I’m not one to share my opinion, but since you asked…

  • The amazing run of the Pittsburgh Pirates continues, as does the season of starter Jeff Karstens, who was not a member of the rotation to begin 2011.  Thanks to an April injury to Ross Ohlendorf, Karstens has taken the ball and made the most of every inning pitched.  After another superb seven innings against Toronto on Thursday, Karstens lowered his ERA to 2.65, 6th best in the National League.  He also finished June with a 3-0 record and his ERA is better than Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, both of which should make the trip to Arizona in 11 days for the All-Star game.  Karstens should be joining them, along with pitching mate Joel Hanrahan. 
  • As of the writing of this article, the Jaromir Jagr watch is more like a wait.  In classic Jagr (Diva) fashion, he is pulling the star act and making everybody wait to hear where he will play.  Pittsburgh, Detroit and Montreal are the three NHL teams in play, along with the club he’s been employed by in the Russian K-League.  My bet is on Pittsburgh or Detroit.  If he makes the jump back to North American hockey, he wants to play for a team built to make a cup run and I don’t see the Canadians in that category.  My money is on Pittsburgh.  It’s the right fit and he will be welcomed back with open arms by Pens fans. 
  • By taking two of three from the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Pirates break an 8-year streak of losing series in AL parks.  They also finished interleague play 8-7, their 1st above .500 record since 2009 and only the 3rd in 15 seasons against the Junior Circuit.
  • Any comparisons to the ‘Freak Show’ of 97 are a bit off.  Unlike that team, this one has played above .500 ball and has a number of real major league caliber players on its roster.  The division is better also, with four teams in the chase for the playoffs. 
  • Clint Hurdle will be the manager of the year in the National League if this team finishes above .500 at the end of the year.  No other bench boss is even close right now, other than maybe Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks. 
  • Pedro Alvarez needs to get healthy and do what he was born to do…hit bombs out of major league parks. 
  • There will be a full NFL season starting in September folks.  Anybody who thinks otherwise needs to remember one number.  9 Billion. 
  • Toronto Blue Jays short stop Yunel Escobar and Pirates utility man Matt Diaz had back-to-back run in’s at 2nd base this week, with Diaz sliding into Escobar each time to break up potential double plays.  Each time, Diaz made legal slides, forcing Escobar to hold the ball.  Well the 2nd instance made Escobar mad, so much that he punched Diaz in the rib cage with the ball in hand.  When Escobar later appeared at the plate, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle elected to have Escobar pitched to with the Pirates up by four runs in the 8th.  Escobar should have been nailed in the back by Chris Resop’s 1st pitch to him, end of discussion.  Instead, Escobar walked.  What happened to playing hard and accepting that as part of the game or sticking up for your teammates?
  • Speaking of lockouts, the NBA has done the same to its players, but does anybody really care?  I sure don’t. 
  • My favorite golf major will be played next week.  The Open Championship across the pond is the only one of the four that I try to watch from start to finish.  I respect the US Open.  It is our golf championship after all, but the game was invented in Scotland.  Royal St. George is located on the southern coast of England and it is one of my favorite of the 14 courses to have hosted this gem of a sports event.  Many will tag Rory McIlroy as the man to beat, but I like fellow Northern Ireland native Darren Clarke as a sleeper to make a run at the Claret Jug. 
  • I hope San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy does the right thing and includes Jeff Karstens on his pitching roster for the upcoming All-Star game.  Of the 36 spots, 13 belong to the Pitching staff, including the starter for the game.  It’s hard to imagine that both he and Joel Hanrahan are not two of the best 13 pitchers in the National League in the first half of 2011. 
  • When asked about the upcoming two game series between his Nitanny Lions and the Pitt Panthers, Penn State head coach Joe Paterno had no comment because he was too busy Skyping with a junior recruit in Mesa, Arizona, since he physically can’t visit recruits anymore like the other 119 other Division I-A coaches in major college football.  There is also a pretty good chance that I could be making this last note up because I think Joe Paterno needs to retire. 

John Phillips is the author of this article and a secret member of the Galactic Empire.  When he’s not busy chasing Jedi down at Sandcastle Waterpark, he can be heard hosting weekend talk-shows and anchoring sports updates on 93.7 The Fan.  You can also follow JP on Twitter at ww.twitter.com/937Phillips