Thursday, November 27, 2014

11/27: Marty O'Toole, Jason Kendall and Happy Thanksgiving!

Marty O'Toole, Jason Kendall and Happy Thanksgiving!
  • 1888 - RHP Marty O’Toole was born in William Penn, PA (Schuylkill County). A big time minor league ace, the Bucs bought him from St. Paul in 1911. In 1912, he pitched 37 games and 275 innings with a 15-17 record, 2.71 ERA and tied for the NL lead in shutouts with six. Alas, his arm was shot after that workload. He lasted just four seasons as a Pirate, from 1911-14 (his last MLB season), going 25-35/3.17. 
Marty O'Toole 1912 T207 series
  • 2004 - The Pirates traded two-time All-Star C Jason Kendall to the Athletics for pitchers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes as Pittsburgh wanted to unload the $34M due to the catcher over the next three seasons. The Bucs flipped Rhodes to Cleveland for OF Matt Lawton two weeks later. Kendall went on to play eight more seasons with four other clubs, ending his career with 2,195 hits and a slash of .288/75/744.
Jason Kendall 1996 E-Motion series

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

11/26: Bob Elliott, Richie Hebner, Bob Walk...

Bob Elliott, Richie Hebner, Bob Walk...
  • 1916 - OF/3B Bob Elliott was born in San Francisco. He spent eight seasons (1939-46) in Pittsburgh with a .292 BA, 124 OPS+ and three All-Star appearances. Traded during the 1946 off season to the Boston Braves, he became the NL MVP in 1947, helped in part by playing in a much more hitter-friendly field. Elliott was the second MLB third baseman to have five seasons of 100 RBI, joining Pie Traynor, and retired with the highest career slugging average (.440) of any NL third baseman. He also led the National League in assists three times and in putouts and double plays twice each, and ended his career among the NL leaders in games (8th, 1262), assists (7th, 2547), total chances (10th, 4113) and double plays (4th, 231) at third base. 
Bob Elliott - 1948 Leaf series
  • 1947 - 3B Richie Hebner was born in Boston. The Gravedigger (his off season occupation) played 11 years (1968-76, 1982-83) for the Pirates, putting up a .277 BA and playing in five NLCS and the 1971 World Series. He left on a contentious note. After having his contract cut in 1976 after a poor year, he opted for free agency after the campaign. The Pirates GM Pete Peterson offered to match any deal Hebner received on the market, but the Gravedigger wanted a change of scenery and signed with Philadelphia. He returned a few seasons later. 
Richie Hebner - 1971 Arco series
  • 1956 - RHP Bob Walk was born in Van Nuys, California. He pitched a decade for the Pirates (1984-93) with an 82-61-5/3.83 ERA, won an All-Star berth in 1988 and compiled a 2-1 record in the postseason, capped by a three-hitter tossed against the Braves in 1992 to keep the Pirates alive in the NLCS. He’s known now as a Bucco broadcaster, with over 20 years in the booth.
Bob Walk - 1988 Donruss series

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

11/25: An Odd Couple on a Quiet Day - Bobby Clemente & Randall Simon

An Odd Couple on a Quiet Day - Bobby Clemente & Randall Simon...
  • 1972 - Roberto Clemente won his 12th straight Sporting News Golden Glove award, a string of recognition that spanned back uninterrupted to 1961. He and “Say Hey” Willie Mays are tied for the most GG’s earned by an outfielder with a dozen apiece. In his 2,433 game career, Roberto handled 5,102 chances with a .973 fielding %, threw out 266 runners and put fear of the Lord into countless others. He was such a versatile fielder that in 1956, he actually subbed at third base for a game and at second for two more. Clemente also played center field 63 times. 
Roberto Clemente - undated Associated Press photo
  • 2002 - Detroit sent 1B Randall Simon to the Pirates for LHP Adrian Burnside and a player to be named later (RHP Roberto Novoa.) Novoa pitched three seasons of MLB; Burnside went to Japan to ply his trade. Simon ended up better at swatting sausages (his "Sausage-gate" escapade in Milwaukee cost him a $432.10 City fine for disorderly conduct while MLB suspended him for three games and fined him $2,000) than baseballs, hitting .245 with 13 HR in 152 games as a Bucco between 2003-04. 
Randall Simon's 2003 Sausage Snipe via Dan Friedman

Monday, November 24, 2014

11/24: Bob Friend, Al Martin, Doug Drabek, Million Dollar Arms, Zachster...

