For a while there I’d been in a nice routine, posting SQL’s on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  But that all got blown to hell last week, as travel and the accompanying catching up around the homestead interrupted my routine.

I return to you today still lacking a ton of Quality Links, but armed with a few that I’ll scatter in and amongst some Pirates stuff and some videogame stuff.  Starting with the gaming…

–Given my current Life of Leisure, I’ve been forced to cut down on big-budget, full-priced videogames.  They’re usually about $60 before tax and that’s just a bridge too far when trying to make ends meet without a steady income.

I’ve actually talked about this on the Life of Leisure podcast, a show I hope you’ll check out if you’ve not yet done so.

On the show, I reviewed ‘Deathspank’, a pared down action RPG and ‘Defense Grid’, a true-to-form entry in the tower defense genre.  Each cost me less than $10 and were good performers in ‘Fun : Cost’, a key metric for anyone living a Life of Leisure.

In the weeks since the most recent RDsLol, I’ve made a few other buys on the cheap:  ’Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes‘ and ‘Radiant Historia‘.

Might & Magic is a downloadable available for X360 and PS3.  It’s a neat little genre-bender that combines ‘Puzzle Quest‘-esque puzzle matching gameplay with a passable story and some RPG elements.  It’s a little shallow and the story is an afterthought, but the gameplay is on-point.

Milady and I enjoyed it throughly and I recommend it, especially given the sub-$20 price point.

Historia is a bit of a different animal.

It’s a Nintendo DS game from Atlus that feels like a old-school RPG, but with more contemporary tweaks.  Expect a quality story, fun and engaging turn-based combat and an evolved RPG framework.

It’s an impressive, polished little game that I bought new for $30.  If you’re an RPG fan and you can tolerate the DS platform, ‘Historia’ is an excellent option.

(Here’s a link to a military laser the U.S. is working on).

–Through 95 games, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the story of the 2011 Major League Baseball season.

The Bucs find themselves in 1st place in a tight NL Central, at 50-44.  This is highly notable, of course, as the Pirates haven’t posted so much as a winning season since 1992, let alone a division title.

But the Battlin’ Bucs keep on winning.  They’re doing it with good pitching, good defense and good fortune.  And as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline approaches, they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of, potentially, being buyers instead of sellers in the league’s annual summer swap meet.

This is all very dangerous.

Given the relative weakness of the division, the resurgent popularity of the club (#buccofever) and the wins the club has already pocketed, the temptation for General Manager Neal Huntington will be to add a piece or two to the offense and/or bolster the pitching staff.  But I remain unconvinced the Pirates should be aggressive buyers in this market.

–The Pirates system is far from stacked…so parting with the few good-to-elite prospects they own hurts the team’s mid-long term prognosis, and literally, runs counter to the blueprint similar teams have followed to sustained success.

–The lack of strikeouts in the starting staff coupled with the lack of power from the offense means that truly ‘fixing’ what ails these 2011 Pirates would require a fairly large expenditure, as strikeout-heavy starters and power bats typically cost the most in the marketplace.

–The market isn’t playing along.

As things stand on 7.19.11, exactly half of MLB is in a position to be a buyer–eight of the 16 NL teams and seven of the 14 AL teams are within striking distance of the post-season.  This doesn’t make for a healthy buyers market and if the Pirates are even toying with the idea of sacrificing some future for the now, the environment in which to do so wouldn’t seem to be favorable.

It’s true that flags fly forever.  And no human on Planet Earth wants the Pirates to make a post-season run more than I do.  But if the cost of doing so means setting the club’s timetable back and damaging the chances for long-term, sustained success…it’s the wrong thing to do.

(Wanna be in the new Batman movie?  Bang it here.)

p.s.  A caveat:  As with any transaction. cost is everything.  If the Pirates find a true bargain, they should attack it.

But a bargain, in my mind, would equate to bringing in a power bat / arm and somehow parting with a B-level prospect or a pair of C-level guys and assuming lots of dollars.

The odds of that specific opportunity presenting itself between now and the 31st aren’t great.  But if the Bucs can add without mortgaging the future, it would represent the best of both worlds.