Saturday, December 20, 2014

12/20: Jimmy Williams, Branch Rickey, Del Howard, Spud Davis, Jose DeLeon, Jay Buhner, Jose Silva, Young for Herges...

Jimmy Williams, Branch Rickey, Del Howard, Spud Davis, Jose DeLeon, Jay Buhner, Jose Silva, Young for Herges...
  • 1876 - 2B Jimmy Williams was born. He only played two years in Pittsburgh, but made quite a splash. In his first year, 1899, Williams hit in 27 straight games, setting an MLB rookie record that was not broken until 1987, and one that’s still a Pirates team standard. His 27 triples are also an MLB rookie record, and he ended the campaign with a .354 BA. But the next year he returned to reality, hitting .264, and then jumped leagues in 1901, joining the AL Baltimore Orioles, opening the door for Tommy Leach to take control of the hot corner. 
Jimmy Williams 1902 Sporting Life series
  • 1881 - Branch Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio. An innovator of things as diverse as the breaking the color line, a feeder minor league system and batting helmets, Rickey was the Pirate GM from 1950-55. His Pittsburgh teams were notoriously poor (“The Rickey-Dinks”), but his player development pipeline helped to form the core of the 1960 World Championship club. 
  • 1904 - The Pirates traded 1B Kitty Bransfield, IF Otto Krueger and OF Moose McCormick to the Phillies for 1B Del Howard. In his first MLB season, Howard hit .292 for the Pirates and was included in the deal for P Vic Willis the following year. Kitty, a member of the Pirates first World Series club, stayed on for seven campaigns in Philadelphia, with a .269 BA. Moose, one of baseball’s earliest players to fill a pinch-hitter’s role, didn’t play again until 1908 after serving in WW1. Krueger hung around for one more year before leaving baseball. 
Del Howard via Washington Sports Hall of Fame
  • 1904 - C Virgil “Spud” Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He spent his last four seasons (1940-41, 1944-45) as a back-up catcher who hit .301 as a Bucco. From 1943-44 he coached, returning for a couple of seasons during the war years. He continued as a coach and a scout for the Pirates and briefly managed the team when manager Frankie Frisch resigned in September of 1946. Spud left baseball for good in 1950. Davis hit over .300 ten times in sixteen MLB seasons, and as of his retirement, his .308 career BA was second only to Mickey Cochrane all-time among major league catchers. At last look, it’s still in the Top Five. 
  • 1960 - RHP Jose DeLeon was born in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. After being taken in the third round of the 1979 draft, he reached Pittsburgh in 1983. He went 17-38 with a 4.02 ERA as a Buc before being traded to the White Sox in 1986. DeLeon lasted 13 seasons in the MLB, but never matched his promise with his performance. 
Jose DeLeon 1985 Fleer series
  • 1984 - SS Tim Foli, OF Steve Kemp and cash were sent by the NY Yankees to the Pirates in exchange for SS Dale Berra, OF Jay Buhner and LHP Alfonso Pulido. Buhner went on to have a 15 year career with 310 homers, mostly with Seattle, while not much else was gotten out of the other guys involved in the deal. 
  • 2001 - In a minor deal, the Bucs sent RHP Jose Silva (one day after his birthday) to the Reds for minor league RHP Ben Shaffar. Silva pitched one more year in the big leagues while Shaffar never made it to the show. 
  • 2002 - RHP Chris Young and minor leaguer Jon Searles were traded to the Montreal Expos for RHP Matt Herges. The 6’10” Young, a third round pick of the Bucs in 2000, went on to win 32 games between 2005-07 and landed an All-Star berth before injuries threw a series of speedbumps at his career, while the Pirates cut Herges in spring training. 
Chris Young - Autograph Card via MacMaroon

Friday, December 19, 2014

12/19: Tommy O'Brien, Heartbreak Hotel, Jose Silva, Amos Otis & Jon Lieber...

