Pirates owner Nutting frustrated but optimistic

Pirates owner Nutting frustrated but optimistic

PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting understands why fans were upset about his team's epic late-season collapse.

Heck, Nutting was mad too. So mad, in fact, he needed a full month to cool off before deciding the best way forward.

In the end, when his blood pressure returned to normal, Nutting decided to use a scalpel instead of a hatchet.

``If you're angry, you count to 10,'' Nutting told reporters in an offseason roundtable discussion Tuesday. ``If you're really angry, you count to 100. If you're incredibly infuriated and frustrated, you wait four weeks.''

Ultimately, Nutting opted to maintain the status quo. Other than hiring former major leaguer Jay Bell as the team's hitting coach and reassigning first base coach Luis Silverio to senior Latin adviser for minor league operations, he settled on keeping management intact, manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington included.

Nutting pointed to the arc over the last few years - and not the swoon that sent the Pirates to a 20th straight losing season - as the reason to stay the course. The Pirates were 16 games over .500 in August but faded over the final six weeks to finish 79-83.

The end hurt, but Nutting believes the long view shows just how far the franchise has come.

``We considered all kinds of alternatives,'' Nutting said. ``At the end of the day, the progress that the organization has made - when you look at the seven-game improvement last year, more than 20-game improvement over two years, the rankings of the development system - we do have a much stronger organization than we did.''

The Pirates turned a reluctant fan base into believers, at least for awhile. Pittsburgh topped 2 million in fan attendance. Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen played at an MVP-level and won a Gold Glove. And pitcher A.J. Burnett became the team's definitive ace following his trade from the New York Yankees.

There were magical moments during the club's rise that Nutting thinks shouldn't be forgotten because of the fall.

``The failure of us to finish as strongly as we needed to cannot diminish the amount of success that the organization has shown over the past two years,'' he said. ``I've come away with a strong sense that we need to build on our strengths.''

Those strengths, however, do not include ``paramilitary'' training activities at the minor league level that came under scrutiny. Nutting noted his organization is building baseball players, not Navy Seals.

``Our primary focus is to develop baseball players to play championship baseball at PNC Park,'' he said. ``We should not be, will not be, are not a paramilitary organization.''

The goal for 2013 remains the goal that the team came so close to realizing this year: the postseason. Pittsburgh hasn't advanced to the playoffs since 1992. The Pirates came close this fall. There's only one more step remaining. Blowing it up now would be unwise according to the owner.

``We need and must continue to advance and push forward and make change, but we're making the necessary adjustments to get us there,'' he said. ``I feel much better than I did at the end of the season, and we are turning the page and looking toward how do ... build that (playoff) club for 2013.''

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall coming back, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32 on the season. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed. 

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

Philadelphia Eagles lineman Michael Bennett has been indicted on felony abuse for allegedly pushing an elderly NRG Stadium worker during Super Bowl LI.

Bennett was indicted by the Harris County, Texas district attorney's office for injury to the elderly — which is intentionally and knowingly causing injury to a person 65 years or older, according to a press release from the Harris County Sheriffs' Office.

A warrant has been issued for Bennett's arrest.

The 66-year-old paraplegic stadium worker was attempting to control field access when Bennett allegedly pushed her. 

The maximum penalty Bennett faces is ten years in prison in addition to a $10,000 fine.


Bennett — whose brother Martellus played in that Super Bowl for New England — was a member of the Seattle Seahawks during the incident and was in attendance as a noncompetitive player.

The NFL has been made aware of the situation and is looking into the matter, according to Pro Football Talk.

The 32-year-old 10-year NFL veteran could potentially face NFL discipline under the league's personal conduct policy.