Bob Friend, Al Martin, Doug Drabek, Million Dollar Arms, Zachster...
  • 1930 - RHP Bob Friend was born in Lafayette, Indiana. A three-time All-Star pitcher for the Pirates, he averaged 232 IP and 13 victories for some of the worst teams in baseball. As a 24-year-old in 1955, Friend became the first pitcher to lead his league in ERA while pitching for a last-place team. He led the NL in victories once, innings pitched twice, games started three times, and WAR for pitchers twice, going 191-218/3.55 in 15 years (1951-65) as a Buc. He also was active in local Republican politics after his career, serving as controller of Allegheny County from 1967 to 1975 and as a three-time convention delegate. 
Bob Friend - 1953 Bowman
  • 1967 - OF Al Martin was born in West Covina, California. Martin played eight years (1992-99) for Pittsburgh, hitting .280 with 107 HR and 485 RBI. His best season was 1996, when he hit .300 with 18 HR, 72 RBI and 38 stolen bases. In Pittsburgh, he was backed by “Al’s Army,” donated thousands of tickets to various groups and even met fans at the turnstiles before the game. After his Pirate years, though, he was beset with a string of bizarre personal issues, tarnishing his image as a Bucco good guy. 
  • 1986 - In a pitcher swap, the Yankees dealt Doug Drabek, Brian Fisher, and Logan Easley to the Bucs for Rick Rhoden, Cecilio Guante, and Pat Clements. It took until the 27th to complete the deal, when Rhoden agreed to a two-year contract extension with NY. (As a 5 & 10 year man, he had to approve the deal). The swap gave Jim Leyland his ace; Drabek went on to win the NL Cy Young in 1990. 
Doug Drabek 1991 Topps
  • 2008 - The Pirates became the first MLB team to sign players from India when they inked pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, winners of a reality show called "The Million Dollar Arm Hunt." Patel was cut in 2010 and returned home, but Singh made it to A ball before losing 2013-14 to injury, eventually having TJ surgery. Their story was made into a movie called (what else?) “Million Dollar Arm.” 
  • 2010 - After six years as a Pirate, Pittsburgh traded LHP Zach Duke (45-70, 4.54) to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a PTBNL, RHP Cesar Valdez. Zach reinvented himself as a LOOGY and resurrected his career as a bullpen specialist.
Zach Duke - 2010 Associated Press photo

Sunday, November 23, 2014

11/23: Rip & Big Poison, Danny & The Quail, Goose...

Rip & Big Poison, Danny & The Quail, Goose...
  • 1944 - The MLB sponsored a USO caravan to visit war zones, including players Rip Sewell and Paul Waner. Rip was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons for the Bucs, notching 21 wins each campaign with his ol’ eephus. Big Poison was at the end of his Hall-of-Fame career, splitting time between Brooklyn and the Yankees; he ended his tenure in the bigs quietly the following year, batting just one more time before hanging up his spikes for good. 
Rip Sewell Launches the Ol' Eephus (photo via Late Innings)
  • 1971 - Danny Murtaugh retired as manager because of health reasons after winning the 1971 World Series, and Bill Virdon was named as his replacement. The Quail led the Pirates to 96 wins and the 1972 NL East title, but a 67-69 performance the following season cost him his job. The Irishman returned in late 1973 for another stint as skipper. Virdon moved on to skipper the Yankees for two years, the Astros for eight more (with two pennants) and closed out as the Expo’s field general for two more seasons. He’s now a special instructor for the Pirates. Bill had the oddball distinction of having been replaced twice by the manager he replaced, bookended by Murtaugh in Pittsburgh and Jim Fanning in Montreal.
Danny Murtaugh & Bill Virdon 1960 (United Press International photo)
  • 1977 - The New York Yankees signed Rich “Goose” Gossage to a six-year contract worth $3.6M. Gossage saved 26 games for the Pirates in 1977, but the Bucs never made a serious offer for him to return - and by most accounts, Goose liked the City, the team and Chuck Tanner - so he took the Yankee deal. When Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, he invited Tanner as his special guest.
Goose Gossage & Friend (photo via Baseball Fever)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hot Stove Simmering...

