Wednesday, December 13, 2017

12/13 Happenings: J Trade; Cobra Settles; Avens, Marte, Wells Deals; Eddie Signs; Mitchell Report

  • 1988 - The suits and Dave Parker settled a 2-½ year battle over the Cobra’s 1979 contract. The Pirates believed his drug involvement voided $5.3M in deferred payments; Parker disagreed. A few weeks from trial, the two sides settled with Parker getting a lump sum payment of an undisclosed amount that was less than the original total due, confirmed a week later when the team said its 1988 operating profit was impacted favorably by the settlement. 
Joe Randa 1997 Fleer Ultra
  • 1996 - SS Jay Bell and 3B Jeff King were traded to the Royals for 3B Joe Randa (called "The Joker" after the grinning Batman villain), 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) packaged in one deal. 
  • 1999 - The Pirates sent OF Brant Brown to Florida for OF Bruce Avens. Brant hot .232 in his year as a Bucco and it would get worse in 2000, his final MLB season. Aven hit .250 for the Pirates and was flipped to the Dodgers at the deadline, having a couple of solid seasons for LA. 
  • 2001 - The Pirates sent P Todd Ritchie & C Lee Evans to the White Sox for pitchers Kip Wells‚ Sean Lowe‚ & 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. 
Damaso Marte 2006 Upper Deck
  • 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. Mack was strong for the White Sox from 2006-07 (.285 BA), but after being traded back to the NL at the 2007 deadline he faded badly, and his career ended after the 2008 campaign. 
  • 2007 - The Mitchell Report was released, a 20 month investigation led by former US Senator George Mitchell into performance-enhancing drugs’ MLB inroads. The report covered the use of PEDs by players with recommendations on how to handle the epidemic. The report named 89 MLB players who were alleged to have used PEDS, including several ex-Pirates (every team had at least one played implicated). The findings stiffened the MLB’s spine, and they, along with the MLB Player’s Union, implemented a testing program with stiff penalties for violations. 
  •  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 signed a two year, $20M guaranteed deal with the KC Royals after reestablishing his value, then went to KC on a two-year, $22M deal.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Rey Kremer: The Best Bucco Righty You Don't Know

Ray Kremer spent his prime pitching years tossing in the Pacific Coast League, and after a decade was beginning to doubt that he would ever get the call to the show.

He twirled mainly for his hometown Oakland Oaks, tossing over 2,100 frames with 214 wins. But our Golden State (and ager!) was considered a "warm weather" pitcher due to his rheumatism, which was easier to deal with in the sunny climes of California. Eventually he was spotted by scout Joe Devine, who sold Kremer's arm to Barney Dreyfuss and then it was off to Pittsburgh.

(from Pittsburgh Baseball Hero Deck)
The Pirates sent IF Spencer Adams with pitchers Earl Kunz & George Boehler and the tidy sum of $20,000 to Oakland for the righty. He started out on a rocky road, bumping heads with Dreyfuss because Kremer thought, as did many players of the era, that he deserved a cut of any sales price. But the team and he got over it; Ray spent the next decade (1924-33) as a Pirate.

Kremer had a great beginning to his big-league career as a 31-year-old rookie. He posted an 18-10 slate in 1924, then followed that with seasons of 17-8, 20-6 and 19-8. He was third in the vote for the NL's most valuable player in 1926 and led the NL in ERA from 1926-27.

The Pirates won a pair of pennants during that stretch. Kremer split two complete games in the 1925 World Series against the Washington Senators. After winning Game Six behind a six-hitter, Ray followed with 4-1/3 IP of scoreless relief in Game Seven, allowing the Pirates to rally in the rain against Walter "Big Train" Johnson and take a 9-7 win, with Ray credited with the victory. He had less luck in 1927, as did the team, which was swept by the "Murderer's Row" Yankees.

Ray Kremer 1933 Goudey
Kremer was on top of his game in 1930 at the age of 37, leading the league in wins (20), games started (38) and innings pitched (276) even though his ERA (5.26) was the worst of his career. Baseball, go figure. He bounced back with a 3.33 ERA the nest season, but just 11 wins as run support was hard to find. But in 1932, age caught up with Remy, and in 1933 he was kept around for seven games and was done in July. He went back to the Oakland Oaks for a couple of seasons before retiring and taking a mailman's route while waiting for a coaching call that never came.

