PITTSBURGH (AP)—They said the losing had to stop, and it didn’t. They said the familiar pattern of a player getting good and then getting gone would stop, and it didn’t.Instead, the losing didn’t slow down for the Pittsburgh Pirates, it increased. The players kept leaving en masse. Attendance dipped yet again. WHEN WILL IT END—Pittsburgh Pirates fans Ben Samson, left, and Iliya Udler, of Pittsburgh, hold signs at the end of another Pirates loss, 4-2 to the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park Sept. 7. Flip the calendar, shuffle the roster—they’re still the same old Pirates.Just two of the eight starting position players projected at the start of spring training was in place when the season ended, but it made no difference.The Pirates are the franchise that sets the standard for losing in American pro sports, and they certainly kept up the pace during a dismal 99-loss season in which the roster kept changing but not much else did.Just days after team president Frank Coonelly said of his own club, “We expect this team, this year, to win,” the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Barely a week after the Pirates angered their shrinking fan base by trading their most popular player, Nate McLouth, mere months after giving him a contract extension, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.Yes, welcome to what’s jokingly being referred to as the City of Champions—and the Pirates. They didn’t win many games, but the Pirates certainly provided a lot of laughs.Jay Leno made fun of them—in two different time slots. “Saturday Night Live” parodied them in a skit in which the Pirates mythically won the World Series (30 years after they last accomplished it). During the G-20 summit, a fan waded through an anarchists’ rally with a sign protesting the Pirates’ record-breaking 17th consecutive losing season. Former Pirates pitcher Sean Burnett called them the “laughingstock” of baseball.Yuk, yuk, yuk. The Pirates’ only problem was their latest bumbling act of a season was real, and their 62-99 record during the second worst of the 17 straight losing seasons illustrates how far they still must go to stop being an all-too-convenient punch line.Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Nyjer Morgan? Gone. John Grabow, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny? Gone. McLouth, Burnett and Adam LaRoche? Gone, too, all in deals that brought only prospects—some promising, some marginal—in return.Neal Huntington, the ever-optimistic general manager who has few financial resources to work with other than a competitive draft day budget, acknowledges 2010 and 2011 could be tough, too.This season was bad enough, with a late-season stretch of 23 losses in 26 games, no player with more than 64 RBIs (Andy LaRoche), no pitcher with more than 11 wins (Ross Ohlendorf and Zach Duke) and a closer (Matt Capps) with a 5.80 ERA and 8 losses.For the second year in a row, the Pirates collapsed after their roster was gutted by trade deadline deals; a year ago, they dropped 41 of their final 60, this time it 46 of the final 65 (including 27 of the final 36). Their 22-58 road record was their worst since the NL adopted a 162-game season in 1962.Manager John Russell (129-194 in two seasons) is repeatedly praised by management for his calm, never-get-rattled approach, but some players said he is virtually noncommunicative for long stretches. Others are unhappy that Russell constantly refuses to argue close calls, creating the impression the players are on their own—and that the Pirates are a team that can be pushed around.Russell and Huntington are unsigned past next season, but Huntington said 2009 can be blamed on him, even though owner Bob Nutting has shown no signs of being willing to spend the money necessary to field a competitive team.“People are shocked we didn’t make staff changes because we lost 90-plus games again this year; it’s the era of human sacrifice, someone has to go if the team doesn’t win,” Huntington said. “Well, the reality is the losses this year are on me. We took the veteran players on this group and we put a group of young players out there and it is not fair to evaluate this staff based on wins and losses.”Russell had a similar view.“Take away the wins and losses—which you can’t, because that’s what we’re about—I think some guys made some good strides,” he said.There were glimmers of hope. Andrew McCutchen (.286, 12 homers, 54 RBIs) played every day but one after McLouth left and looks like a fixture in center field. Garrett Jones, a 28-year-old minor league free agent, hit .293 with 21 homers and 44 RBIs in half a season. Ohlendorf (11-10, 3.92) was a good pitcher on a bad team. Rookie right-hander Jesse Chavez pitched in 73 games, most of them effectively. Charlie Morton (5-9, 4.55) showed flashes after being dealt by Atlanta.Starting next season, the Pirates are counting on their waiting-in-the-wings minor leaguers—third baseman Pedro Alvarez, outfielder Jose Tabata, right-hander Brad Lincoln—to start arriving. However, no franchise bats 1.000 with its prospects, and the Pirates have little room for failure by their few top prospects.They would appear to have millions to spend on talent beyond the estimated $28 million already committed to their current players, yet Huntington said that while it’s possible the Pirates might sign multiple free agents, there’s a chance they won’t sign any.“As tough as it is to acknowledge during a 90-plus loss season, we are going in the right direction,” Huntington said. “On paper, it certainly feels like we took a step back…But 2009 was great growth year, though we realize fans don’t know that. It is going to show itself at the major league level in terms of wins and losses as we move forward.”