Tommy O'Brien, Heartbreak Hotel, Jose Silva, Amos Otis & Jon Lieber...
  • 1918 - OF/3B Tommy O’Brien was born in Anniston, Alabama. O’Brien was a three-time All State football player and enrolled at the University of Tennessee, but opted for baseball. He started his MLB career as a Pirate, hitting .301 between 1942-45, toiled in the minors from 1946-48 and returned to the show in 1949-50 with Boston and Washington. His claim to fame came in 1943 when he had seven consecutive hits in a double header against the NY Giants.
Tommy O'Brien - photo via Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame
  • 1938 - In a poll of writers by the Associated Press, the Pirates were selected as the biggest disappointment in sports for the year, edging out the Rice Owls football team. The Pirates had a seven game edge on September 1st and were up 3-½ games after September 22nd, but dropped six of their final seven games to finish the season two games behind the Cubs after losing the famous “homer in the gloaming” game. The Bucs went 28-26 in the final two months of the season while the Cubs rampaged through September, winning 21 of their last 26 games. 
  • 1973 - RHP Jose Silva was born in Tijuana, Mexico. Jose worked five years (1997-2001) for the Bucs, starting 53 of his 140 Pirate games. He finished 25-28-4 with a 5.41 ERA in his Pittsburgh years. He worked one more MLB campaign, and moved on to the Mexican League. 
Jose Silva Topps 2001 series
  • 1983 - The Pirates signed 37 year old OF Amos Otis. A five-time All-Star with the Kansas City Royals, Otis hit .165 in 40 games for the Bucs. He was released in August and never played in the majors again. Ironically, the Royals had agreed to a deal sending him and Cookie Rojas to the Pirates for Al Oliver after the 1976 season, but Rojas voided the transaction by exercising his 10-and-5 year veto rights; Pittsburgh was that close to landing Otis in his heyday. 
  • 1998 - The Pirates traded RHP Jon Lieber to the Cubs for OF Brant Brown. Lieber would win 93 games over the next nine seasons, going 20-6 in 2001, while Brown would be done as a major leaguer after the 2000 season. 
Brant Brown 2001 MLB Showdown series

Thursday, December 18, 2014

12/18: Pete Schourek, Matt Stairs, Yoslan Herrera, Tim Neverett and Javier Lopez...

Pete Schourek, Matt Stairs, Yoslan Herrera, Tim Neverett and Javier Lopez...
  • 1998 - LHP Pete Schourek signed a two-year/$4M FA contract with the Pirates. After going 4-7 with a 5,34 ERA, he was released after a season, with the Pirates eating the second year of his contract. He was the Cy Young runner-up to Greg Maddux in 1995 after going 18-7 for the Reds, but various injuries limited his effectiveness afterward. He pitched through 2001, but he never won more than eight games in a year after that breakout ‘95 season 
Pete Schourek - uncredited photo, 1999
  • 2002 - Utilityman Matt Stairs signed as a FA the Pirates, accepting a $900K deal. He had a strong season, hitting .292 with 20 HR despite just 305 AB, earning himself a three year/$3.55M contract with KC the following campaign. He retired after the 2011 season and joined another ex-Buc in the record books: Stairs played for more major-league teams (12) than any position player in big league history (technically, he was rostered on 13 teams but for just 12 franchises, as he played for the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals). Octavio Dotel holds the record for pitchers and all players at 13 clubs.
  • 2006 - Cuban RHP Yoslan Herrera, 25, agreed to a $1.92M, three-year contract with the Pirates. He defected in July of 2005 and was signed by scouts Rene Gayo and Louie Eljaua after posting a combined record of 18-7 with a 3.27 ERA during his Island career as a member of the Youth Cuban National Team for two years (1999-2000) and four seasons with the Cuban National Team (2001-2004). His numbers didn’t translate in the US, and he won just one game for the Bucs. In a nice bounce-back tale, Herrera was signed to a minor league deal by the LA Angels in 2013 after last pitching in the majors in 2008, put together a nice MLB run at the end of 2014 (1-1, 2.70 -16IP) and has an invite to spring training this season.
Yoslan Herrera, 2008 -  photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
  • 2008 - Tim Neverett was hired as the Pirate play-by-play man. Prior to joining the Pirates, Neverett spent four years working for FSN Rocky Mountain, where he spent the 2008 campaign serving as both the pre-game and post-game studio host for Colorado Rockies games along with calling many other sports. Neverett began his baseball on-air career in 1985 at the age of 19 with Pittsburgh's Class AA affiliate in the Eastern League, the Nashua Pirates. 
  • 2009 - The Pirates signed LHP Javier Lopez to a one year, $775K contract. The LOOGY reestablished his credentials in Pittsburgh and then was traded to the Giants at the deadline. The southpaw is the only active player to have played on four or more World Series championship teams, winning three times with the G-Men and once with Boston. 
Javier Lopez 2010 - photo from USAToday Sports Images

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12/17: Rebel Oakes, Marvell Wynne & Kevin Correia...