For his Bucco career, he compiled an 143–85/3.76 slash in 308 appearances (247 starts). Kremer's 143 wins with rank him eighth in franchise history, his .627 winning percentage ranks seventh, and his 1,954- 2⁄3 innings pitched rank tenth. And on a final note, he was a man of many names in Pittsburgh - "Ray" was short for Remy, the newspapers called him the “Frenchman” because of his ancestry (both parents were born in France), and he also went by “Wiz”/”Bush Wiz” as a nod to his long and impressive minor-league career. In fact, he was called just about everything but Remy.

(main research credits: Wikipedia, Gregory Wolf/SABR, and Baseball Reference)

12/12 TRS-PNC Park Era: Helms, Hendricks, Santiago, McGehee, Vazquez Come; Charlie, Matt Go; HBD Jose; Frankie Signs; '06 Arb Class

  • 1975 - Houston sent veteran IF Tommy Helms to the Pirates for a PTBNL (IF Art Howe). Helms was at the end of his days here, while Howe went on to have a solid career with the Astros and Cards, playing for 11 years with a .260 career BA. Afterward, Art scouted, coached and managed the Astros (1989–93), Oakland Athletics (1996–2002), and New York Mets (2003–04). 
Tommy Helms 1976 Topps Traded
  • 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. Barnard never made it out of A ball. 
  • 1992 - OF/1B Jose Osuna was born in Trujillo, Venezuela. He made his MLB debut in 2017, appearing in 104 games for the Pirates and hitting .233 with seven homers. Jose has power - 24 of his 50 hits were for extra bases - and the Pirates are trying to work third base into his resume to build up bench versatility. 
  • 2004 - Pittsburgh was on the verge of a deal with Colorado for C Charles Johnson, but it fell through when Johnson wanted an extra year added to his contract. The Bucs shifted gears and traded for Benito Santiago instead. He caught six games before he was released, not that Johnson would have been much of an upgrade - 2005 was his last MLB season, too. He lasted just 19 games with Tampa Bay, hitting .196. The club ended up using Humberto Cota, Ryan Doumit and David Ross during the campaign with Ronny Paulino on the horizon. 
Not much of a shelf life for Benito in 2005
  • 2006 - The Pirates had a class of eight arb-eligible players and tendered them all. They were IF’s Freddy Sanchez & Jose Castillo, OF’s Xavier Nady & Jody Gerut, and hurlers Mike Gonzalez, John Grabow & Shawn Chacon along with C Humberto Cota. Six stuck with the team; Gonzo was traded in January and Gerut was cut during camp. 
  • 2008 - The Pirates signed 32-year-old IF Ramon Vazquez during the winter meetings to a two-year deal worth $4M after he had hit .290 for the Rangers. Alas, he batted .230 in 2009, then was released the following April, ending his nine year MLB career while the Pirates ate $2M in salary. 
  • 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. He hasn’t pitched in MLB since that time. 
  • 2011 - The Milwaukee Brewers traded 3B Casey McGehee to Pittsburgh for RHP Jose Veras with the dominoes falling after the Brew Crew signed FA Aramis Ramirez. Veras put together a workmanlike campaign for Milwaukee while McGehee hit .230 and was swapped to the NYY for RHP Chad Qualis at the deadline. Casey went on to trip the light fantastic afterward, playing ball in the bigs, AAA and Japan, where he spent 2017. 
Casey McGehee 2012 (photo Mike McGinnis/Getty)
  • 2014 - The Pirates officially announced Francisco Liriano’s three-year, $39M contract, the biggest FA contract in franchise history, after Frankie passed his physical. The financial terms of the deal were: $2M signing bonus, $11M in '15, $13M in '16, $13M in '17 plus sundry bonuses. The free agent had been 2014’s opening-day pitcher for the Bucs, winning 23 games in 2013-14 for the Bucs. He went 41-36, 3.67, during his four campaigns with Pittsburgh with 659 K in 623+ IP before being moved to Toronto. He tossed in the playoffs for the Jays and then worked the postseason in 2017 with the Astros, taking home a WS ring.
  • 2015 - Pittsburgh sent RHP Charlie Morton to the Phils for minor league RHP David Whitehead. Charlie was one of the league’s better ground ball pitchers (55.3% in his career), earning him the nickname “Ground Chuck,” but was often hurt and underperformed as a Bucco, though he possessed some great stuff. In seven seasons with Pittsburgh, he went 41-62/4.39 and never made 30 starts in any single campaign. The move was made to free up some money for the 2016 season; Morton was due $8M in 2016. It worked out for Charlie, too - in 2017, he went 14-7 for Houston and beat the Yankees in the ALCS and the Dodgers in the WS.

