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Mistake by Bucs’ Craig magnified

Commentary

Notes and observations from the area sports world as June begins:

n With suspect starting pitching and a lack of offensive firepower, the Pittsburgh Pirates are where everybody thought they’d be — at the bottom of the National League Central Division standings. After a surprising 12-11 start, the Pirates lost 21 of their next 29 games entering Monday night’s matchup with the Royals in Kansas City.

n The Keystone Cops-like mix-up during last week’s loss to the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park was, to be sure, an egregious mistake on the part of Pirates first baseman Will Craig, who admitted that he suffered a brain cramp while becoming involved in a needless rundown that allowed the Cubs to score a gift run. Simply tagging first base would have ended the inning. It was an obvious blip in situation awareness — something that is taught at the game’s most fundamental levels — for Craig. At the same time, people make significant mistakes in every profession and in every walk of life, and Craig deserves credit for manning up in front of the media and taking full responsibility for it. He’ll be a better player and a better person because of the experience.

n Craig’s mistake might not have gotten nearly the widespread attention, or invoked nearly the widespread derision, that it generated had the Pirates not been struggling so much on the field after purging their roster of most of their veteran talent over the past year in a clear statement that they are rebuilding. The context of the environment surrounding Craig’s blunder and the already strong fan sentiment against the Bucs magnified Craig’s error in judgment.

n Adam Frazier is having a career year as one of the NL leaders in batting and is a strong candidate to make the NL All-Star team. The second baseman is also a strong candidate to be traded before the end of the season because his talents will bring the Pirates a good return in young prospects from a contending team.

n The same can be said for closer Richard Rodriquez, who has been outstanding this year. The Pirates don’t need to prioritize a quality closer in a season in which they won’t often carry leads into the ninth inning.

n The recent hiring of Quentin Wright as Tyrone’s new head wrestling coach is a blockbuster on so many levels. Wright — a former two-time NCAA champion at Penn State and two-time PIAA champ at Bald Eagle Area High School — will not only provide an elite level of wrestling knowledge for the athletes who are under his direction, but his presence will also no doubt skyrocket the number of youngsters joining the Tyrone program in the coming years who want to learn from the very best.

“Exponential growth in all aspects of the program,” was how Wright described his first-year goals for Tyrone wrestling. “Excitement for the season, and the wrestlers on the mat finishing matches strong. I am definitely excited to continue the good that has been started here. I love wrestling, I definitely wanted to take this job, and it’s going to be a new adventure and challenge for me.”

Wright, 32, is a young man who was not only a quality athlete but, more importantly, is a quality individual. The married father of two lives in Tyrone and is employed as a human resources generalist at CenClear, a social services organization that serves families in 14 of the state’s counties and provides services ranging from mental health and drug and alcohol counseling to early childhood education.

“We serve people in families throughout the entire life cycle, from age 1 right up through the age of 99,” Wright said.

n The Pittsburgh Penguins’ third first-round ouster from the playoffs in as many years is bound to bring about some changes. The guess here is that head coach Mike Sullivan — who has established tons of street cred during his tenure with two Stanley Cup championships and this year’s division championship — will stay but be put on a short leash. Veteran superstar Sidney Crosby will also be back, but two other prominent veterans — Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang — could be on the move.

n Another change could be made at goaltender, where the Penguins’ Tristan Jarry was as bad as the New York Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin was good in shaping the outcome of the playoff series that the Islanders won in six games.

John Hartsock can be reached at jhartsock@altoonamirror.com.

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