Monday, November 30, 2015

11/30: HBD Lefty, Clyde, Craig; Mooney Takes Over; Pete & Russ Signed

  • 1870 -LHP Frank “Lefty” Killen was born in North Side, then known as Allegheny City. He spent six seasons with the Bucs (1893-98) and twice led the NL in wins, with 36 (a team record) in ‘93 and 30 in ‘96. Lefty’s line with Pittsburgh was 112-82/3.97. The team released him during the 1898 campaign, and his last of 10 MLB seasons was 1900. He ended Wee Willie Keeler's 44-game hitting streak on June 19th, 1897 when Lefty and the Bucs stopped the Orioles 7-1.
Lefty Killen 1896 Team Photo
  • 1901 - Pirate coach and scout Clyde Sukeforth was born in Washington, Maine. A long time member of the Brooklyn Dodger organization, he came to Pittsburgh as a coach/scout in 1952 and was said to be the main driver in the selection of Roberto Clemente in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. He turned down the chance to succeed Pirate skipper Bobby Bragan in 1957 and retired as a coach after the season, but remained with the Pirates as a scout and minor league manager through 1962.
  • 1931 - George “Mooney” (he earned the nickname either through his moon-shaped face or because one of his early teams was called the Mooneys; take your pick) Gibson returned for his second spin as Bucco manager, replacing Jewel Ens. He lasted until early in 1934, posting a 200-159 record and two second place finishes. Overall, the Canadian Gibson (he was from Ontario) had a 401-330 (.549) record with Pittsburgh. He got his start as a long-time Bucco catcher, playing from 1905-1916 in Pittsburgh, hitting .238 but leading the NL in fielding three times with a toss-out rate of 46% against would-be base stealers. Mooney was the Pirates everyday catcher in 1909 when they won the World Series against the Tigers.
Mooney Gibson 1909 Piedmont Cigarettes
  • 1950 - Pittsburgh signed the Boston Braves’ OF Pete Reiser, who had been a three-time all-star for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early-to-mid 40s, as a FA. Reiser hit .271 in 74 games as a Bucco bench player and was released following the season.
  • 1976 - OF/1B Craig Wilson was born in Fountain Valley, California. He played as a semi-regular for the Bucs from 2001-06 with a line of .268/.360/.486, 94 HR and 284 RBI, along with a 28% career K rate. Wilson tied the MLB single-season record for pinch-hit home runs with seven in 2001. Hand injuries in 2005 and shoulder surgery in 2007 ended his career.
Craig Wilson 2005 Topps Heritage
  • 2012 - The Pirates signed free agent catcher Russell Martin, a three-time All-Star, to a two year, $17M deal, the largest free agency contract they had ever negotiated. He got a $2M signing bonus, $6.5M for 2013 and $8.5M for 2014. Russ was among the league's top defensive catchers and had a .290/.402/.430 slash in his final Pirate season. He left after the 2014 campaign, signing a five year, $82M deal with Toronto.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

11/29: HBD Hitman; Walt Terrell Signed, Andy Laroche Released

  • 1950 - 1B/OF Mike Easler was born in Cleveland. The Hitman spend six (1977, 1979-83) of his 14 MLB seasons as a Pirate role player with a .302 BA. Fittingly enough, he spent his later years as a hitting coach for a handful of MLB squads. Mike was the Original Hitman, not Don Mattingly. He picked up the name because of his aggressive style at the plate and his ability to drive the ball to all fields, leading to five .300+ seasons in the show and a .293 career BA.
Mike Easler 1983 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1989 - The Pirates signed veteran righty Walt Terrell to a $800K deal as a free agent, and he promptly had the worst start of his career, going 2-7/5.88 before the Bucs cut him loose in July. He did go on to finish up a bit more credibly with the Tigers, tossing through 1992.
Walt Terrell 1990 Bowman
  • 2010 - The Bucs sent 3B Andy LaRoche outright to Indy; he opted for free agency the following day. Laroche was a key piece of the Jason Bay trade, but hit just .226 in three Pirate seasons. The Bay deal reeled in Laroche, Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss and Bryan Morris, but they never became building blocks for Neal Huntington. The GM was hoping to maximize the return by dealing Bay at the deadline, but later admitted he probably should have held off until the off season to pull the trigger.
Andy Laroche 2008 Topps

Saturday, November 28, 2015

11/28: Kiki, The Tiger, Wilbur Wood Deals; Forbes Field Blues

  • 1927 - Hall of Famer OF Kiki Cuyler was traded to the Chicago Cubs for journeymen Sparky Adams and Pete Scott. He had bumped heads with manager Donie Bush, and owner Barney Dreyfuss was looking to dump salary with the Waner brothers on the payroll, so it was bye-bye Kiki. Cuyler played twelve more seasons, hitting .300+ in six of them. Per Wikipedia, two explanations have been given for Cuyler's nickname of "Kiki". In the first version, he had been known as "Cuy" by his teammates, so when a fly ball was hit to the Nashville outfield, the shortstop would call out "Cuy" as would the second baseman. Their “Cuy - Cuy” caught on with Nashville's fans. In the second explanation, the moniker came from the player's stuttering problem and the way Cuyler said his own last name (Cuy-Cuy-ler). The nickname was made popular by Nashville announcer Bob Murray.

