van Slyke, Jay Bell, Doug Drabek, Jeff King, and a whole host of forgotten Bucs into the postseason in 1992.  That year, the Sid Bream slide into home would be the death knell for their season, and subsequently 20 more seasons.

So why am I not jumping off my couch and shouting at the top of my lungs "We Are Family"?  Because if you have paid any sort of attention to the Pirates this year (or the last three years) and watched how they were able to get to this point, you will have noticed the fact that the offensive production is slowly disappearing.  In their past dozen games, they are hitting a measly .209 and have had less than six hits in seven of those dozen.  That does not translate well to post season play.  They are playing .500 baseball since August, racking up a 25-25 record.  Again, not playoff baseball.

Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd filled a couple holes but the fact is, neither has done much to bolster my hopes for a long run into the post season.  Morneau is just, well, he's just not the same guy he used to be.  While Byrd has been, just ok so far, he isn't blowing peoples' minds with his offensive production or making the big splash management had hoped.  Also, with the solid bullpen suddenly looking more pedestrian, I'm starting to wonder if the Bucs really understand (not that they would) what it is going to take to continue past the first games in October.

There are five games left.  Five games to catch the Cardinals.  Five games to get up on the Reds.  Five games to host the Wild Card Game.  Five games to convince me that they want this to happen.  Five games to make me forget, at least temporarily, 20 years of what became unaffectionately known as "Pirate" baseball.

(EDIT:  See Rebuttal Post)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Steeler 6-Pack

The second installment of a new "feature" here on The Real DFG is the Sunday Steeler 6-Pack.  Each Sunday of the NFL season, I will feature 6 random cards from my Pittsburgh Steelers' PC.  There is no rhyme or reason for any of them, just 6 random cards I pull out of one of my many boxes or binders of black and gold (and there are MANY) and maybe a comment or two.

Here We Go!

1976 Wonder Bread Franco Harris

Franco looks kind of confused on this card.  I think he isn't sure why he is posing in front of a bread truck.  At least the Wonder Bubble's on the packaging are the same colors as the diamonds on his logo.

1988 Swell Greats John Henry Johnson

John Henry Johnson was the first "Bus" in Pittsburgh, weighing in officially at 210lbs but playing closer to 225.  He made opponents on the defense fear him because he would hit them almost harder than they would hit him.  In six years with the Steelers, he rushed for 4,383 yards and held a team record 1,141 in 1962 until that guy right above here broke it in 1975.  He still holds two of the top six franchise rushing performances with 200 yards against the Browns and 182 vs. the Eagles.

This comes from the Swell Football Greats set which I used to see all the time but rarely find anymore.  I remember having a few packs of these back in the day.  I think they were in packs of 10 or 12.  I don't remember exactly but I know you could get complete sets of them that were cello wrapped.  The set cards had notches taken out of the tops though but the packs didn't.

2006 Fleer Focus Star Studded Die-Cut Plaxico Burress

All that promise.  All that potential.  All that...EGO!  Plax could have been great.  He could have been legendary.  But his antics, over-the-top attitude, and desire for a grander stage took him to places that he would soon regret.  Bad mouthing the team, making disparaging comments about the organization, leaving for more money, shooting himself in a club, serving jail time all followed.  But after all that, the Steelers gave him another opportunity.  Whether he would have made the team after camp is left to be seen.  Now, after a bad rotator cuff injury, we may have finally seen the last of Plax.

2007 Topps James Farrior
"James was named one of our captains each of the past eight years and that speaks volumes to what he has meant to so many great defenses.  He has been a leader for our defense on the field and an ambassador for the Steelers in the community.  We appreciate everything James has done and truly wish him nothing but the best." - - Steeler's President Art Rooney after announcing the release of Farrior in 2012.

1996 Steelers Team Schedule

"Well that's not a card at all," you say.  I know.  It isn't.  I collect this kind of stuff too.  Especially for my Pittsburgh teams.  I have about 30 or so team schedules of all different stuff.

Lets did the Stillers do in the 1996 season.  They just came off a big loss in the Super Bowl, usually they have that one horrible year after decent playoff runs...They finished 10-6...better than I anticipate this years team to do.  In 1996, they finished 1st in the AFC Central, decimated the Colts in the Wild Card game, but lost the Pats in the Divisional Game.  Not likely to see that happen this year.

1968 Topps Bill Saul

I will admit that I don't know a lot about Saul.  I know he was from Butler, Pennsylvania (a hometown boy).  I know he went to Penn State.  I know he was a Steeler for the longest part of his career and he played for three other teams as well.  I don't know what kind of player he was or anything like that.  But something else I know, he was the first player ever miked up by NFL Films during the taping of a live game.  That's something, right?  

This is technically his rookie card (might even be his only card), although he is pictured here in a Baltimore Colts uniform and he had already played two seasons for them and four for Pittsburgh by the time this card was made.  You would think Topps would have had at least one picture of him in a Steelers uniform, wouldn't you?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Steeler 6-Pack

A new "feature" here on The Real DFG is the Sunday Steeler 6-Pack.  Each Sunday of the NFL season, I will feature 6 random cards from my Pittsburgh Steelers' PC.  There is no rhyme or reason for any of them, just 6 random cards I pull out of one of my many boxes or binders of black and gold (and there are MANY) and maybe a comment or two.

Here We Go!

1971 Topps Andy Russell

One of my favorite Steeler Nation story Russell tells is from a trip he made to Russia for his business.  While shopping at an outdoor mall in Moscow, he found a table of nesting dolls.  This was nothing out of the ordinary, of course, but one in particular caught his attention.  Among the traditional hand carved child toys was one with a familiar black and gold hue.  He had found a Pittsburgh Steelers nesting doll, all the way in Moscow, Russia.  The Steel the former Iron Curtain.  It started with Jack Lambert, then Joe Greene, Franco, Bradshaw, and finally had Lynn Swann.  He recalled,
"There weren't any other football teams or American figures displayed, just this one.  I know there are Steeler fans in every city, but Moscow?"  He laughed, "Swann will be ticked he was the smallest one."

 2001 Bowman Casey Hampton (RC)
"The way I see it, you never know when your last play is going to be.  So you should go hard all the time.  There's no reason to take a play off."   - - Casey Hampton quoted in the Daily Texan, 2000

1996 Donruss Greg Lloyd

One of my top five All-Time favorite Steelers.  Possibly even the top.  Intensity, Ferocity, Relentless Pursuit, Pure Nastiness...That was Greg Lloyd.

2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces Red Border Patch Limas Sweed

Worst draft pick in Steelers history.  There.  I said it. 

1986 Topps John Stallworth

I could have scanned a card in better shape.  But this card is important in my collection.  Not because it's valuable.  Not because it is some "Holy Grail" type card.  Not even because it is part of some sub-collection in my PC.  This is important because I got this card when I was 11 years old and I still have it today.  I have multiple copies of this now.  Maybe even dozens, all in better condition.  But this one, bent corners, scuff marks, worn edges and all, is by far my favorite of all my Stallworths.

1958 Topps Jack Butler

One of the latest Steeler editions to Canton (2012), Butler deservedly went in as a senior member, not only for his accomplishments on the field, but for what he did for football and the NFL.  Jack spent 46 years of his life after an injury forced early retirement in 1959, working as the director of the BLESTO Scouting Combine.  He is responsible for helping in the transition of over 75,000 college athletes over to the pros through the process now known simply as the NFL Combine.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013