Mehno: Polanco will certainly help

PITTSBURGH – June is here, and that means it may be just a few weeks until the Pittsburgh Pirates summon prospect Gregory Polanco from the minor leagues.

Hallelujah, not because of Polanco’s enormous potential, but because it should stop the endless whining about Polanco’s remaining at Class AAA. For all the hand-wringing about Polanco’s zip code of the moment, the Pirates’ biggest problem has been pitching, especially the starting staff.

Utilityman Josh Harrison has given the team its best production from right field over the past few weeks. But the biggest positive difference has been a slight uptick from the starting pitchers.

It’s always been that way. It’s one of those few baseball truths that actually holds up as spreadsheets now challenge every other belief: The quality of starting pitching is usually the biggest factor in a team’s success. The Pirates got spotty offense but excellent starting pitching last year and won 94 games. The starters went deep enough into games often enough to allow the relievers to line up in logical order and perform efficiently.

The starting pitching hasn’t been as good through the first third of this season, and that’s created a degree of chaos in the bullpen.

It all starts with run prevention, and that starts with pitching and defense. The Pirates have been lacking in both of those areas through the first 54 games.

If Polanco is everything the Pirates expect him to be, he will certainly help. But reality is he’s a rookie with limited experience above the Class AA level. Before Barry Bonds became the game’s biggest star, he batted .223 as a rookie in 1986. After almost two years in the major leagues, Starling Marte is still giving away too many at-bats.

Polanco should help, but not as much as the 2013 version of Francisco Liriano will.

America the profitable

Isn’t it odd that most baseball broadcasts deliberately omit the National Anthem on a daily basis, yet it’s important that all MLB teams wear special limited edition camouflage-style uniforms on Memorial Day?

Patriotism matters most when it comes with merchandise that can be sold via the official team websites. By the way, the Memorial Day caps are $37.99 and the special one-day jerseys are $202.99. Plus shipping.

Spy mission

Creepy Donald Sterling is such a perfectly despicable villain that no one seems to notice his ignominious demise has come from secret recordings of conversations he thought were private.

How many people would be comfortable with having their unguarded daily comments airing on the network news?

Taking advantage

The New York Rangers’ presence in the Stanley Cup final proves the Eastern Conference really was wide open this season.

That only makes the Penguins’ collapse all the more painful.

The Rangers are a good but not great team with an exceptional goaltender. They’ll be underdogs no matter who wins the other conference, but they’ve already gone further than the Penguins’ star-laden team has in the last five years.

No super model

That full-face cover portrait of the geeky NBA commissioner must have been Sports Illustrated’s payback to the people who complain about the swimsuit issue.

What’s that sound?

If you listen closely late at night, you can hear Dan Byslma slowly twisting in the wind.

Mehno can be reached at