Kiki Cuyler 2003 Fleer Fall Classic series
  • 1958 - The sale of Forbes Field to University of Pittsburgh was approved; the Pirates were allowed to stay on for five years, until new Northside stadium was built. In reality, the Pirates stayed on for twelve years, until TRS opened in 1970. The stadium was a political hot potato for a decade, until ground was broken finally in 1968. However, the Bucs lost an open center field view of town when the Steelers vetoed that design in search of more seats; the Pirates made up for that lost scenery when PNC Park was built.
  • 1962 - The Pirates traded 3B Don Hoak, 34, to the Philadelphia Phillies for IF Pancho Herrera and OF Ted Savage. It ended up a minor deal; The Tiger was at the end of his career while Herrera and Savage never established themselves in MLB. He got his nickname from Bob Prince for his relentless, hard-nosed play; it didn't hurt that he was an ex-Marine and boxer.

Don Hoak 1963 Jell-o series
  • 1966 - The Bucs completed a deal that sent knuckleballer Wilbur Wood to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. Under Hoyt Wilhelm's tutelage, Wood pitched twelve seasons for Chicago and won 168 games with three All-Star appearances. His career was cut short in 1976 when Ron LeFlore’s liner broke his kneecap; Wood missed that campaign and was generally ineffective afterward. Pizzaro pitched a season and some change in Pittsburgh before being sold to Boston in 1968; he would return in late 1974, ending his 18 year career as a Pirate.

Friday, November 27, 2015

11/27: Kendall Trade; Bob Walk, Damaso Marte Deals, HBD Marty

  • 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 1914 felt patch
  • 1988 - The Pirates signed Bob Walk to a three year contract worth $850K per season after his 1988 All-Star campaign. Walkie went 29-17 over those three seasons and inked a two year deal following that contract to finish out his Pirate career.
  • 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.
Mark Redman 2005 Topps
  • 2006 - The Bucs signed LHP Damaso Marte to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2009, worth $8.5M total over the three years with $4.75M guaranteed. The Yankees paid most of it when they traded for the lefty set-up man during the 2008 deadline.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Notes: Rumors, 40 Man Filled, New Bucs, Young Bucs, Old Bucs

The 40 man roster is filled now as the Bucs added a couple of depth guys, tho there will certainly be adjustments to come. The action this week:

  • Doug Rush of Yankees 101 thinks that JA Happ is a guy who NY may target. 
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Insider says that Pedro is looking forward to being dealt this off season, hoping to find a better fit (Heyman suggests the Orioles).
  • Pittsburgh bought RHP Allen Webster, 25, from Arizona. In 28 MLB games over three seasons for Boston & the D-Backs, he's posted a 7-6/6.13 slash, mainly as a starter. He was once a hot prospect with a mid-90s heater and heavy sinker, but hasn't been able to bring it to the show. Webster joins the 40-man roster. Eno Sarris of Fangraphs reports "...despite enduring a horrid year, he has three pitches that are above-average in whiff rates, and the changeup would rank in the top 20 (minimum 100 thrown) if he got more chances to throw it. The problem is that he has no command, and his velocity has fallen..." Sarris thinks a move to the pen might rejuvenate him. All in all, worth the price for his potential upside.
  • The FO also brought in 1B/OF Jake Goebbert, 28, from the Padre system on a major league deal. The lefty stick spent 2015 at AAA El Paso, hitting .294 with 10 home runs and 62 RBI in 122 games. Goebbert played one season for San Diego, hitting .218 in 51 games. He's versatile, playing all three OF spots plus 1B, and has an option remaining, .
  • Jim Callis of ranked the top 20 prospects in the Arizona Fall League. OF Austin Meadows (#2) and C Reese McGuire (#13) landed on his list. Baseball America's Bill Mitchell's top AFL guns also included Meadows.
  • The Pirates signed OF Danny Ortiz, 25, from the Twins' system to a minor league deal. He showed some pop in AAA last year, tho his BA and OBP have yo-yoed throughout his MiLB career. Gonna be an awfully crowded outfield at Indy in 2016.
  • Also inked to a minor league deal was reliever Curtis Partch, 28. He's 6'5", 240 lbs with a 96 MPH heater. In 20 games with the Reds in 2013-14, he slashed 1-1/4.75 with 22 K in 30 IP - and 24 walks. He fits the physical model, and has a four seamer, slider and change for the pitch doctors to work on at Indy. 
  • JJ Cooper of Baseball America listed about a zillion candidates with the potential to be a Rule 5 draftee; none were Bucs.
  • The Bucs announced their camp report dates: February 18th for pitchers and catchers, February 23rd for the rest.
  • Another one gone: Assistant strength & conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose was hired by RedSox as their coach after a 15 year run with the Pirates.
  • Lloyd McClendon was named the manager of the AAA Toledo Mud Hens of the Detroit system. It's a homecoming of sorts as McClendon served as a coach for Jim Leyland's Tiger staff from 2006-13. He's also managed the Bucs and Mariners.
  • RHP Stolmy Pimentel joined the NY Mets on a minor league deal with camp invite.
  • IF Chase d'Arnaud signed a minor league deal with the Braves with an invite to camp. 
  • International League MVP Matt Hague, aka The Hit Collector, who played for Detroit's AAA Buffalo Bisons last year, is headed to Japan and the Hanshin Tigers next season. He hit .226 in a couple of brief stops (2012, 2014) in Pittsburgh.