12/12 Expo Park-Forbes Field Era: Lindstrom, French, Kremer, Harmon Join; McCarthy, Arky Go; HBD Phenomenal, Diamond Joe, Mike, Hank, Clyde & Bill

  • 1864 - P Phenomenal Smith was born in Philadelphia. He had a couple of brief stops in Pittsburgh in 1884 & 1890, compiling a 1-4 record. 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. 
Phenomenal Smith 1888 Old Judge
  • 1876 - OF “Diamond Joe” Rickert was born in London, Ohio. Joe played long and hard in the minors, from 1896-1915. Pittsburgh noticed him in 1898 when he was 21-years-old and playing for the New Castle Quakers of the Interstate League, giving him a look. He went 1-for-6 in two games. He didn’t impress the Bucs nor the Boston Beaneaters in a later 1901 audition of 16 games. Diamond Joe did put his years of baseball knowledge to use, managing the New Orleans Pelicans and the University of Tulane. 
  • 1879 - OF Mike Mitchell was born in Springfield, Ohio. Mike played for eight years in the show, closing out in 1913-14 with the Pirates. He hit .250 in a pair of half seasons, claimed in 1913 off waivers from the Cubs and lost midway through the next season when he was sold to the Senators. Mitchell retired in 1915 rather than report to the Yankees which had purchased his contract. 
  • 1899 - The Pirates sold OF’er Jack McCarthy to the Chicago Orphans for $2,000. McCarthy hit .276 for Cincy in his first two campaigns and .286 as a Pirate from 1898-99. After being sold, he put in eight more big league seasons, finishing his 12-year career with a .287 BA. 
Bob Harmon 1916 Standard Biscuit
  • 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 new 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 then signed with different clubs in 1916. 
  • 1914 - C Hank (Comolli) Camelli was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Hank spent 1943-46 with the Bucs and during that time he got into 108 games, hitting .229. He finished his big-league time with the Boston Braves and did a spot of minor-league coaching, too. 
  • 1917 - C Clyde Kluttz was born in Rockwell, North Carolina. Clyde spent 1947-48 with the Pirates with a .258 BA, hitting well in his first season and not so well in the next. He had a nine-year career in the show, afterward becoming a longtime scout with the Kansas City Athletics and New York Yankees. He was later director of player development of the Baltimore Orioles, serving the Birds from 1976 until he passed away three years later. 
Bill Howerton 1952 Topps
  • 1921 - OF Bill Howerton was born in Lompoc, California. He spent four years in the majors, joining the Pirates in 1951 as part of a big swap with the Cards. Bill hit .279 as a Bucco, leaving the club in May of 1952 to join the NY Giants. He closed out his big league career there and spent a couple of seasons in the PCL until retiring to become a trucker. 
  • 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 Remy "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, won double-digit games (hitting 20 wins twice) for eight straight years (1921-34) and was the NL ERA leader twice. "The Frenchman" went 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 1925 & 1927 World Series games and was the hero in ‘25, winning games six and seven, the former as a starter and the finale with 4-⅓ scoreless IP from the pen. He spent much of 1933-34 with Oakland before retiring and become a mailman. Fun fact: Kremer didn’t pitch in the majors until he was 31. He spent eight years in the PCL (1916-23) and was considered by the east coast/heartland-based big league clubs to be a warm weather pitcher.
  • 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 swabbie, retiring in 1969 with the rank of Captain. 
Larry French 1930 (photo NEA/Historic Images)
  • 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. For the cost of two reserves, the Bucs got two years of a Hall-of-Famer. 
  • 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 10 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 because of, 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.

Monday, December 11, 2017

12/11 From the 80s Forward: Lawton, Harper, Buechele, Kelley Join; Morton & Bo Extend; Bream Wins Hutch; HBD Joe