ON THE BOARDS—Lanise Saunders from Allderdice fights for a rebound against Westinghouse in City League action last season. (Courier Photo/William McBride/File) by Malik VincentIt’s not just her 6’2” frame that attracted programs wishing to sign Lanise Saunders to a full athletic scholarship. In fact, multiple sources have indicated that it’s just a plus.Cleve Wright, Saunders’ future college basketball coach at Division II Gannon University in Erie, certainly thinks so, as well. “The thing that made me want Lanise to be a part of this program the most was who she is,” Wright said. “People who have the type of heart that she has, make great teammates. And her size, intelligence, and knowledge of the game is certainly something we will be glad to have.”Saunders was a 2011 selection to the New Pittsburgh Courier All-City first team for her great junior campaign in which her Allderdice team was crowned league champs.To go along with what she brings to the court, Saunders has a 4.217 grade point average. That has attracted Division-I interest from Ivy League programs like Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.“I just felt extremely comfortable with Gannon,” said Saunders, who signed a National Letter of Intent in November. “Yes, going to the Division I school would have been nice, but after visiting Erie and meeting their coaching staff and everyone, I know this was the right place for me.”The starting center for the City League girls basketball three-peat Dragons plans to major in electrical engineering in college. Her coach, Dave Walcheskey, believes that her smarts, hard work, and dedication is what makes her such a success.“A player of her caliber comes maybe once every 15 years or so,” he said. “She’s such a quiet leader and helps us in so many ways. She’s a very unselfish player. Her stats would be much higher, if she didn’t look out for her teammates so much. Her persistence to get better and how smart she is, really has made her into such a great player for us.”She attributes most of her success to a best friendship that she has with, who most people consider Allderdice’s best player, Janay Bottoms. The 5’4” point guard was honored as the Courier’s girls’ basketball player of the year this past June. She was pictured on the front cover— with superintendent of schools, Linda Lane— in the honorary luncheon’s special tabloid edition.“If it wasn’t for the never-ending support of Janay and her family, I’m not sure where I’d be,” Saunders said. “I wasn’t the best player starting out. I always had good size, but I was pretty uncoordinated there was so much I had to learn about the game. She would stay after practice with me and make sure I improved.”The dynamic duo has shared much success. But Saunders recalls one moment when her friend called her at the beginning of last season and made a bold prediction.“(Janay) called me and told me that we were going to go 16-0. She said we weren’t going to lose a single game,” she added. “We were going to be perfect and that we’d get another championship.”Lo and behold, the Dragons did exactly that and got past Westinghouse, a perennial power in the City, for the third time to claim the title. Saunders made it plain that she wants another one before it’s all said and done.“I think we have what it takes to get another one before I go to college,” Saunders mentioned. “We have some new talent coming in and I can’t wait to get them in and going. It should be a good year.”(Malik Vincent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@malikvince)
Facebook0Tweet0Pin0Submitted by Port Blakely Tree FarmsProlonged dry weather conditions have raised the risk of forest fires in the region. Until further notice, Port Blakely Tree Farms’ forestland in Washington and Oregon is closed to all public access. This closure applies to foot, horse, motorized and any other form of access. While we regret any inconvenience this may cause to recreational users, our decision to prohibit access reflects our priorities: public safety and the protection of our forests. Port Blakely employees and security officials are monitoring the weather conditions and unauthorized access.This closure to all traffic is temporary. Regular allowable access will be permitted once the risk of forest fires decreases and forest conditions are considered safe.To report fires, call 911.
TINTON FALLS – Ranney’s Middle School has started off the New Year on a note of accomplishment.The MAG, Ranney’s Middle School literary and art magazine, has carried on what has now become a nationally-recognized winning tradition. The student editorial staff and advisor, Lorrie Benditt, recently earned awards from Columbia and American Scholastic Press associations for the Origins edition (Volume 1) of the 2011-2012 MAG and the Future of Technology (Volume 2).The Columbia Scholastic Press Association granted The MAG the Gold Award after the publication scored an impressive 851 out of a possible 1,000 points. The literary and art magazine earned a first-place award with special merit from the American Scholastic Press Association, placing it at the top of the category: Private/Parochial Schools with an enrollment of 500-1,000. “I am so appreciative of the continued recognition The MAG receives after all of the hard work that goes into its production,” Benditt said. “Each year, the editors, staff and I learn more about the writing, editing and layout processes.”The American Scholastic Press Association also recognized Brittany Hofferber ’17 of Little Silver with an Outstanding Poem Award for her contribution of Fall is Like a Show. According to the ASPA, the award was given to only four students nationwide this year. “Brittany wrote her poem after a lesson based on an idea from the annual press days at Columbia University which we attend every fall,” Benditt said. “These press days have helped a great deal.”In 2012, the magazine’s Volume 13 issues entitled Fairytales & Fantasy and Summertime 2011 were granted a First Prize with Special Merit award from the American Scholastic Press Association and a silver medal from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. In 2010, The MAG’s 50th anniversary edition not only received a First Prize with Special Merit, but was also named Best Middle School Literary Art Magazine, a recognition bestowed upon only three schools throughout the U.S.