11/26: Drabek Joins Bucs; Hot Corner HBD to Bob Elliott & the Gravedigger; Many More to Walkie

  • 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. In later years, he managed and coached in the minors, with a one year gig at the helm of the sad sack KC Athletics.

Bob Elliott April 1944 Baseball Magazine cover
  • 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 Pirates Greats cars
  • 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 1990 Upper Deck

  • 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 three days to complete the trade, until 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 while posting a 92-62/3.02 Bucco slash in six seasons.

  • Doug Drabek 1992 Topps

    Wednesday, November 25, 2015

    11/25: Roberto's Golden Glove String; Randall Simon & Jaff Decker Deals

    • 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 & family showing off his Golden Glove (photo via Clemente Museum)
    • 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 “Sausagegate” 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.
    • 2013 - In a depth deal, the Bucs acquired OF Jaff Decker and RHP Miles Mikolas from San Diego for 1B/OF Alex Dickerson. All three have since had cups of coffee in the show, with Mikolas getting his sip after moving to Texas.
    Jaff Decker (photo Grant Jeffries/Bradenton Herald)

    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    11/24: HBD Bob Friend, Al Martin; Duke Dealt; Million Dollar Arms

    • 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 1957 Topps
    • 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 problems, tarnishing his image as a Bucco good guy.
    Al Martin 1996 Fleer Ultra series
    • 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 the last two years to injury, having TJ surgery in 2014. Their story was made into a movie called (what else?) “Million Dollar Arm.”
    Dinesh Patel & Rinku Singh (photo Doug Benc/Getty Images)
    • 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. Duke’s 2005 rookie year saw him post an 8-2/1.81 slash and he made the All-Star team in 2009, but never put up an ERA south of four after his first campaign. Zach reinvented himself as a LOOGY after leaving town and resurrected his career as a bullpen specialist. 
    Zack Duke 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter series

    Monday, November 23, 2015

    11/23:The Quail Replaces The Irishman; Goose Is Gone; USO Troopers

    • 1944 - The MLB sponsored a USO caravan to visit war zones, including 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 notorious eephus pitch. 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 once more before hanging the spikes up for good.
    • 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. Virdon was dubbed The Quail by announcer Bob Prince because Bill dropped so many hits just beyond the infield but in front of the outfielders, a soft hit known in that era as a dying quail for the way it fluttered to the ground.
    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 and hoped for a deal) so he took the Yankees’ money. When Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, he invited Tanner as his special guest. There are a couple of stories as to his moniker; one is that White Sox teammate (and roomie) Tom Bradley gave it to him for the way he craned his neck while getting a sign from the catcher; the other is that it’s just a play on Gossage.