  • 1980 - RHP Joe Blanton was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Pirates bought the veteran reliever from Kansas City at the 2015 deadline and he went 5-0, 1.57, in his time with the Bucs, turning that strong 21-game stretch run into a $4M free agent contract with the Dodgers. 
Joe Blanton 2015 (photo Getty Images)
  • 1981 - SS Tim Foli was traded to the California Angels for Brian Harper. Foli was on the downside of his career while Harper spent three years in Pittsburgh as a utilityman, hitting .243. Crazy Horse (he was a fiery 100%'er) Foli returned in 1985 in a trade with the Yankees, but hit just .189 and was released in June. 
  • 1990 - Sid Bream, who overcame three knee operations to help the Pirates capture the NL East championship, was named the winner of the 26th annual Hutch Award. The award goes to a player who overcomes adversity to go on to further accomplishments, named in honor of Fred Hutchinson. Bream hit .270 and drove in 67 runs after sitting out most of the 1989 campaign. It was his last bow as a Buc, as Bream had signed with the Atlanta Braves as an off-season FA the week before. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates signed 3B Steve Buechele, a free agent they had traded for late in the season, to a four year/$11M contract. He played 111 games/.248 BA in Pittsburgh before being sent to the Cubs in a 1992 deadline deal for LHP Danny Jackson, who in turn was lost to the Marlins in the following off season during the expansion draft. 
Bo 2003 Topps Total
  • 2002 - Pittsburgh brought back RHP Brian Boehringer, 33, inking the reliever to a two-year with an option and $3.8M guaranteed. Boehringer was coming off a 4-4-1, 3.39 campaign and appearing in 70 games, but he didn’t have to worry about that option being exercised. BB went 6-5, 5.42 in 2003-04 and was bought out, ending his MLB career. 
  • 2004 - The Bucs swapped out LHP Arthur Rhodes to the Indians for OF Matt Lawton less than a month after they had acquired him. Cleveland sent the Pirates an undisclosed amount to help offset Lawton’s $7.2M salary; the Bucs returned the favor in 2006 when they promised to chip in on Rhode’s guaranteed $4.8M payday. Lawton hit .284 with 10 HR and 44 RBIs before being flipped for Jody Gerut at the 2005 trading deadline. 
  • 2006 - Pittsburgh signed hometown utility guy Don Kelley, born in Butler and a Mt. Lebanon HS grad, to a minor league deal. But sometimes you just can’t go home again. He got into just 25 games with the Bucs during the 2007 campaign, and hit .148 during his only local stint. 
Don Kelley 2007 Fleer Ultra
  • 2013 - RHP Charlie Morton signed a contract extension for three years plus an option. He received $4M for 2014 (his last arb year), $8M in 2015 & 2016 plus a club option for 2017 of $9.5M and a $1M buyout, with $500K in possible bonuses. Morton went 15-21/4.21 the next two seasons, was traded to Philly, got hurt and inked a deal with the Astros.

12/11 Through the 70s: Doc, Silver Fox & Abby Deals; Haney Mgr; HBD Jay, O'Brien Bros, Dutch & Derek; Clemente Complex Games

