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Madden: Trade or no trade, Pirates are a bad team

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of another five-year plan, I will fear no rebuilding. For refreshing sports notes are with me,

The Pirates' fire sale has their fans upset. But the Pirates were a lousy team with a lousy future before the trading began. They're the same today. What's the difference?

Before you compare the Pirates' plight with the Penguins' future, realize this about the respective owners: Kevin McClatchy raised ticket prices after a 100-loss season. Mario Lemieux cut ticket prices after the Penguins finished second from the bottom in the NHL. It's called common sense, and it's a big reason the Penguins are unlikely to visit the depths the Pirates now occupy.

Then again, if Lemieux doesn't drop the gloves and fight for an NHL salary cap in 2004 ...

The Pirates drew their seventh-best attendance in 2000, their last year at Three Rivers Stadium. They drew their best attendance in 2001, their first year at PNC Park. They drew their fifth-best attendance last season. PNC Park's luxury boxes are reportedly sold out on a nightly basis, providing a lucrative revenue stream. So how did the Pirates lose $30 million over the past three years? I'm sure there's a reasonable answer. And if I were a member of the Pirates' board, I would demand to hear it.

Some local pundits are now calling for McClatchy to sell the Pirates. One problem: Who would buy them, especially if they really did lose $30 million in three years?

A manual scoreboard in the upper deck of the third base-side stands at PNC Park is used to keep track of strikeouts registered by Pirates pitchers. The Pirates should instead start putting up the "Ks" to chart Jose Hernandez' march to baseball's all-time single-season strikeout record. If you can't be famous, be infamous. If you stink, at least have some fun with it.

What a 39th birthday for Barry Bonds Thursday. First he threw the potential winning run out at the plate in the top of the ninth inning. Then Bonds crushed a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to win the game for San Francisco. He even took a curtain call and waved to the fans. Barry must be getting soft in his old age. He may even be getting better.

Was Babe Ruth doing stuff like that at 39?

Kobe Bryant bought his wife a $4 million diamond ring in the wake of being accused of sexual assault in Colorado. Most people in his situation pay off the victim. There will undoubtedly be sleazier revelations by the time Bryant's odyssey is over, but Kobe buying off his wife so publicly and so expensively is a definite image-buster for the Lakers star and his wife.

I don't feel there is a hard-and-fast rule over whether or not the media should use the name of the accuser in Bryant's case. Personally, I would not. But remember when Jerome Bettis was accused of sexual assault during the Steelers' training camp last year? Ultimately, charges were not pressed, and there were reports that Bettis' accuser set him up as part of a plan to extort money. Yet, after Bettis was cleared, some media outlets (including this one) never used the accuser's name. Why not? Protect victims. But don't protect con artists.

WNBA star Sue Bird reneged on a bet which would have seen her spanked by a radio talk-show host if her assists-to-turnovers ratio finishes at worse than 2:1. Had Bird won the bet, the host would have had to buy season tickets to Bird's team, the Seattle Storm. But arbiters of "good taste" prevailed and the bet was called off. Bad decision. The WNBA needs to be sexier and funnier if it's going to sell tickets to the young male demographic that normally avoids women's sports like the plague. Anyway, Bird -- the WNBA's top playmaker -- was on pace to win the bet. How about a little faith in her?

Yo, Mario ... what are you waiting for?

When Dan Rooney appointed his son, Art II, as his successor as the Steelers' president, it was an easy decision. But it was also a very emotional one. Art Rooney Sr., "The Chief," was very close to his grandson. It really is amazing, in an era where corporations have taken over sports, that the Steelers still function (and thrive) as a family business. It started on the North Side and stayed on the North Side. It started with the Rooneys and stayed with the Rooneys. Too many things are painted as being quintessentially Pittsburgh. But the Rooney family and their ownership of the Steelers really are.

I'm glad North Hills High School running back Andrew Johnson committed to Pitt. But with the future of Big East Conference football still very much up in the air, I can't figure out why he did it. If Johnson wants his parents to see him play, Columbus, Ohio, is just a short drive away. By the time Johnson has his first 100-yard game for the Panthers, it might be against Marshall.

Mark Madden hosts a sports talk show from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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