Rebel Oakes, Marvell Wynne & Kevin Correia...
  • 1883 - CF Ennis “Rebel” Oakes was born in Lisbon, Louisiana. He played five years for the Reds and Cards, then jumped to the Federal League when it was established in 1914. After two seasons as the player-manager for the Pittsburgh Rebels, perhaps named in his honor, the league folded and Oakes never returned to MLB despite his .295 BA. SABR writer Phil Williams believes “Rebel Oakes was effectively blacklisted” after the Federal League's demise. Btw, he didn’t earn his nickname by being particularly iconoclastic; when he was in the minors, an Iowa sportswriter dubbed him Rebel because of his Deep South birthplace.
Rebel Oakes - Cracker Jack 1915 series
  • 1959 - CF Marvell Wynne was born in Chicago. He started his career with the Pirates, playing from 1983-85. Projected as a leadoff hitter, he stole 46 sacks but batted just .245 with an OBP of .297 before being traded to San Diego for Bob Patterson. His son, also named Marvell, became a pro jock, too, but as a MSL soccer player. 
Marvell Wynne O-Pee-Chee 1985 series
  • 2010 - RHP Kevin Correia signed as a FA with Pittsburgh, agreeing to a two year, $8M deal. In those two seasons, he would post a line of 24-22/4.49 before joining the Twins after losing his spot in the rotation to Wandy Rodriguez. He started 54 games, appeared 59 times, represented the Pirates at the 2011 All-Star Game and was their Opening Day pitcher that same season. 
Kevin Correia photo Gene Puskar/Associated Press 2012

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12/16: Ironman, Rick Sofield, Bobby Schantz & Benito Santiago...

Ironman, Rick Sofield, Bobby Schantz & Benito Santiago...
  • 1938 - The Boston Bees traded catcher Ray Mueller to the Pirates for C Al Todd and OF Johnny Dickshot. Todd had a couple of good seasons left, while Dickshot wouldn’t hit his prime until his last two seasons in 1944-45 during the war for the White Sox. “Iron Man” Mueller (he picked up his nickname in the early forties after catching 233 consecutive games for the Reds) played 90 games in Pittsburgh as a reserve catcher, hitting .269. Factoid: Mueller was from Pittsburg - Pittsburg, Kansas, which was named after our fair town.
Ray Mueller during his 1944 Ironman campaign.
  • 1956 - Coach Rick Sofield was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was a #1 draft pick and outfielder for the Twins, worked in the minors (he was the Pirates' minor league field coordinator in 2002) and managed in college. Sofield was brought back to the Pirate fold by long-time bud Clint Hurdle, managing at West Virginia for a season before joining the big league staff in 2013. 
  • 1960 - The Bucs sent UT Harry Bright, 1B RC Stevens and RHP Bennie Daniels to the expansion Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers) for veteran LHP Bobby Shantz. Daniels was a useful starter in DC for several seasons, while Shantz lasted a year in Pittsburgh before being lost to the Houston Colt .45s in the 1961 expansion draft. He went 6-3-2/3.22 in 43 games with the Pirates, and pitched fairly effectively afterward, his career lasting until the end of the 1964 season. Schantz won 24 games in 1952 as a starter for the Philadelphia Athletics and was voted the AL MVP, but arm injuries drove him from the rotation to the bullpen.
Bobby Schantz 1962 Topps
  • 2004 - The Pirates acquired C Benito Santiago and cash from the Royals for RHP Leo Nunez (Juan Oviedo). The 30 year old Oviedo served a 2012 suspension after pitching for seven seasons because of name fraud; he went by Nunez to gain a later birthdate. Santiago, 40, got in six games before his release and never played in the majors again.

Monday, December 15, 2014

12/15: Jim Nealon, Vic Willis, Bucky, Art Howe, Vic Janowicz, Jim Bunning, Rule 5 Debacle & the X-Man...