  • 1885 - C Art “Dutch” Wilson was born in Macon, Illinois. The 14-year vet spent half a season with the Bucs in 1916, batting .258 in 53 games. The Bucs had purchased him from the Federal League’s Chicago Whales in February and traded him and 2B Otto Knabe to the Chicago Cubs for C Bill Fischer and OF Frank Schulte in July. 
Abby 1909-11 Colgan All-Stars
  • 1906 - The Pirates traded veterans OF Ginger Beaumont, P Patsy Flaherty and 2B Claude Ritchey to the Boston Beaneaters for 2B Ed Abbaticchio. Beaumont had a great 1907 for Boston and followed with a pair of solid seasons. Flaherty and Ritchey also had two workmanlike years left in them. Abby stuck with the Pirates until 1910. He started for two years, but was a sub on the 1909 championship team and hit .253 in Pittsburgh. 
  • 1928 - SS Glenn “Buckshot” (his arm was strong but not entirely accurate) Wright was sent to the Brooklyn Robins for LHP Jesse “The Silver Fox” (because he didn’t really make it in the big leagues until his 30s) Petty and IF Harry Riconda. Wright, one of the top SS of the era, suffered a major shoulder injury in 1929 which affected his play in the field, but didn’t hang up the spikes until 1935 with a lifetime .294 BA after 11 big league seasons. Petty was workmanlike in 1929, but the wheels fell off in 1930, his final MLB season. 
  • 1930 - The O’Brien twins, Eddie and Johnny, were born in South Amboy, New Jersey. Utility man Eddie - he played SS, 3B, OF and even pitched 16 innings - spent five years (1952, 1954-57) with the Bucs, hit .236 and had a 3.31 ERA with a 1-0 record. Johnny was a Pirate for five years (1953, 1955-58) and was a middle infielder/pitcher. He put up a .260 BA and went 1-3 with a 5.61 ERA. The O'Briens were the first twins in major league history to play for the same team in the same game. On a side note, the brothers were also strong basketball players at Seattle University, and scored 84 points between them when SU beat the barnstorming Harlem Globetrotters in 1952. 
Ed & John O'Brien (photo via Seattle University)
  • 1952 - Fred Haney was named as manager, replacing Billy Meyer. It was an unusual job search; Haney, the PCL Hollywood coach, was happy there (it was his home), but was the fall-back man if Branch Rickey couldn't land anyone on his short list. The Bucs finished in last place each season under Haney’s three year reign, compiling a 163-299 (.353) record. But that was more an indictment of the Pirates talent than Haney’s leadership. In 1957, he took a Milwaukee team that featured Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn to the World Series title. 
  • 1965 - SS Jay Bell was born at Elgin AFB (Pensacola), Florida. Jay played SS for Pittsburgh from 1989-96, hitting .269, anchoring the infield of Jim Leyland’s 1990-92 division championship clubs and earning an All-Star spot in 1993. Bell also won a Gold Glove in 1993, breaking a string of thirteen straight NL Golden Gloves by SS Ozzie Smith. It was the first GG by a Pirate SS since Gene Alley's back-to-back honors in 1966 and 1967. 
  • 1968 -OF Derek Bell was born in Tampa, Florida. The Pirates signed Bell to a two year deal in 2001; he hit .173 in the first campaign and felt slighted when newswriters told him that he was in competition while in camp to play in 2002. Per Wikipedia, Bell replied “If it is [a competition], then I'm going into 'Operation Shutdown.' Tell them exactly what I said. I haven't competed for a job since 1991." Bell left the team on March 29th, was released on March 31st, and never played in the majors again. The Pirates ate the $4.5M still due to him and Bell pulled anchor on his yacht and sailed away. New York Post writer Tom Keegan described the incident by calling Bell "the perfect Pirate given that he lives on a boat and steals money." 
"The Perfect Pirate" 2002 Topps Heritage
  • 1973 - The Pirates agreed to play two exhibition games in San Juan for the next five years to help fund a Roberto Clemente Sports Complex. It was a team effort - the Expos, Yankees, Mets and Red Sox (twice) agreed to play the series and Eastern Airlines picked up the travel arrangements. General manager Joe Brown said “We are overwhelmed by the cooperation.” The Sports City opened in Carolina, a suburb of San Juan, on land donated by Puerto Rico in 1974 with upkeep and upgrades supported by the games. 
  • 1975 - The Yankees acquired RHP Dock Ellis, LHP Ken Brett and 2B Willie Randolph from the Pirates for RHP Doc Medich. Randolph suited up for 17 more seasons, was named to six All-Star teams and played in four World Series, but was blocked in Pittsburgh by Rennie Stennett, who, as fate would have it, broke his leg in 1977 and left Pittsburgh after 1979.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Notes Before the Winter Meetings - Players Rap FO, Rumors, Moves & Stuff

Notes as we head into the Winter Meetings looking for a random log or two to toss into the Bucco not-very-hot stove:

  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review reports the Pirates have expressed some interest in non-tendered lefty Xavier Cedeno. He was effective for the Rays in 2015-16 as a set-up arm, but only got nine games (three IP) in last season before getting a PRP treatment and losing the year. Cedeno is tough on lefties (.226 lifetime) but not so much against righties (.301), and Clint is not a LOOGY fan, so we'll see.