By Jay Cook | RUMSON – Residents in the borough and Middletown will have to wait longer for the eventual replacement of the Oceanic Bridge.County officials were hoping to receive word on a preferred design choice this spring but red tape has slowed that down.A navigational impact report prepared by Monmouth County was submitted to the United States Coast Guard last fall to seek guidance for vertical clearances on new bridge options, said Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone.“At this point, we have not received our guidance from the U.S. Coast Guard and are therefore behind the anticipated schedule,” Arnone wrote in an email to The Two River Times.But that report is still under review, said Chris Bisignano, the bridge branch chief of the First Coast Guard District.“It’s pretty involved,” Bisignano said Tuesday. “If the information in the report is insufficient we may have to put out a public notice to request more information.” This means Monmouth County – which is working with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) to find options for the Oceanic Bridge’s replacement – will have to be patient as they wait for word on what to do with the structurally deteriorating bridge. Construction was already set to begin in the 2020s.A preliminary preferred alternative was supposed to be announced in the winter/spring of 2018. A draft concept development report and the completion of the local concept development phase were supposed to be completed by the end of this summer. The NJTPA granted Monmouth County $600,000 in 2016 to begin a local concept development phase.County and regional engineering staffs met with Rumson and Middletown residents over the past three years to gather input about what replacement to the circa 1939 bridge they’d like to see.Past reports from the county have whittled the solution down to two realistic possibilities. The first is a fixed span bridge, similar to the Route 36 bridge connecting Highlands and Sea Bright over the Shrewsbury River. The other choice could be a drawbridge, similar to what’s there now, albeit a more modern version. There are also a number of different alignment options in play with renderings detailing new western and eastern alignments for the new bridge, as well as changes to the entry points in both Rumson and Middletown.Coming up on its 80th birthday, the Oceanic Bridge is vital to Monmouth County operations year-round. It’s a coastal evacuation route for low-lying towns along the Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers. It’s also an important transportation artery which carries hordes of summer time traffic to and from the shore.The bridge was constructed during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. As Monmouth County’s longest bridge, it spans 2,712 feet from Rumson to the historic Locust section of Middletown. The bridge has been rated “structurally deficient,” according to MonmouthCountyOceanicBridge.com, a website dedicated to the project. Its superstructure suffers from heavy rust and corrosion.Its weight limit has been downgraded to 15 tons when it should be carrying 40 tons, Monmouth County engineer Joseph Ettore said earlier this year. Students and staff from Rutgers University were brought on this summer to study its remaining life span using modern technologies.Arnone said in March he anticipates the entire project to cost about $130 million. It will be subject to federal funding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Association will also be involved in the project.This article was first published in the July 26-Aug.2, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
GARY STEVENS, DIVERSY HARBOR, WINNER: “Kent chirped to his filly leaving the gate and I said ‘Good, somebody’s gonna put some pressure on La Tia.‘ I was working her last week and she did tremendous, she’s matured a lot; she’s push-button. She showed a nice kick; I can’t believe how much she’s matured. Like all good fillies, she’s got a mind of her own but she’s gotten more cooperative and I’ve gotten to know her a lot better with working her in the mornings. She’s turning into one of my favorites quickly.” TRAINER QUOTES JOCKEY QUOTES JOEL ROSARIO, LA TIA, SECOND: “She was going easy, even when that horse came to our outside, she was still comfortable. She did everything she could but we just got beat. We were second-best today.” AIMEE DOLLASE, ASSISTANT TO TOM PROCTOR, WINNER: “She’s maturing so much. That was excellent. He (Kent Desormeaux on Blingismything) did help her on the pace. That’s what she’s been lacking in a lot of her races, is pace up front, but she still closes really strong, so that definitely helped us today.“She had to run down a really nice filly. La Tia is a solid mare.” NOTES: The winning owner is Leonard Lavin of Ocala, FL, who races as Glen Hill Farm -30-