Jim Nealon, Vic Willis, Bucky, Art Howe, Vic Janowicz, Jim Bunning, Rule 5 Debacle & the X-Man...
  • 1884 - 1B Jim Nealon was born in Sacramento. He’s one of the Buccos sadder stories. Nealon played from 1906-07 for the Pirates, and in his rookie season tied for the NL RBI lead (83) while hitting .255. Jim hit .257 the next season, then contracted tuberculosis. He went back home to California, played a couple of years of minor league ball and died of typhoid pneumonia in San Francisco in 1910 at the age of 25.
  • 1905 - In one of their better deals, the Bucs picked up Hall-of-Famer RHP Vic Willis from the Boston Beaneaters for journeymen UT Dave Brain, IF/OF Del Howard, and P Vive Lindaman. Willis won between 21-23 games in each of his four years (1906-09) in Pittsburgh, with a slash of 88–46/2.08 ERA and was part of the 1909 World Series championship club. The “Delaware Peach” (he went to Delaware College) was a workhorse throughout his career, completing 388 of his 471 starts.
Vic Willis Turkey Red series undated via Baseball Hall of Fame Library
  • 1906 - IF Wallace “Bucky” Williams was born in Baltimore and moved to Pittsburgh at the age of six months. After stints with the Pittsburgh Keystone Juniors and Monarchs, he played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1927–32; 1937-39) and the Homestead Grays in 1936. Bucky also played for his employer as part of the Edgar Thomson Steel team. He went to Holy Rosary and Crescent Elementary before leaving school for work, and rests now in Calvary Cemetery.
  • 1946 - IF Art Howe was born in Pittsburgh. He began his career with Pittsburgh in 1974-75 as a utility infielder, batting .195, before being traded to the Astros, where he became a regular for six seasons beginning in 1977. He played for 11 years in all with a .260 BA, and managed for 11 more years after his playing days, winning a pair of AL West titles with the Oakland A's.
  • 1952 - Vic Janowicz was signed to a $75,000 contract by the Pirates a bonus baby. Janowicz was a Heisman-winning running back at Ohio State in 1950, but Pittsburgh saw his future in baseball. As a bonus baby, he had to be carried on the MLB roster for two years. Vic hit .252 as a C in 1953, but dropped to .151 as a 3B’man the following year, for a two year line of .214 with two HR and 10 RBI in 215 PA. He left the team after that season and jumped to the NFL Washington Redskins, where he played two years before a car accident ended his sports career.
Vic Janowicz 1953 Topps series
  • 1967 - Pittsburgh traded for RHP Jim Bunning, sending the Phillies pitchers Woodie Fryman‚ Bill Laxton and Harold Clem along with IF Don Money, who would be the Phils regular 3B until Mike Schmidt arrived and then become an All-Star with Milwaukee. HoF’er Bunning stayed in Pittsburgh for 1-½ seasons, slashing at 14-23/3.84.
  • 2003 - The Pirates lost five players in the Rule 5 draft, 1b Chris Shelton, OF Rich Thompson, LHP Frank Brooks, RHP Jeff Bennett and 3B/OF Jose Bautista, who they traded RHP Kris Benson for to get back in July, 2004. Oddly, the Pirates had three openings on the 40-man roster, but GM Dave Littlefield told the local media that the need to add free agents to the lineup for next season was more important than keeping players the club believes would not make an immediate impact. The rest of baseball reacted a bit differently as the five Pirate farmhands went in the first six picks of the draft. Littlefield removed pitchers Duaner Sanchez and Matt Guerrier from the 40-man roster to protect Mike Gonzalez and John Grabow, so he may have had more talent on hand than he suspected.
Joey Bats as a Buc
  • 2005 - Pittsburgh signed free agent RHP set-up man Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, $2.75M contract, and flipped him to the Mets at the 2006 deadline for Xavier Nady.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

12/14: Barney Dreyfuss, Wee Willie, Jerry May, Lefty, The Kitten, Jon Lieber, Wil Cordero & More...