Is J-Hay in someone's sights?
  • The Mets are expected to kick J-Hay's tires at the winter meetings as they examine the second base marketplace. They seem to like Pirates 2B even though Neil Walker and Dilson Herrera didn't fill their bill.
  • This doesn't qualify as a bona fide rumor, but a couple of New York outlets have mentioned in passing that the Yankees, pressed to the luxury tax limit with the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton but short on pitching, can't dive very deeply into the FA pool and may try to work a deal for the more affordable Gerrit Cole.
  • Felipe Rivero's agent hopes to sit with the Pirates front office during the meetings. Rivera is a Super Two (four years of arb, through 2021) and is open to a longer-term deal.
  • S-Rod had an interesting interview with the Post Gazette's Liz Bloom; he takes a rap at the FO (while qualifying that he gets the business side) for personnel moves in 2016 that ate away at the Pirates core lineup. Sid Bream told Tim Benz of the Tribune-Review basically the same thing; the FO sometimes waves the white flag instead of sounding the charge.
Preach it, brother! (2017 Topps)
  • Pittsburgh signed minor league FAs, RHP Richard Rodriguez and OF Todd Cunningham. Both will be non-roster invitees to spring training. Rodriguez, 27 (he'll be 28 in March), has been effective at AAA as a set-up guy with a 10.2 K/9 innings and 1.047 WHIP last year but was ripped in a handful of outings with the Orioles last season. Cunningham, 28 (he'll be 29 in March), has 130 MLB at-bats (.207) with his last sighting in 2016 with the Angels. He plays everywhere and has been an OBP machine in the minors for the past couple of seasons, with no power to speak of. 
  • Wayne Cavadi of Minor League Ball says to watch these three guys - Jordan Luplow, Stephen Alemais and Luis Escobar.
  • Neil Huntington quotes from FanFest:
    On Jung Ho Kang returning this season: "It would be huge. We don't think it's going to happen."
    On Cutch: “We want McCutchen to retire a Pirate. We also want to win World Series. At times those two are contradictory. The challenge becomes how do we sign McCutchen and then build around him?”
    On Juan Nicasio (sounding a bit revisionist): “We kept Juan through the deadline because we wanted to give team a chance.” His $600K salary savings, NH added, were put into this year's budget.
Don't hold your breath (2017 Topps)
  • The Cards have signed RHP Miles Mikolas, who the Pirates had for a bit in 2013. He came over with Jaff Decker in the Alex Dickerson deal but was flipped quickly to Texas for 1B Chris McGuiness. Miles has spent the past three years kicking butt in Japan and he gives the Redbirds some depth in the rotation and some flexibilty if they do any wheelin' and dealin'.
  • No surprise but Shohei Ohtani went to the Angels and Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees. They weren't heading here, so no loss, and didn't end up in Chicago or St. Louis, so their bidding wars ended about as well as the Bucs could hope. And now there may be some long looks at Cutch by the teams that lost out, especially SF.

12/10 From the 80s Forward: Dale, Derek, Jason, Bobby, Antonio & Juan Sign; Bo Goes; GIBBYs; HBD Pedro

  • 1985 - Bobby Bonilla, who the Bucs signed out of high school in 1981, was taken by the Chicago White Sox in the Rule 5 draft. The Pirates got Bobby Bo back in July of the following year, but it cost them RHP Jose DeLeon. Syd Thrift had signed him as a scout and reeled him back in as GM. It was worth it - from 1986 to 1991, Bonilla had a .284 BA with 114 home runs and 500 RBI's. He also made the All-Star team four years in a row before leaving town.
Pedro Florimon 2016 (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • 1986 - SS Pedro Florimon was born in La Romana, Dominican Republic. Pedro has turned a good glove into a seven-year MLB career, starting for Minnesota in 2013, but his bat has relegated him to a journeyman depth guy. In his two seasons with Pittsburgh (2015-16), he mostly stayed busy in AAA while getting into 42 games with the Pirates, hitting just .149 over that span.
  • 1999 - Dale Sveum was signed as a free agent. He played three seasons for the Pirates (1996-97, 1999/.260 BA), and also managed at Altoona from 2001-03, winning an Eastern League Manager of the Year award before landing big league skipper jobs with the Brewers and Cubs. He’s now Kansas City’s bench coach.
  • 2000 - In a day they came to rue, the Pirates signed free agent OF Derek Bell of "Operation Shutdown" fame to a two year contract worth $9.75M. Bell left the team during camp in 2002 after hitting .173 in his first campaign and never played in the majors again. The Pirates paid him $4.5M to go away when they cut him; Bell just moved onto his yacht and sailed into the sunset.
Derek Bell 2002 Fleer Tradition
  • 2008 - The Pirates, in a swap of catchers, traded Ronny Paulino to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Jaramillo. Paulino and manager John Russell weren’t on each others Christmas card list after JR appointed Ryan Doumit as the everyday catcher, and Jaramillo had impressed Russell from his days as the Phils AAA manager. The change of scenery didn’t particularly help either player (or team). Ronny played for four more years, never sniffing 100 games/season, and hit .265 over that span while JJ caught three seasons for the Bucs with a .235 BA in 119 games.
  • 2009 - The Pirates signed FA IF Bobby Crosby to a $1M deal with another $500K possible in bonus money. He hit .224, was traded to Arizona and was out of baseball after 2010. He left the majors with a whimper, but entered baseball with a bang, having won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with Oakland in 2005.
  • 2013 - Pittsburgh took three GIBBY (Greatness In Baseball Yearly awards): RHP Mark Melancon won the set-up player of the year, LHP Francisco Liriano took home the comeback player honors, and the Pirates were selected as the storyline of the year for their playoff run.
Antonio Bastardo 2015 Topps
  • 2014 - The Pirates traded minor league LHP Joely Rodriguez to the Phillies for LHP set up man Antonio Bastardo. It was a dominoes effect deal, with Bastardo filling a hole in the bullpen caused when southpaw Justin Wilson was traded to the Yankees. Bastardo put up a 4-1-1/2.98 slash in 66 Pirate outings while Rodriguez was removed from the Phil’s 40 man roster and assigned back to the minors after a rough 2015 AAA season. The Pirates lost Antonio to free agency in 2016, but brought him back to town in a deadline deal. He went 3-0, 4.13 in his second coming before the wheels came off in 2017 and he was released with the Pirates eating the remainder of his $6.625M contract.
  • 2015 - The Bucs signed free agent RHP Juan Nicasio, who spent 2015 in the LA Dodgers' bullpen (1-3-1/3.86), to a one-year/$3M contract, with an arb season remaining for 2017. After a spotty stint in the rotation (5-5, 5.05), Juan returned to the pen where he was 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA. To make room on the roster, the Pirates DFA’ed former #1 pick (fourth overall) of 2009, C Tony Sanchez, who played over parts of three seasons in 51 games, hitting .259. Nicasio had a strong 2017 campaign working exclusively from the pen, but the Pirates lost him, with no return, on August waivers after the front office blew earlier chances to move him because of the dreaded paralysis by analysis.