    Sunday, November 22, 2015

    Weekend Notes: Hot Stove, On & Off Field Action & Accolades, Ex Bucco News

    • Hot stove stuff from Rob Biertempfel of the Trib: "The Pirates are listening to trade offers for Neil Walker and recently had talks with the Baltimore Orioles about the second baseman, per industry sources." He quickly added the talks were "stalled" because the Bucs are asking a high price. It's was tough to see a MLB match between the clubs anyway; the O's are also looking for pitching and already have a lot of high-priced players on their roster, tho relievers Zach Britton or Brian Matusz could interest the FO. TSN notes "Teams like the Mets and Yankees, who can offer young talent and an everyday spot for Walker at second base, make more sense as trade partners."
    • The other two candidates considered on the market are Pedro (doh!) who was thought to be dangled unsuccessfully last year and will be in his walk season after 2016, plus Mark the Shark, who is line to earn $10M and in his last arb season. He may be a tougher sale; there are several high-end closers that are either FAs or available for the right price. Pedro's 27 HR should make him somewhat desirable as at least an AL-DH, though his glove and inability to hit lefties will keep his potential return value down.
    • Cutch finished fifth in the NL MVP voting, behind winner Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo. Gerrit Cole got one eighth-place vote to come in 19th.Andrew did take home one award, tho - he won the Esurance MLB Award for Best Player-Fan Interaction for giving those kids in San Diego his wrist bands.
    • Jung-Ho Kang came in a distant third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind runner-up Matt Duffy of the Giants and the unanimous winner, the Cubbies' Kris Bryant. JHK is beginning rehab, although it's still too early to give an accurate date of return; we're guessing sometime in May.
    • Gerrit Cole came in fourth in the Cy Young balloting won by Jake Arietta, with Zack Grienke and Clayton Kershaw second and third. Pretty fast company... Mark the Shark got a couple of votes tossed his way, too, finishing eighth. 
    • The Pirates added RHP Tyler Glasnow, 1B Josh Bell, OF Harold Ramirez and IF Max Moroff to the 40-man roster
    • IF Adam Frazier was named to the All-World Team of the recent Premier 12 (World) tournament. He batted .333 for the US squad.
    • Rumbunter has a all you need to know recap of the Pirates Arizona Fall league prospects. 
    • The Bucs inked indy league RHP Patrick Johnson, 27, who won 15 game with a 2.08 ERA pitching for Sioux City. It's a minor league deal with an invite to camp.
    Exec/Off Field:
    • Jim Bowden of ESPN picked his top GM's of the Year (behind the Insider's subscription wall) and Neal Huntington was his choice for best small market exec because of his ability to find "Good talent at good prices."
    • The Pirates hired Mike Mangan as Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting. He was a national cross-checker of amateur players for the Jays and had been with Toronto since 1999 in the same position.
    • Pirates Opening Day has been switched from April 4th to the 3rd, a Sunday. The game will begin at 1:35 and be the first game of the 2016 MLB season. The contest will be on ESPN.
    • This year the Pirates' last exhibition will be at Victory Field at Indy against the Reds on April 2nd. It is already sold out, and is in fact the quickest sell out on VF history.
    • The Pirates do a great job of community support, and a lot of it is because of an active group of alumni. Family Hospice's anniversary soiree included story-telling ex-Buccos Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen and Kent Tekulve, along with announcers Greg Brown & Paul Alexander.
     Former Bucs in the news:
    • Clint's old bench coach Jeff Banister won the AL Manager of the year after leading the Rangers from worst to first in the division last season. 
    • RHP Yhonathan Barrios, a hard-throwing hurler who was sent to the Brewers in exchange for  A-Ram, is turning some heads in Milwaukee. The reliever (who can touch 100) is on the 40-man and pitched well for them in a September call up.
    • RHP Blake Wood, Indy's closer last year (3.53 ERA, 29 saves), signed a deal with the Reds.
    • With Daniel Murphy turning down the Met's qualifying offer, Michael Salfino of the Wall Street Journal wonders if it's time for ex-Bucco 2B prospect Dilson Herrera, traded to NY  in 2013 as part of the Marlon Byrd deal, to take over.
    • RHP Jesse Chavez, who was dealt to the Rays for Akinori Iwamura in a not-so-hot deal, was dealt to Toronto. After six seasons as a reliever, the Oakland A's turned him into a starter and he's been pretty solid holding up the back end of their rotation.
    • Veteran LHP Sean Burnett, who pitched three years for the Bucs, signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nats with a camp invite.
    • RHP Chris Leroux, who worked parts of 2010-13 for the Pirates, was signed by the Phillies.
    • The Cubs signed converted infielder turned reliever RHP Andury Acevedo and placed him on the 40-man. The Bucs set him free in 2012, and he signed on with the Yankees.
    • The Astros released OF Robby Grossman, who the Bucs sent to Houston as part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal. 
    • LHP Wei-Chung Wang, Buc minor leaguer who the Brewers took in a stealth 2013 Rule 5 claim, was left unprotected by Milwaukee after they had carried him on the active roster for two seasons.