Barney Dreyfuss, Wee Willie, Jerry May, Lefty, The Kitten, Jon Lieber, Wil Cordero & More...
  • 1896 - C Charlie Hargreaves was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He caught for Pittsburgh at the end of his career from 1928-30, and was a solid defender and hitter for the first two seasons before fading in 1930, putting up a .273 BA over that period. Charlie did rejoin the organization briefly, managing the Bucs’ Class C Keokuk Pirates squad of the Central Association in 1949. 
  • 1898 - 2B Henry "Heinie" Reitz was traded by the Washington Senators to the Pirates for OF/3B Jack O'Brien, IF Dick Padden and OF Jimmy “Rabbit” Slagle. It wasn't a very good deal for Pittsburgh; Reitz played 35 games and was traded at the end of the 1899 season. O’Brien was a journeyman, Padden had three solid seasons remaining, and rookie Slagle went on to have a 10 year career, mainly with the Cubs, and a lifetime .268 BA.
Heinie Rietz 1894 Alpha Photo Engraving Company photo via Wikipedia
  • 1911 - Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss proposed that each team in the World Series turn over one-fourth of its share of the gate to the league, to be divided among the other teams. It marked the beginning of changes that ultimately gave players of the top four finishers a percentage of the World Series money.
  • 1918 - RHP Willie Pope was born on Birmingham, Alabama and raised in Library. The 6-foot-4 Pope (known as "Wee Willie") began his career as a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1946 but was mostly known for playing with the Grays during the 1947-48 seasons. During the 1947 campaign, the right-hander notched a 6-7 record, but pitched a no-hitter against the New York Cubans. In the 1948 season he was major contributor to the Grays team that won the last Negro National League Pennant and won the Negro Leagues World Series against the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League. He played a couple of years in the minors while his brother Dave played for Cleveland and Baltimore. Willie remained in the City after his career as a player in Pittsburgh ward politics and a local black baseball historian. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 91. 
Willie Pope 1947-48 (photo uncredited)
  • 1923 - LHP Paul “Lefty” LaPalme was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Lefty began his career in Pittsburgh (1951-54) and was a starter in the last two seasons, with a Pirate line of 14-33-2 and a 4.99 ERA. The knuckleballer was traded to the Cards in 1955, converted to a reliever, and put together several decent seasons from the pen. 
  • 1943 - C Jerry May was born in Staunton, Virginia. May was a back-up catcher from 1964-70 (he started in ‘67-68) for the Bucs, hitting .237 in his seven year Pittsburgh stint. He was signed by Syd Thrift out of high school and tossed several no-hitters as an American legion pitcher; the Bucs converted him to catcher and he was behind the dish for Dock Ellis’ infamous 1970 no-hitter. May was bumped out of the starting role by Manny Sanguillen. Jerry was a good tactician and glove guy throughout his 10 year MLB career, throwing out 42.57% of the base runners who tried to steal a base on him, good for 11th on the all-time list. He led NL catchers in 1970 with a 50% caught stealing percentage.
Jerry May 1967 Topps series
  • 1963 - The Pirates sent P Harvey Haddix to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for IF Dick Yencha and cash. Haddix, then 38 and a reliever, spent the last two years of his career in Baltimore as a reliever going 8-7-11/2.63 while Yencha never made it to the MLB. Haddix later followed his namesake Harry Brecheen (as St. Louis teammates, veteran Breechen was "the Cat” and the rookie Haddix "the Kitten”) as a major league pitching coach, working with the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Pirates before passing away in 1994. 
  • 1998 - RHP Jon Lieber was traded to the Chicago Cubs for OF Brant Brown. Lieber tossed nine more years in the show, winning 20 games for the Cubs in 2001 while Brown was one and done in Pittsburgh, with 2000 being his last campaign. After his 2001 breakout campaign, workhorse Lieber had TJ surgery and only reached the 30-start, 200 IP standard once more in his career. 
  • 1998 - The Pirates chose LHP Scott Sauerbeck from the New York Mets in the Rule 5 draft. Sauerbeck stuck with the Pirates until 2003, going 19-15-5/3.53 in his 4-½ year Bucco career before he was traded to Boston. Sauerbeck missed 2004 after surgery, and after a fairly ineffective campaign in 2006, the LOOGY’s MLB career ended. 
  • 1999 - “Wil Cordero, a good hitter who has had difficulty staying healthy and out of trouble, signed a $9 million, three-year contract yesterday with the Pittsburgh Pirates -- his fourth team in four years” per the New York Times. Cordero in reality was a good sign, as he banged 16 HR with 51 RBI before he was traded in late July to the Indians for Alex Ramirez (who hit .209 and was out of baseball the following year) and Enrique Wilson, a reserve infielder who hit .262 in a 1-½ Pirate seasons. Cordero ended up with one more strong year left in him as a Montreal Expo in 2003 (.278/16/71). 
Wil Cordero 2000 photo Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post Gazette
  • 2010 - The Pirates agreed to terms with 1B Lyle Overbay on a one-year, $5M contract; he was waived in August after hitting .227. The Bucs also signed 32-year old OF Matt Diaz to a two year deal worth up to $5M. He was sent back to the Braves at the following deadline for P Eliecer Cardenas after hitting .259 with no homers.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