12/10 Through the 1970s: Hello Goose, Elmer & Pete, Bye Bob & Richie; HBD Frank, Bob & Grant; Yes to Expansion, No to Spitter

  • 1866 - SS Frank Shugart was born in Luthersburg, in Clearfield County. He hit .268 for the Bucs between 1891-93, but booted 143 balls at short in 209 games in his first two seasons (which was surprisingly near league average), triggering a move to the OF and a mid-season trade in 1893 to the St. Louis Browns for SS Jack Glasscock. His MLB career ended when Shugart was blacklisted from baseball in 1901 after he punched an umpire.
Frank Shugart 1899 (photo via Out of the Ball Park Development)
  • 1919 - The National League, urged on by Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, banned the spitball, which he believed was an unfair advantage against hitters. Old wet tossers were registered and spared through a grandfather clause. The AL initially resisted, then passed their own ban the following season. Off-and-on Pirate hurler Burleigh Grimes was the last of the legal spitballers, retiring following the 1934 season after a Hall-of-Fame career.
  • 1939 - RHP Bob Priddy was born in McKees Rocks and signed with the Bucs out of high school before the 1959 season. He only spent his first two campaigns with the Pirates (1962, 1964; 2-2-1, 3.86 ERA, 37-⅓ IP), but had a nine-year journeyman career with the Giants, Washington Senators, White Sox, Angels and Braves with a 24-38-18, 4.00 career line. Fun fact: Bob was signed as an infielder, but after a season in the minors (he hit .222 with a 33% strikeout rate), he was converted to the mound.
  • 1947 - The Buccos bought 32-year old Elmer Riddle from the Reds. Riddle put up an All-Star season in 1948, going 12-10, 3.49, but faded badly the following campaign, winning just once during his final MLB year. They also got his brother John in the same transaction but for a different reason; the Bucs wanted him not as a player but as their bullpen catcher.
Elmer Riddle 1949 Eureka Sports Stamps
  • 1947 - The Pirates came out in support of expansion to a pair of 10-team leagues. The idea had some traction as the show was looking to plant some West Coast franchises, but more clubs wouldn’t become a reality until 1961. To temporarily vent some of the pressure, there were several relocations (Brooklyn Dodgers to LA, NY Giants to San Fran, Boston Braves to Milwaukee, Philadelphia Athletics to KC and the St Louis Browns becoming the Baltimore Orioles) in the fifties.
  • 1965 - The Pirates traded RHP Bob Friend, a four-time All-Star, to the New York Yankees for reliever Pete Mikkelsen and cash. Friend spent 15 years as a Pirate and won 191 games. He retired after the 1966 season, going just 1-4 for the Bronx Bombers. Mikkelson had a good year for the Bucs in 1966 out of the pen (9-8-14/3.07) but faltered the next year and was released.
  • 1967 - Scout Grant Brittain was born in Hickory, North Carolina. After an All-America career at Western Carolina and a considerably less successful stay in the minors, he earned his paycheck by scouting. He worked for the Tigers, Red Sox, Pirates (1994-2001, with his big signing being high school ace Zach Duke) and the Brewers.
Terry Forster 1977 Topps
  • 1976 - The Pirates traded OF Richie Zisk and RHP Silvio Martinez to the Chicago White Sox for pitchers Goose Gossage and Terry Forster. Except for minor-leaguer Martinez, the players were a year away from free agency, and all three took advantage to find new teams in 1978. But the big name rentals had a payoff: Zisk hit .290 with 30 homers and 101 RBI, and Gossage collected 11 wins, 26 saves and posted a 1.62 ERA with 10.2 K per nine innings. Both were named All-Stars.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

