PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Pirates' pitching staff has been good enough to give the team a chance to win just about every game.
The offense has been weak enough to assure that winning is no better than a 50-50 proposition.
General manager Neal Huntington recently said the offensive solutions will have to come from within. There are no deals out there for impact hitters, and there are no prospects on the immediate horizon to give the offense a much-needed lift.
While the focus has been on the bottom of the order, where Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes have been struggling terribly, the real answer is elsewhere.
Check the corner outfield spots.
Right fielder Jose Tabata is reaching a point in his career where he needs to step up and show what kind of hitter he's going to be.
Tabata has about 800 at-bats in the major leagues, and he needs to produce more. Even if he's not a home run hitter, he needs to show some gap-to-gap power on a consistent basis.
Alex Presley has been a disappointment in left field, and back-up Nate McLouth has been no better.
If Presley's game is speed, he needs to play it better. Focus more on making contact, use the bunt as a weapon to get on base, and improve his base-stealing technique.
The Pirates are a team that needs to embrace the basics of "small ball" and execute that strategy well. They haven't so far.
Entering Tuesday's game in Miami, Presley's on-base percentage was a woeful .252 and he was only 3-for-7 on steal attempts.
Yes, the bottom of the batting order needs to get better.
But there's a lot of improvement needed at the top, too.
See you later
Dale Hunter came in and saved the Washington Capitals.
Steered them into the playoffs, coached them through a first-round upset of the Boston Bruins, then nearly stole the second round series from the top-seeded New York Rangers.
He celebrated by resigning as soon as possible.
Hunter opted to return home, where his family owns and operates a junior hockey franchise.
Asked if there were any scenarios that could get him back to the NHL, he said, "None."
In a business where everyone is scratching and clawing to advance another level, it's refreshing to see a guy who walks away for a more basic existence.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org