12/13: Joe Christopher, Dale Berra, Jeff Robinson, Bell & King Deal, Ritchie For Wells & Fogg, Damaso Marte and Eddie Volquez...

Joe Christopher, Dale Berra, Jeff Robinson, Bell & King Deal, Ritchie For Wells & Fogg, Damaso Marte and Eddie Volquez...
  • 1935 - OF Joe Christopher was born in in Frederiksted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. He played for Pittsburgh from 1959-61 sparingly, hitting .244 before being lost in the expansion draft to the NY Mets, although he did score twice in the 1960 World Series as a pinch runner. Christopher is thought to be the first player from the Virgin Islands to play in the majors. Joe should remember his first start. He was called up to replace an injured Roberto Clemente and made his big league debut playing right field during Harvey Haddix’s 12 inning perfect game. 
Joe Christopher 1961 Topps series
  • 1956 - Dale Berra was born in Ridgewood, NJ. The SS, the first round pick of the 1975 draft (20th overall), spent eight years in Pittsburgh (1977-84) and started the last three, but his bat (.238 as a Pirate) never came around and to boot, he testified that he was a coke user during the 1985 trial. Berra still makes the highlight tapes thanks to his 1985 baserunning blunder with Bobby Meacham while a Yankee. With Meacham at second and Berra at first, Ricky Henderson drilled a ball into the corner. Meacham slipped rounding the bases, so he and Berra came home at virtually the same time. Sadly for them, Ozzie Guillen’s relay beat them to the dish and Carlton Fisk tagged them both out - a double turned into a double play! 
  • 1960 - RHP Jeff Robinson was born in Santa Ana, California. He tossed for the Bucs from 1987-89. His first two seasons were strictly out of the pen, but he got 19 starts in 51 appearances in ‘89. Overall, Robinson went 20-19-17 for Pittsburgh with a 3.78 ERA. He went to the Yankees in the Sluggo Slaught deal, but couldn’t replicate his Pittsburgh success. Robinson tossed for three teams from 1990-92 and then was out of baseball. 
  • 1976 - RHP Josh Fogg was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. He pitched for Pittsburgh from 2002-05 with a record of 39-42 and a 4.79 ERA. Josh finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year vote in 2002 and won double figure games for three straight seasons, but was released after the 2005 campaign and pitched four more years before ending his career in 2010.
Josh Fogg 2002 Fleer series


  • 1996 - SS Jay Bell and 3B Jeff King were traded to the Royals for 3B Joe Randa, LHP Jeff Wallace, LHP Jeff Granger and RHP Jeff Martin in a salary dump, or maybe in an effort by the clubs to set a record for Jeffs (or just “J” first names in general) included in one deal. 
  • 2001 - The Pirates sent P Todd Ritchie and C Lee Evans to the White Sox for pitchers Kip Wells‚ Sean Lowe‚ and Josh Fogg. Ritchie struggled for Chicago and then was injured the following year, effectively ending his career. Fogg and Wells were mainstays in the Pirate rotation for three years but never blossomed beyond journeyman status. 
  • 2005 - The Bucs acquired LHP Damaso Marte from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for INF/OF Rob Mackowiak. It was the lefty’s second go-around with Pittsburgh, and after an injury to Matt Capps in 2006, Marte became the closer. He was traded to the New York Yankees with Xavier Nady at the deadline for José Tábata, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Dan McCutchen. 
Damaso Marte - photo by Linda Cataffo NY Daily News
  • 2013: RHP Edinson Volquez was signed as a free agent to a one year, $5M contract. He was quite the bargain, going 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA during the season. He’s a free agent again and looking to score a nice deal after reestablishing his value in Pittsburgh.

