PITTSBURGH - Four Pittsburgh Pirates players will be on the National League all-star team.
It's interesting that the list doesn't even include the one who was the team's Most Valuable Player in the first half of the season.
Russell Martin doesn't have the big stats that will get an All-Star berth, but his impact on the Pirates has been significant.
His ability to throw out base stealers has dented opponents' ability to run against the Pirates. Martin has delivered timely hits, and he's deftly handled the surprising pitching staff. The pitching has been better, and the first-string catcher has something to do with that.
Like all the other Pirates players, Martin is challenged to play at the same level in the second half of the season.
What he's done through the first half sets an exceptionally high standard.
Meanwhile, the Pirates are well past the point where they have token representation at the All-Star game. They're sending four players, two of whom were drafted and developed by the Pirates (Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez), and two who were acquired from other organizations at low cost (Jason Grilli and Jeff Locke).
As manager Clint Hurdle said, "Two years ago, Grilli was pitching in Scranton."
SUBHEAD: Making the cap fit
Ray Shero's busy offseason took an unexpected turn when the Penguins' GM was able to bring back Rob Scuderi as a free agent.
Scuderi is the kind of tough and responsible stay-at-home defenseman who can help win championships. After he won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, he took an offer from Los Angeles that the Penguins had no hope of matching.
Scuderi's signing means the Penguins will probably trade a defenseman before the season. Most signs point to Matt Niskanen leaving, but would the Penguins consider moving Brooks Orpik, who would be more likely to bring back the kind of young forward the Penguins need?
Orpik is 32 and approaching the last year on his current contract. Given their cap issues, it's questionable whether the Penguins will keep Orpik beyond the upcoming season.
It might be time to consider dealing him.
SUBHEAD: Out of focus
Classic moment during Friday afternoon's Root Sports Pirates broadcast: Robby Incmikoski's in-game interview with Clint Hurdle's father was cut short when a Wrigley Field usher supervisor scolded them for blocking the view of fans.
Announcer Greg Brown seemed to be upset by the lack of hospitality, but it was actually another lapse in judgment by Root. The interview would have fit well on the pre-game show or on Root's "Inside Pirates Baseball," which could always use a new idea (Putting a microphone on a player has gotten terribly stale).
It was the fifth inning of a competitive (4-2) game. There was no real reason to turn away from the field to have the manager's father praise his son.
This came a day after someone thought it was important to have Incmikoski ask a PNC Park fan about his little girl's fondness for cotton candy.
The people who bought tickets at Wrigley just wanted to see the game. So did the viewers at home, but they can only yell at the screen.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com