12/9 B-Days & RIP: HBD Doc, Hank, Adam, TVP, Mike, Handsome Joe, Bruce; RIP Branch

  • 1871 - OF’er “Handsome Joe” Kelley was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He played for 17 MLB seasons, but only spent a partial campaign in Pittsburgh, hitting .239 in 56 games in 1892 as a wet-behind-the-ears 21 year-old. Pity the Bucs didn’t hang on to him - Joe was an early five tool player and part of the core of the powerful early Baltimore Oriole clubs (he was known as “Kingpin Kelly” with the Birds) and a Hall of Famer. He finished with a lifetime .317/.402/.451 slash and 443 stolen bases. Joe knocked in 100+ runs in five straight seasons, scored 100+ runs six times and had 212 assists from the OF; one story about his fielding prowess claims that he hid balls in the pasture so that if one got by him, he had another stashed away near at hand. When he retired, he stayed in the MLB mix as a manager, scout, and coach. As for his nickname, SABR’s Jimmy Keenan wrote “Dubbed ‘Handsome Joe Kelley’ by his multitude of female admirers in Baltimore, he kept a small mirror and comb in his back pocket in order to maintain his well-groomed appearance during games.” 
Handsome Joe 1980 Perez-Steele Hall of Fame Series
  • 1879 - OF Mike Mitchell was born in Springfield, Ohio. Mike was known for his speed and strong arm, leading the NL in triples and outfield assists early in his career. He finished his MLB time in 1913-14, hitting .250 over that span for the Pirates before being waived to the Senators to complete his eight-year big league tenure.
  • 1905 - OF Adam Comorosky was born in Swoyersville in Luzerne county. He played eight years (1926-33) for the Pirates with a line of .285/26/363. In 1929 and ‘30, he was one of the hot NL bats. Over that period, he hit .317 with 216 RBI and 198 runs scored, banging out 73 doubles, 34 triples (he led the NL with 23 in ‘30) and 18 homers. Adam is the only NL outfielder to register two unassisted double plays in a season, both within the span of a week in 1931. 
  • 1914 - C Henry Camelli was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Camelli was a reserve during the war years (he only got three at-bats in 1945 due to service obligations) with a Bucco BA of .229 between 1943-46. Hank played just 159 games in his MLB career, but paid his dues with 13 minor league campaigns. He once caught six straight doubleheaders while on the farm. 
  • 1948 - RHP George “Doc” Medich was born in Aliquippa and became a three-sport star at Hopewell HS. For a local boy (he played football and baseball at Pitt, starting on both squads), he didn’t get much Pirates love, pitching just one of his 11 big league season in Pittsburgh, going 8-11/3.52 in 1976. Doc (he MD’ed from Pitt medical school) lived up to his name. Twice as a player (once as a Pirate) he went into the stands to perform CPR on a fan, saving one of the victims. Doc was chosen as a member of the Beaver County Hall of Fame. 
Doc Medich 1977 Topps
  • 1961 - RHP Bruce Tanner was born in New Castle. Chuck’s kid, Bruce got to toss one year in the show for the White Sox in 1985, his dad’s final year as Bucco skipper. After the 1989 campaign, Bruce gave up organized ball as a player and spent the 1990s as a minor league pitching coach for San Diego. He became the bullpen coach for the Pirates in 2001, a position he held through the 2005 season. In 2006, he served as pitching coach for the Williamsport Crosscutters, one of the Bucs' minor league clubs. He jumped to the Tigers the next year to become an advance scout and since 2009 has served Motown as a major league scout. 
  • 1965 - Former Pirates GM Branch Rickey died of a heart attack. Famous for breaking the color barrier by playing Jackie Robinson while a Dodger exec and becoming the poster child for strong farm teams, Rickey was the Pirates GM from 1950-55 before he retired due to health issues. He walked the walk on farm systems, bringing in Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Dick Groat and company, a group that would help bring home the flag in 1960. Rickey was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1967.