Friday, December 12, 2014

12/12: Phenomenal, Bob Harmon, Ray Kremer, Larry French, Freddie Lindstrom, Arky, John Tudor Trade, Ramon Vazquez, Matt Capps...

Phenomenal, Bob Harmon, Ray Kremer, Larry French, Freddie Lindstrom, Arky, John Tudor Trade, Ramon Vazquez, Matt Capps...
  • 1864 - P Phenomenal Smith was born in Philadelphia. He didn’t play in Pittsburgh much (1884, 1890 with a 1-4 record), but we couldn’t resist the name. He was actually born John Francis Gammon, but got his nickname when he struck out 16 batters in a no-hit game in 1885 while pitching for minor-league Newark, with no batter hitting the ball out of the infield. Only two runners reached base, one on a walk and one on a dropped third strike – and Smith picked both of them off. 
  • 1913 - The Pirates traded P Hank Robinson, OF’ers Chief Wilson & Cozy Dolan and IF’ers Art Butler & Dots Miller to the St Louis Cardinals for P Bob Harmon, 1B Ed Konetchy and 3B Mike Mowrey. The Cards got two or three good seasons out of their acquisitions, but the Bucs weren’t so lucky. Harmon was keeper, tossing for four seasons and going 39-52 with a 2.60 ERA. But Konetchy and Mowrey both had so-so 1914 seasons for the Pirates, skipped to the outlaw Federal League’s Pittsburgh Rebels in 1915 and signed with different clubs in 1916
Bob Harmon 1916 Herpolscheimer series
  • 1923 - The Pirates traded IF Spencer Adams, along with pitchers Earl Kunz and George Boehler, to the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in exchange for RHP Ray Kremer. Kremer was a Pirate lifer, pitching from 1924-33 with a 143-85-9 slate and 3.76 ERA. The workhorse went 200+ IP and won double-digit games (hitting 20 wins twice) for eight straight years and was the NL ERA leader twice. Kremer went 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 1925 & 1927 World Series games. 
  • 1928 - The Pirates bought LHP Larry French from Portland of the Pacific Coast League. From 1929-34, the knuckleballer went 87-83 with a 3.50 ERA for Pittsburgh and in a 14 year MLB career won 197 games. French, like a lot of players, joined the Navy in 1942. Unlike most, he became a career sailor, retiring in 1969 with the rank of Captain. 
  • 1932 - Giant CF Freddie Lindstrom ended up a Bucco in a three-way deal. New York sent CF Chick Fullis to the Phillies. Pittsburgh sent RHP Glenn Spencer to the Giants and OF Gus Dugas to Philadelphia, who shipped OF Kiddo Davis to New York. Lindstrom hit .302 in two seasons at Pittsburgh, playing between Lloyd and Paul Waner on his road to the Hall of Fame. For the cost of two reserves, the Bucs got two years of a Hall-of-Famer. 
Freddie Lindstrom 1933 DeLong series
  • 1941 - The Bucs traded SS Arky Vaughan to the Brooklyn Dodgers for IF Pete Coscarart, RHP Luke Hamlin, C Babe Phelps and OF/1B Jimmy Wasdell. Only reserve infielder Coscarart stuck with the team past 1942. In ten seasons, Hall of Famer Vaughan hit .324 for Pittsburgh. He later had a couple of strong seasons for Brooklyn, then left the team and worked his ranch for three years after, according to baseball lore, a dispute with manager Leo Durocher (although his family said he ran the spread because his brother Glenn was drafted and there was no one else to do the job.) Whatever the reason, he didn’t return to baseball until 1947, after Durocher was suspended for gambling. 
  • 1984 - The Bucs traded LHP John Tudor and OF Brian Harper to the St. Louis Cardinals for UT Steve Barnard and OF George Hendricks. Tudor won 21 games with the Cards while tossing ten shutouts the next season and won two World Series games. Hendricks hit .230 and lasted until August, when he was sent to the California Angels. 
George Hendricks via Out of the Park Developments
  • 2008 - The Pirates signed IF Ramon Vazquez, the only player with major league experience added to the roster during the winter meetings, to a two-year deal worth $4M. He hit .230 in 2009, then was released the following April, ending his nine year MLB career while the Pirates ate $2M worth of contract. 
  • 2009 - The Bucs non-tendered RHP Matt Capps, allowing the closer to walk as an uncompensated free agent. He signed a one year deal with Washington for $3.5M and became an All-Star. Capps then went to the Twins and closed, but shoulder inflammation derailed him there in 2012, and a year later he had surgery.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Antonio Bastardo

