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Ritchie trade looks promising

| Monday, Dec. 17, 2001

Todd Ritchie pitched 567 innings for the Pirates over the last three years and was three games over .500 for a team that didn't come close to breaking even. He was a good soldier on and off the field. That said, it's hard not to love the deal that sent him to the White Sox last week.

General manager Dave Littlefield is stockpiling pitchers and got three righties in the Ritchie trade that have a chance to make the major-league roster in the spring. Cursed with a staff with too many injuries and too little talent, Littlefield immediately got some numbers to work with. It has to work out better (in the short term) than his first major trade. That one sent Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal to the Giants for outfielder Armando Rios, who played two games and blew out his knee, and pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who pitched two games and did the same to his elbow.

  • Speaking of injuries, the Pirates pitching staff was decimated by them last year. More than anything else, that ruined their season and cost them any chance of finishing with a respectable record. But if Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon wants people to respect him, he better be careful of what he says. Last week he said that pitching injuries cost the Bucs 30 wins. He claims those wins would have given his team 92 victories. That is a pretty generous estimate and a very easy excuse for a team that couldn't field, run the bases or hit with men on base regardless of their pitching.
  • Anyone who doesn't think the Pitt football program is making progress with Walt Harris as head coach is wrong. He may not be making as much progress as some would like, but Pitt is 26-31 under Harris over five years. In the five seasons before his arrival, the Panthers were 15-41.

    They didn't go to a single bowl game in that span. Harris has taken them to three. The next step though is for Harris to win one. But don't expect that to come Thursday night against N.C. State.

  • Wasn't it a great week for college football• First, barely half the eligible voters bothered to cast ballots to select Eric Crouch as the Heisman Trophy winner. Then the BCS causes as much of a fuss as the old polls ever did over Nebraska playing Miami for the national title in the Rose Bowl.

    This caused Oregon coach Mike Bellotti to say "I liken the BCS to a bad disease, like cancer." Then George O'Leary lasts less than a week as the head coach of Notre Dame after it was discovered he had lied about having a master's degree and having lettered in football in college. Of course on his next resume he can claim he was undefeated as head coach of Notre Dame.

  • BYU got exactly what it deserved from Hawaii in its final regular season game a week ago. Maybe now the folks at BYU will understand that the game is played on the field and not in the courtroom. Hawaii trounced the previously unbeaten Cougars 72-45 ending their 14-game winning streak and unbeaten season. It also ended BYU's whining about not being included in a BCS bowl game. BYU wasn't pleased to be heading to the Liberty Bowl for about $11.75 million less than the BCS games pay out. The Cougars were actually considering legal action against the BCS for antitrust violations.

    I say consider this. BYU gets no respect on a national level because it earns none. If the Cougars want to be ranked with the big boys, they have to play the big boys once in awhile. They played 13 games this year and six were outside their weak Mountain West Conference schedule. In those games, they faced such fearsome teams as Tulane which finished 3-9 and ranked 126th in the Sagarin computer ratings. Of course they also played 1-10 California, ranked 112th. Hawaii was one of just two non-conference teams BYU faced that had a winning record. How about scheduling a Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon, Washington State or some other big name western school once in awhile• How about one game a year against a top 20 program• BYU needs to prove themselves against someone tougher than Wyoming. In fact, a 40-30 loss to Texas would get the Cougars more mileage than the 70-35 win they had over Tulane.

    BYU has already won one cheap national championship, and that was enough. If the Cougars played in the Big Ten they would have trouble finishing above .500.

  • How much has the passing game changed in pro football• Hines Ward is having a Steelers record-setting year in receptions. But while catching more passes than any Steelers receiver ever in a single season, he's not even close to the team record in reception yardage.

    Before last night's game in Baltimore, Hines needed just seven catches to break Yancey Thigpen's single season record. He was 543 yards shy of the single season receiving yardage record.

  • Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa should be fined and suspended for telling Ravens fans that they should take Steelers fans into the bathrooms at PMS stadium or whatever it's called, and "take care of business." Maybe Tony settles things by taking strange men into the bathroom, but he shouldn't advise others to do the same. If his brains were in his belly, then he'd be somebody worth listening to.

    Guy Junker is a broadcaster for Fox Sports Pittsburgh. His column "One Guy's Opinion" appears every Monday in the Tribune-Review.

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