So you think the Bucs have been idle? Well, from a blockbuster standpoint, that's true. But from an organizational point of view, it's been anything but quiet as evaluations and their consequences are in full swing, along with the usual player movement.

They've lost, in one way or another, Russ Martin, Ike Davis, Justin Wilson and Jeanmar Gomez from their pre-September roster, with Eddie Volquez as good as gone. Frankie Liriano and Clint Barmes are also FAs with an good chance of landing in other cities. Bit players like John Axford, Brent Morel and Michael Martinez are in the rear view mirror, too.

The FO has filled a couple of everyday holes, reacting quickly to bring in Francisco Cervelli to catch and AJ Burnett to slot in Edinson Volquez's rotation spot, while bringing in a cast of thousands, or so it seems, to audition for middle-inning relief and back-up middle infielder openings. There was even a bit of a coaching shuffle triggered by Jeff Bannister's well-deserved call to Texas.

The roster builders are fortunate that the position spots are adequately manned; the biggest uncertainty is whether they keep Pedro Alvarez around. If they do, first base is covered. But they are thin, particularly in the infield with Josh Harrison earning a regular gig and leaving a bench seat open. And they still need an arm for the front end of the rotation, although that may not come about until the big three of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields find homes and the mid-market guys can generate serious bidding interest.

So far, the FO has made these moves (MLB career slashes for the new guys are included):

November 21 - C Sebastian Valle was signed to a minor-league deal along with C Miguel Perez, who is a player/coach in the system. Cot's Contracts lists P Radhames Liz (6-8, 7.50, 110-1/3 IP) as also being signed on this date, although the team has yet to confirm that deal and haven't placed him on the roster yet.

November 20 - Placed P Jameson Taillon, P Nick Kingham, C Elias Diaz and OF Willy Garcia on the 40-man roster. They DFA'ed 1B Ike Davis and C Ramon Cabrera and outrighted 3B Brent Morel  to Indy. The claimed IF Pedro Florimon (.204/10/57 - 214 games) from the Nats and placed him on the 40-man roster.

November 18 - Singed P Jeremy Bleich, P Deolis Guerra and P Blake Wood (6-7-1, 4.39, 127 IP), along with SS Gustavo Nunez to minor league deals with invitations to camp. They also inked P Collin Balester (7-16, 5.30, 185 IP) to a non-roster minor-league deal with an invite to camp.

November 17 -  P Brad Lincoln (9-11-1, 4.74, 221-1/3 IP) was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to camp.

November 14 - Free agent AJ Burnett (155-150, 4.04, 2,567-1/3 IP) inked a one-year, $8.5M contract.

November 12 - The Bucs sent P Justin Wilson to the Yankees for C Francisco Cervelli (.278/10/92 - 250 games).

November 11 - Pittsburgh sent P Shane Carle to the Rockies for P Rob Scahill (2-0, 4.42, 57 IP).

November 7 - 2B Jake Elmore (.221/2/13 - 87 games) was claimed from the Reds.

November 4 - Clint Hurdle added Brad Fischer, the Bucs' minor-league coordinator, as a bench coach and announced that field coaches Nick Leyva and Rick Sofield would switch positions, with Leyva going to first base and Sofield to third.

