Saturday, July 2, 2011

The FTC Jagrbacle Round Table

Welcome to the first of what we hope are many FTC Round Tables, where your favorite and least-favorite third-tier Pittsburgh sports bloggers discuss the issues of the day. Without further ado, let's hand things over to our moderator, John McLaughlin.

ISSUE NUMBER ONE! JAROMIR JAGR! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? BRENNAN!

Brennan: Jaromir Jagr happened. Everyone is whiny and mercurial when they are 22 years-old. Jagr has proven to be that delightful breed of person who remains insufferable through his 30's and into his 40's. He'll be 85 years-old in a retirement home someday, complaining "I'm dying alive in this bocce game." I honestly can't understand how anyone is surprised he ended up in Philly. After following the guy for 20 years, it's completely in character.

Franco: He tickled the interest of some fans in Pittsburgh, and then took a ton more money from the guy who was offering it. Same thing Jagr always does.

Matt: I don’t know if his “heart” was in Pittsburgh or not. What I would like to believe is that he had every intention on signing with the Pens, until he realized that other teams might be interested, and then his vanity got in the way. I’m probably giving Jagr too much credit there. I don’t think he was using the Pens to drum up interest from other teams, but I also don’t think that he, in any way, considered the ramifications of his actions. The Penguins played this perfectly. Not only did they give him an extra 48 hours beyond the initial deadline, the statement they issued demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were looking to deal with this guy in good faith, and that Jagr couldn’t have been more of a dick to them. Ray Shero made Jagr a fair contract offer, and Jagr turned off his phone and went to Wimbledon.

Nils: Jaromir Jagr is a crazy person, plain and simple. He stated a desire to come back to the NHL and play for the Pens. The Pens reached out to him, Mario called him, Ray Shero offered him a totally reasonable one year deal on Tuesday. Many within the Pens organization thought they had a gentlemen's agreement. Then he Jagr'd out. I have a hard time believing it was solely about the money. But it was probably partially about the money, partially because he wanted attention, and partially because he's an idiot. He had a chance to finish his career in Pittsburgh, play for a Cup contender, seal his Penguin legacy, and one day have his number retired. All of that is gone...to play for the Flyers for 1.3 million more dollars.

Eleanor Clift: I think it's important that we not forget how well Ray Shero handled this. Not only was he more than fair with Jagr, he pulled, issued a strong statement, and then went on to sign Tyler Kennedy to a two-year contract. This man deserves major credit, both for not playing games and taking care of business.


EXCELLENT POINT ELEANOR! ISSUE NUMBER TWO! WILL THIS MAKE JAGR THE MOST HATED ATHLETE IN THE HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH SPORTS, BRENNAN!?

Brennan: It's not fair for me to answer this question because I hated Jagr as early as '94 or '95, really during the best of times. At best, I grudgingly endued him. So for me, yes. I was annoyed by him when he was winning scoring titles. Things certainly didn't improve when he begged himself out of town, or pulling this latest half-assed hockey version of "The Decision". Who is the competition? Derek Bell for saying he was going to quit, after it was clear he already quit? Rashard Mendenall for some whacky tweets (and killing all momonetum in a Super Bowl comeback with a fumble)? Honus Wagner for his irrational prejudice against tobacco companies?
HONUS WAGNER A MAN AFTER MY OWN HEART! FRANCO!

Franco: More hated than Ray Lewis, Terrelle Suggs and Ben Roethlisberger? That's hard to do. But yeah, Jaromir will certainly hear the boos every time he touches the puck.

Matt: I was thinking about this as soon as the Pens withdrew their contract offer. How many hated athletes do we have in this town? Nobody really hates Barry Bonds. He left because the Pirates told him in advance they didn’t have the money to make him a competitive offer and weren’t even going to try to resign him. All Neil O’Donnell ever did was throw two bad interceptions. Hossa was a rent-a-player, and we knew from day one that there was never better than a 50-50 shot he would be back. Nobody cared enough about Derek Bell or Matt Morris to hate them. We don’t turn on our own.


