Thursday, May 26, 2005


Hmmm. I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but it's worth noting nonetheless. Michael Smith of ESPN has some insight into why the Steelers decided not to keep Plax around after his contract expired last season:
Best move: It's a case of addition by subtraction. Pittsburgh's best move of the offseason was allowing Burress to depart. The Steelers made no effort to re-sign their first-round pick in 2000, a decision that had everything to do with their first-round pick last year, Roethlisberger, and what they feel is best for his development. Roethlisberger and Burress enjoyed a close relationship – too close if you ask the Steelers. They viewed Burress as a negative influence. There was a reason why Burress saw his production increase when Roethlisberger stepped in for Tommy Maddox in Game 2, only the team didn't catch on until late in the year: Roethlisberger and Burress had devised plays for the QB's favorite receiver, though he almost never was the primary one, and would adjust his routes as they saw fit and not according to the playbook. While their little scheme wasn't exactly broken (they made the AFC Championship Game in spite of the unauthorized ad-libbing) the Steelers, however, were intent on fixing the situation after the season. It didn't help that Burress dropped a lot of balls. Exit Burress, enter Cedrick Wilson, signed as a free agent. The former 49er, expected to start opposite Hines Ward, gives Pittsburgh's offense the downfield speed it lacked.
This is the first I'm hearing of this, but that certainly doesn't mean it's not true. In fact, since I'm the last guy to know about most things worth knowing, I suspect others were aware of these shenanigans for at least a couple of months.

Since Burress' departure he's taken a lot of grief, and I'm not sure all of it is deserved. He struggled as a rookie (other than WRs Boldin and Clayton, who didn't?) had a solid 2001, great 2002, below average 2003 and an injured 2004. Either way, I'm not so much troubled by the fact that Ben considered Plax his favorite target, but it is a little disconcerting to think that it took the Steelers the better part of the season to figure it out. I liken it to your buddy's kid brother wanting to hang out with the big kids so he does what he can to fit in. Ben was the new guy, he and Plax hit it off, and consequently, they played well together.

I'm guessing this isn't the only reason the Steelers were hesitant to re-sign Plax. The fact that he wanted a crap-load worth of money and was consistently inconsistent, probably made their decision an easy one. Making it even easier was knowing that he and Roethlisberger were drawing up plays in the sand (isn't this the same Ben Roethlisberger who had to wear a wristband full of game plays? Maybe if he spent more time worrying about the actual plays and less time preoccupied with telling Plax to "run to Casey Hampton, take a left, look for the pump fake and then head towards the river," maybe the Steelers could've opened up the playbook a little more.

I half-kidding. And it'll be really funny if the Steelers struggle this season because they don't have Plax making up plays for himself as the game unfolds. I'm kidding again. By the way, do you think that Tom Coughlin would think it funny if Burress starting calling plays in New York?

Oh yeah, the Red Sox suck. I intentionally wrote about the Steelers because Boston is almost impossible to watch for more than a few minutes at a time. It's only May, but as far as I can tell, Millar won't be getting better anytime soon (that's like saying that Paris Hilton won't be getting any less shallow anytime soon) and the only difference between Francona 2004 and Francona 2005 is that he's much more at east this season (well that, and he won a World Series). At various points last season I was convinced he had been shot up with elephant tranquilizers prior to the game and someone propped him up in the corner of the dugout. There he awaited radio-transmitted instructions from Theo Epstein and Bill James -- except the reception was a little spotty and when Francona did make a baseball decision, it was usually the wrong one. Well this season, Epstein & Co. have lowered Francona's dosage, so he's not quite as incoherent-seeming in the dugout, but his game management skills are still deplorable.

Luckily (and I can't believe I'm typing this about a 50-year old first baseman who wears a Pete Rose-style helmet in the field) John Olerud should be with the team in New York. And let me go on record as saying that as long as Millar's in the lineup, I don't care if the Red Sox lose every game they play. He's awful, and there's no way he should be a starter. And one more thing, here comes Edgar Renteria!