After Pat Neshek passed on the Bucs, taking a quite substantial last-minute offer from the Astros, the Bucs got serious about a back-end arm for the pen, sending minor league prospect Joely Rodriguez to the Phils for southpaw Antonio Bastardo. (EDIT: The Phils also took lefty reliever Andy Oliver from the Bucs in the Rule 5 draft, so they got two LHP from Pittsburgh for the price of one.)

Rodriguez wasn't an insignificant price to pay, as the Bucs put him on the 40-man roster last year and he made the Arizona Fall League All-Prospect team this season. He's a lefty with a little bit of heat, and was likely to start the year at Altoona. But the Bucs are deep in starting pitching and Rodriguez's down-the-road potential (his ceiling is as a mid-rotation guy, but inconsistency from game-to-game leaves his floor in the pen as a pro) is worth the risk for a fairly proven commodity in Bastardo.

This is especially true considering the Pirate need for a dependable mid-inning lefty; there were even rumors floating around about a Travis Snider-for-Brian Matusz deal. Giving up a AA pitcher for a rental shows how far the Pirates have come in building organizational depth. The FO finally has enough weapons to counter other clubs' interest in guys Pittsburgh wants like Bastardo (the Boston Red Sox were said to have discussed sending IF Sean Coyle to the Phils in exchange).

Bastardo, 29, has spent the last six years with the Phillies. Over the last two seasons, he's put up an 8-9 record with a 3.29 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 106-2/3 IP. He's also walked 55 batters, so he's a grip-and-rip guy, featuring a fastball/slider combo with a show-me change. The lefty has been durable of late, with 115 appearances in 2013-14. He's also closed at times, with 11 saves (and 11 blown saves) in Philadelphia to go with 71 holds. He's in his final arb year and estimated to have a value of $2.75-$3M this season.

Antonio Bastardo - 2014 (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
He's been with the Phils since 2007, when the Dominican inked a deal with Philadelphia. Mostly a starter in the minors, he got his MLB call in 2009. Bastardo ended with shoulder surgery and was converted to the pen when 2010 rolled around. In 2011, he got to close when Ryan Madison was hurt and picked up eight saves. Jonathan Papelbon's signing put a quick halt to Bastardo's closing status.

Bastardo had a fairly rough 2012, then rebounded nicely in 2013. Too nicely, in fact, as the MLB gave him a 50 game suspension as he was snagged in the Biogenesis net. He came back with a solid if unspectacular 2014, going 5-7 with a 3.94 ERA and held both right and left handed hitters to a BA under .200. That fits his lifetime slash of .211/RH and .185/LH; he's not a LOOGY.

He fits the Pirate mold as a reliever who can get a strikeout when needed. But he is not a guy who gets many balls hit into the dirt; Bastardo has a lifetime 28% grounder rate to go with a 50%+ fly ball rate. So in that category, he's a square peg squashed into the Pirates round hole. But his 7% homer rate is good, so that mitigates his fly ball tendencies a bit, especially as PNC Park is more forgiving than Citizens' Bank Park.

We don't know that there's much Ray Searage can do to change those ratios; Bastardo lives by the four seamer and slider. He's definitely an anti-Jared Hughes from the pen. One thing Ray can do is try to get more strikes from him, and keep an eagle eye on his mechanics, which sometimes get away from the southpaw.

But he is a pitcher who has worked late, and gives Clint Hurdle an option when Tony Watson and Mark the Shark need a blow. And it's possible that down the road, they may be looking at Bastardo as a back-ender if Melancon starts to cost more than the Pirates prefer to pay a short man. So he's an interesting pick-up from a couple of angles.

And for the Pirates FO, a job well done. They needed a couple of starters and landed Frankie and AJ. They needed a lefty for the pen and inked Bastardo. They needed a catcher and reeled in Francisco Cervelli. Now all they have left to do is wait out the market and see if anyone drops in their laps, fill in around the edges and maybe play around with first base, depending on their Pedro plans.  A quiet but efficient hot stove season, we'd say.