The circumstances under which Jagr left Pittsburgh were tenuous at best. He’d been playing here since he was 18 years old. The franchise was coming apart at the seams because of Howard Baldwin’s financial mismanagement, and Jagr faced the near-impossible task of picking up where Lemieux had left off as the team leader. He wasn’t cut out for it. He had to move on, and intelligent fans recognized and respected that. Intelligent fans also didn’t boo him when he came back through town. This guy is still the second-best player in franchise history, and helped the team win two Stanley Cups.


If he actually meant what he said about being willing to play for Lemieux at the league minimum, or when he said through his agent that his “heart is in Pittsburgh,” he could have sealed all of this up on Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or Friday morning. This was, for all intents and purposes, a done deal. Everyone thought that, including the people calling the shots in the Pens’ front office. Jagr had an opportunity to close out his career on a positive note, mend all the fences and restore his reputation and legacy as a fan favorite in the town that adopted him when he was just a shy 18-year-old who didn’t speak the language. Instead, he scoffed at that opportunity — that offer of redemption. Then, he slapped Lemieux, his would-be redeemer, in the face by signing with the enemy. I never felt any ill will toward Jagr. Not when he requested a trade from Pittsburgh, not when he came back through town wearing other colors, and not as recently as yesterday. But now? After this? As far as I’m concerned, he’s on a list by himself. Jaromir, you are no longer welcome here.

Nils: Yes, partially because the pool of candidates is small, and partially because this just happened. Who do Pittsburghers like to hate? Barry Bonds, Kordell Stewart, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Derek Bell, Marian Hossa? No one comes close to Jagr right now. He may have topped the list before this whole fiasco. The only way he could be dethroned is if Rashard Mendenhall signs with the Flyers.

ISSUE NUMBER THREE: MAX TALBOT LEAVES PITTSBURGH AND SIGNS A FIVE-YEAR DEAL WITH THE HATED FLYERS WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR SUPERSTAR NOW? MATT!

Matt: I'll never have anything bad to say about Max Talbot. Max is the most lovable sonofabitch this team has had in my lifetime. He's been the consummate professional, a valued role player, and a joy to have in and around town. Sometimes the business of sports necessitates partings like this. The Penguins knew they weren't going to be able to retain Talbot at his market value, and Talbot wasn't going to take an unreasonable salary to stay here. I wish him all the best, I'll continue to proudly wear his jersey, and I look forward to seeing him suit up in black and gold during future Winter Classic alumni games. As much as any other player of the Crosby era, Max represents the best of times. He's always welcome here.

Nils: I don't feel much differently about Max than I did before. Sure, it's going to be tough to see him put on a Flyers uniform, but if they're the team dumb enough to offer him a 5 year, $9 million contract, fine. This is Max's time to get his big contract, and the Pens just feel that he's not worth that much. It's just business. We knew he would be gone when he declined Shero's three year offer. Max has cemented his place in Penguins history with this goal, this fight, this commercial, and these two goals.

Franco: I know that I certainly make less than Max Talbot. Seriously though, good for him for taking five years and a ton of cash from anyone. He's a wonderful role player, but a five year contract is craziness, and he made the right call to snatch it while he could. As far as his playing style? I've never really considered him to be at the same level of dirtiness as a Philadelphia swingman, but that doesn't mean he can't be a help.

Brennan: Talbot went for the paycheck. He's not in the salary bracket where a couple million is irrelevant. Is getting that extra couple million in Philly bad form? Probably, it's at least unfortunate. But, John LeClair was a Penguin. Bill Guerin spent years with the Devils. So did Paul Martin. It happens in modern sports. Guys leave for the rival, both ways. Talbot should be remembered as a good soldier who had maybe the most clutch performance in Penguin's history, 2 goals in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final (a 2-1 win, no less). But, in the end, it's business, and paying a 4th line, energy-guy-type about $2 mil a year is bad business.

THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY TUNE IN NEXT WEEK WHEN DISCUSS PIRATES CATCHER RYAN DOUMIT'S FREAKISHLY ANGLED EYEBROWS!! BYEEE-BYEEE!

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