November 3 - The Pirates tendered $15.3M qualifying offers to C Russ Martin and P Francisco Liriano; they both refused the offer, guaranteeing the Pirates a sandwich pick if they signed elsewhere (as Martin did). They did not make offers to their other free agents, Eddie Volquez and Clint Barmes. Also, P Jeanmar Gomez, UT Chase d'Arnaud and P John Axford were outrighted.

October 25 - The Pirates bought SS Justin Sellers (.198/3/17 - 99 games) from the Indians.

October 23 - P Josh Stinson (0-2-1, 4.47, 52-1/3 IP) signed a minor league deal with an invite to camp.

October 16 - P Chris Peacock signed a non-roster minor league contract.

October 9 - OF Jose Tabata was DFA'ed.

The next big roster-building date is December 2, when the Pirates have to tender offers to their arb-eligible players. They've whittled the list down (Axford, Davis, Gomez, & Morel were let go), but these 11 guys remain: Pedro Alvarez, Francisco Cervelli, Josh Harrison, Jared Hughes, Mark Melancon, Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider, Chris Stewart, Neil Walker, Tony Watson & Vance Worley.

They could add $35M to the payroll, with only Gaby being a bubble guy.

The hot stove pot may be barely simmering to Bucco fans, but it's plenty bubbly to keep the FO stirring. And that's according to plan. The Pirates are built to replace from within; if they have more than a couple of holes to fill in the off-season, they've wandered off the track that Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington have been patiently plowing since their arrival.  

11/22: Dick Bartell, Guy Bush + Big Jim, & the Great One Joins the Club...

Dick Bartell, Guy Bush + Big Jim, & the Great One Joins the Club...
  • 1907 - IF Dick Bartell was born in Chicago. He began his 18 year MLB career with Pittsburgh (1927-30) and hit .301 as a Bucco before being traded to the Phillies after butting heads with Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss; it seems fitting his nickname was “Rowdy Richard.” But he still added 14 more seasons to his resume, missing a couple of years during WW2, and made a pair of All-Star teams. 
Dick Bartell - 1928 via Out Of the Park Baseball
  • 1934 - The Pirates acquired P Guy Bush, P Big Jim Weaver (he was 6'6"), and 1B/OF Babe Herman from the Cubs for P Larry French and OF Fred Lindstrom. French ended up the key figure; he pitched seven years for Chicago, winning 95 games, while Weaver was a Buc for three seasons and won 36 contests.
Big Jim Weaver & the Waner Brothers (copyright Mark Stewart)
  • 1954 - Pittsburgh, with the first pick, selected Roberto Clemente from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft, signing him to a $20,000 bonus and sending $4,000 to the Dodgers, on the recommendation of scout Clyde Sukeforth. It was money well spent for a Hall-of-Fame player with 3,000 hits, four batting titles, 15 All-Star games and 12 Golden Glove awards collected during his career.
Roberto Clemente via The Ole Ballgame

Friday, November 21, 2014

Roster Moves: Mostly Bench, Bullpen Auditions

The Pirates filled their 40 man roster yesterday, and without too many surprises. They added no-brainers RHP Jameson Taillon, RHP Nick Kingham, C Elias Diaz and bubble player OF Willy Garcia.

Taillon is a top arm in the making, just recovering from TJ surgery. The good news is that he recovered well, and may even be ready for camp. But it did delay his development a year, and assuming he'll be on an inning count after missing last season, he looks more likely to be on a 2016 arrival schedule than 2015; we'll see how he performs and how the Pirates schedule him.

That makes Kingham the more likely to see big league action in 2015. He's not a finished product and has to show a little more consistency, but he'll start at Indy and could be a mid-season addition if the situation calls for another arm. Diaz is the heir apparent behind the dish after a breakout year in 2014; the Bucs will want him to show that his .328/.378/.445 slash at Altoona wasn't a fluke. He only has 10 games at AAA, and with Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Tony Sanchez ahead of him in Pittsburgh, he should remain in AAA this year to see if his bat can match his defensive prowess.

