Tuesday, October 02, 2007

At the Quarter-Pole Already

Idle thoughts at the quarter-pole of the NFL season …

· Okay, so the Steelers are 3-1 at the quarter-pole. Not bad, but … they’d better beat the Seahawks on Sunday to carry a 4-1 record heading into the bye week. Losing two straight going into the bye would leave a leave a very bad taste and provoke a whole lot of questioning and self-doubt throughout the two-week layover – especially because the rest of the schedule gets tougher from here on out.

· Having said that, it sure is fun to watch the Bengals and Ravens implode so early in the season. Nice little tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte last night between Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson, eh?

· On the flip side, it’s worrisome to see the Patriots, Colts and Cowboys playing at a level so far above that of other teams. It’s a long season, but we’re a quarter of the way through already, and those three teams show no sign of slowing down.

· In baseball, Pirates’ manager Jim Tracy apparently is twisting in the wind, as new management decides whether to fire him or retain his services for the third year of his three-year contract.

If fired, the Pirates would pay off the approximately $1 million in salary they owe him, based on terms of the contract. With the Pirates, it seems, money is always a factor.

In some ways, Jim Tracy doesn’t seem like a bad guy, or even a bad manager (sometimes), notwithstanding 95-loss and 94-loss seasons in 2006 and 2007, respectively. On the other hand, his hiring by Dave Littlefield absolutely reeked of cronyism, as did his attachment to former Dodgers like Cesar Izturis, Jose Hernandez, Matt Kata, etc., etc. Worse, his questionable ability to evaluate talent – Joe Randa over Freddy Sanchez? – mirrored that of Dave Littlefield. Worse still, he demonstrated stubborn pettiness that seemed of a personal nature, both in Los Angeles in his well-publicized dispute with then-general manager Paul DePodesta, and in Pittsburgh with certain players. The capper came at the end of the season, with the paternity-leave fiasco with Jack Wilson and Solomon Torres. Tracy’s insistence that Wilson and Torres return early to the team, for no reason that makes sense, will leave a lingering aftertaste, and not a good one.

Our hunch is that management will ask Tracy to shake up his coaching staff. He will refuse, of course, and thus be fired.