Garcia was a bit of a surprise, given how deep the Pirate outfield is. He strikes out a lot and walks a little, but the speedster is a long ball threat with a rifle for an arm, and remains an intriguing piece down the line either as a fourth OF'er - the Pirate system isn't real deep in right-handed boppers - or as trade bait.

The cuts they made to clear space were 1B Ike Davis & C Ramon Cabrera, both DFA'ed, and the outrighting of Brent Morel to Indy. Davis was, of course, a dead man walking in Pittsburgh, but it was thought the Pirates may tender him and then deal him away rather than just cut him loose, although any expected return wouldn't be much. So they cut ties cleanly, and allowed him to play the market. Cabrera is a good contact bat, shaky glove guy which flies in the face of current Bucco thinking for a catcher. The Pirates are awash now with middle infield bench guys, making Morel expendable.

Roster from Pittsburgh Pirates
That leaves a couple of Bucs exposed to the Rule 5 draft, chief among them LHP Andy Oliver and OF'er Mel Rojas Jr, both who could stick on the right active roster. A couple of other guys could also be in play, although the remaining names aren't great bets to make it through an MLB season. But the Brewers managed to carry Wei-Chung Wang throughout 2014, so anything is possible.

Another move should be just over the horizon. The Pirates are reported to have agreed to a two year/$3M deal with RHP Radhames Liz, a toolsy power starter with a good heater and nasty hook, so when that becomes official, another 40-man player will bite the dust. And, of course, we'd expect the Pirates to dabble in the FA market, though that may take a while. Their top priority should be another pitcher, and that market won't settle until the elite sign.

The moves do show an emphasis on middle relievers and the backup infield spot. The Bucs are carrying a small herd of arms to compete for the relief spot, cleared out with Bryan Morris' and Justin Wilson's departures. They are Collin Balester, Jeremy Bleich, Deolis Guerra, Preston Guilmet, Brad Lincoln, Chaz Roe, Rob Scahill & Blake Wood. And when Liz finally is processed, his two-pitch arsenal may land him among the bullpen candidates, too.

The middle infield gang is also crowded, probably by plan after the Bucs failed last year to put guys like Robert Andino on the 40 man roster and had to live with Michael Martinez, who was. The players now who are eyeing Clint Barmes' bench spot (and it doesn't look like his return is in the cards) are Jake Elmore, Pedro Florimon, Gustavo Nunez & Justin Sellers. All but Nunez have some MLB experience as good glove, bad bat utility guys and are on the 40-man; the 26 year old Nunez has the most upside.

The roster is just a snapshot in time right now; the Pirates will surely dip, sooner or later, into the free agent or trade market, and there will be more signings and claims during the winter. And there's plenty of fringe talent to clear sufficient room without breaking the bank. But now, it gives a strong indication that the FO is looking hard at filling in the fringes at this point, which is a good marker that except for first base (Pedro's job to lose as of now), the starting eight are pretty well set for 2015.

11/21: Donora's Day: Stan the Man & Junior, Al Todd, Captain Willie, Brian Meadows, Barry Bonds, Clint Barmes...

Donora's Day: Stan the Man & Junior, Al Todd, Captain Willie, Brian Meadows, Barry Bonds, Clint Barmes...
  • 1920 - Hall of Famer Stan Musial of the Cards was born in Donora. Stan the Man compiled 3,630 career hits, ranking fourth all-time and first in a career spent with only one team. With 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road, he also is considered to be the most consistent hitter of his era. He hit 475 home runs, was named the NL's MVP three times, and won three World Series championship titles. He shares the MLB record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Musial was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. 
  • 1935 - The Phillies sent C Al Todd to Pittsburgh for C Earl Grace and rookie RHP Claude Passeau, who worked just one game for the Pirates during the season. Todd caught three years for the Bucs, while Passeau put up a 162-150/3.32 line during a 13 year MLB career. 
Al Todd - Retro Images Archive

  • 1969 - Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle and Cincinnati fame was born in Donora. The Kid was a 13-time All-Star, and his 630 home runs rank as the sixth-most in MLB history. Griffey also won 10 Gold Glove Awards in center field. He's tied for the record of most consecutive games with a home run (8 games, tied with Don Mattingly and Dale Long). His dad, Ken Griffey Sr., was born there and was a multi-sport star at Donora HS, graduating the year before it merged with Monongahela to form Ringgold. 
Stan the Man & Junior, Donora's B-Day boys. They combined for 6411 hits, 3611 runs, 1105 homers, 3787 RBI, four MVPs & 33 All-Star Games.(photo via Mariner's Blog)
  • 1973 - Pete Rose won the NL MVP, edging out Willie Stargell by a 274-250 tally. Rose took his third batting crown with a .338 mark. Stargell led the league with 44 HR, 119 RBI, and a .646 slugging percentage while batting .299. Many in Pittsburgh still believe Captain Willie wuz robbed because of the Charlie Hustle mystique. 
  • 1975 - RHP Brian Meadows was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He pitched for Pittsburgh from 2002-05. The Bucs converted him to a reliever in 2003, and his line with the Pirates was 8-12-2 with a 4.20 ERA. He went on to Tampa Bay in 2006 and retired the following season after failing to make it out of camp with the Reds. 
Brian Meadows (photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
  • 1991 - The Brave's 3B Terry Pendleton, who hit .319 with 22 HR and 86 RBI, won the NL MVP over Barry Bonds, who hit .292, with 25 HR & 116 RBI by a 274-259 point count. Bobby Bonilla came in third and may have split Bond's vote. 
  • 2011 - The Pirates signed free agent SS Clint Barmes to a two year, $10.5M contract, their first $10M+ free agent deal since they signed Steve Buechele in 1991. Barmes inked a one-year deal in 2014 for $2M to serve as insurance for Jordy Mercer and is currently a FA. His 2013 walk up song, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," became the Bucs' theme for the season when they finally broke their 20-year losing streak and made the playoffs.
Clint Barmes (photo by John Edmonds/Getty Images)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

11/20: Schwall & Pags, Rick Reuschel, Jim Leyland Hired, Happy B-Day, Jeff Locke...

Schwall & Pags, Rick Reuschel, Jim Leyland Hired, Happy B-Day, Jeff Locke...
  • 1962 - The Pirates traded 1B Dick Stuart and P Jack Lamabe to the Boston Red Sox for P Don Schwall and C Jim Pagliaroni. Pags appeared in 490 games over the next five years for the Bucs, batting .254 while Schwall became a multi role pitcher, tossing four years for Pittsburgh with a 22-23-4/3.24 ERA. Stu hit 103 homers in the next three seasons and then faded away, while Lamabe lasted six more seasons in the show, with a couple of strong campaigns in 1966-67.
Don Schwall 1965 Topps series
  • 1985 - 36 year old Rick Reuschel was named the NL’s Major League Comeback Player of the Year by United Press International. Reuschel went 14-8 with a 2.27 ERA, starting the year with Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League after signing as a free agent with Pittsburgh during the off season. 
Rick Reuschel 1989 Fleer series
  • 1985 - Syd Thrift hired Jim Leyland to manage the Pirates, replacing Chuck Tanner. During his Pirate years from 1986 to 1996, Leyland won two Manager of the Year awards (1990 & 1992), finished as runner-up in 1988 and 1991 and led the team to three divisional titles (1990-92). 
Jim Leyland 1989 Topps series
  • 1987 - LHP Jeff Locke was born in North Conway, New Hampshire. He joined the Bucs in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth trade, and the Redstone Rocket - Redstone is his home neighborhood - made his MLB debut in 2011, joining the rotation in 2013 and earning an All-Star berth that season. 
Jeff Locke 2012 Bowman Chrome Rookie series