Wednesday, January 28, 2015

1/28: Emil, Spittin' Bill, Alf, Deacon, Kiki, Chris, & The Cobra...

Emil, Spittin' Bill, Alf, Deacon, Kiki, Chris, & The Cobra...
  • 1900 - LHP Emil Yde was born in Great Lakes, Illinois. As a rookie in 1924, Yde led the NL in shutouts with four, in winning percentage (.842) with a record of 16–3 and he was a member of the Pirates 1925 World Series championship team, going 17-9 during the season. His career was brief; he pitched four years for the Pirates with a 44-22/3.84 line. The bottom fell out in 1927 (1-3/9.71). He spent 1928 in the minors and was out of MLB after a stint with the Tigers in 1929. 
  • 1908 - P “Spittin’ Bill” (guess what his bread and butter pitch was) Doak was born in Pittsburgh. Even though he never pitched for the hometown nine, the Bucs and MLB can thank him for an innovation still in use, the first modern glove. He proposed to Rawlings that a web should be placed between the first finger and thumb to create a natural pocket, and his model was introduced when he pitched against the Pirates in 1920. The Bill Doak glove soon replaced all other mitts and is yet considered a classic design. 
Bill Doak 1922 Exhibits series
  • 1914 - SS Alf Anderson was born in Gainesville, Georgia. He saw some action in 1941-42, but lost the next three years to wartime service. He returned for a cup of coffee in 1946, but that was it; he retired after the season. Alf hit .238 as a Bucco. 
  • 1962 - Local boy Bill "Deacon" McKechnie was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee. He was inducted on July 22nd. The Wilkinsburg native played for and managed the Pirates, winning the 1925 World Series. McKechnie was the first manager to win World Series titles with two different teams (1925 Pirates and the 1940 Cincinnati Reds; he’s one of 15 to pull off that feat), and is one of only two managers (Dick Williams is the other) to win pennants with three teams, also capturing the NL title in 1928 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bill McKechnie by Dick Perez Art
  • 1968 - OF Kiki Cuyler was elected into the Hall of Fame by a unanimous vote of the Special Veterans Committee, and was inducted on July 22nd. Kiki spent his first seven MLB seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .336. Cuyler was traded for the equivalent of a bag of baseballs by the Bucs when he bumped heads with management over a new contract and then with new manager Donie Bush when he didn’t slide into second to break up a DP. 
  • 1972 - LHP Chris Peters was born in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He graduated from Peters Township HS in McMurray, was drafted by the Pirates in 1993 and tossed five years (1996-2000) for the Bucs, going 17-21/4.57 as a long man/spot starter. His career was short circuited by shoulder surgery in 1999, and 2001 was his last season in MLB, with the Expos. 
Chris Peters 1999 Fleer Tradition series
  • 1979 - Dave “The Cobra” Parker, a couple of days removed from signing his $5M contract, was feted as the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year at the Hilton ballroom. He was the first Pirate to take home the award since 1971 when Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Danny Murtaugh were named co-winners.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

No Rumor: Lunchbox Hero on the Oriole Menu...

Edit - The Pirates acquired LHP Stephen Tarpley & a player to be named from the Orioles in exchange for OF Travis Snider. The 21-year-old Tarpley spent the entire 2014 season w/ Aberdeen in the NYPL and went 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA and 60 Ks in 13 games (12 starts).

Per Baseball America (behind a subscription wall & reported by MLB Trade Rumors) "Tarpley has the stuff to start, with a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 96 at times in addition to a curveball and changeup. He previously had a slider in his arsenal as well, though the Orioles opted to scrap that pitch so he could focus on his change, per BA. MLB.com praised him as an arm with upside, touting not only solid curveball and a changeup that shows potential, but also his pitchability and size."

We'll wait until the PTBNL is named to weigh the deal.

Travis Snider's deal shouldn't be a shocker; the O's needed a lefty OF'er with a little bop, and the Bucs have Andrew Lambo sitting around. In fact, Snider-for-Brian Matusz was one of the few baseball meeting rumors generated by the Pirates' FO, but the Antonio Bastardo deal squelched the need for a bridge lefty and the talks.

Travis Snider - Baltimore Bound? (credit: Charles LeClaire/USAToday Sports)
Pittsburgh is moving a guy at high tide, more or less - Lunchbox Hero had a decent year, getting into 140 games with 390 PAs, putting up a slash of .264/.338/.438 with 13 homers and 38 runs batted in. It's true that Lambo has two more options to go to Indy, but he is 26 and doesn't have much left to prove in AAA, where last year he hit .328 with 11 bombs and 42 RBI in 260 plate appearances. He also has been lightly groomed to play first base, which could be an open position in 2016. Lambo is under team control through 2020, which plays into the equation.

The Pirates have pretty strong organizational depth in the OF. Ol' bud Jose Tabata is still around (and will be through 2016) and Jaff Decker is probably a competent bench option, while Willie Garcia and Josh Bell are comin' hard, though Bell is likely the post-Pedro answer at first base. Even Gorkys Hernandez is back in the system, a guy that can fly and glove with the best.

On the ML roster, Josh Harrison and Corey Hart have both been corner outfielders, too, so that shelf is stocked high and wide.

Could it backfire? Sure. First off, Snider could turn into Steve Pearce or Brandon Moss. And it does weaken the outfield depth a bit. Cutch is a rock in center. Even with his achy ribs, he was in 146 ballgames - and that was the fewest he played since his rookie season in 2009.

But Snider was the wild card when the league passed around the book on Gregory Polanco, and that safety net is now gone. And one never knows when Starling Marte is gonna take one for the team that lands him on the DL, (for various reasons, he's never topped 135 games in a season) so depth is big part of the 2015 outfield construction as the fourth man is in play.

But the FO seems confident they have that depth. After many years of wandering through the wilderness, players actually have to earn a spot on the roster, and that makes some guys expendable. The team is deep in outfielders and pitching, so don't be surprised if the Bucs move some more players on the fringes to restock the system.

And they won't be trading bubble players for other pine riders. The discussed take from Baltimore is said to be a minor league player or two from the AA or even A ranks. The FO is looking to keep the system stocked at each level with guys that are young and hopefully can be coached up to snuff. So it begins...

1/27: Otis and St. Mary's Joe...

Otis and St. Mary's Joe...
  • 1876 - OF Otis Clymer was born in Pine Grove (Schuylkill County) Pennsylvania. Clymer started his career in Pittsburgh, playing from 1905-07, when the often injured OF’er was traded to Washington after hitting .285 during his Pirate days. He was a feisty guy, getting into a fight with Reds 1B Cliff Blankenship during a 2-1 win at Expo Park in 1905. It started when Clymer spiked Blankenship as a payback for an event a few days prior when the Reds infielder ran into Honus Wagner. Blankenship won the fight but not the war as he was pelted with bottles (and even a knife was tossed from the stands) by heated Bucco fans after the pair were ejected, per The Baseball Library. A more memorable moment career highlight came in 1908 when Otis hit for the cycle while a Cub. 
Otis Clymer at the dish as a Washington Senator (photo via All Posters)
  • 2011 - St. Mary’s native Joe Beimel signed a minor league deal with the Bucs, reuniting him with both the Pirates and his former manager, Clint Hurdle. The lefty reliever started the year on the DL with forearm stiffness, pitched six weeks to a 5.33 ERA, went back on the DL and was DFA’ed in August. He had TJ surgery in 2012, and returned as a Mariner in 2014, going 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 56 games at age 37.
St. Mary's Joe in 2011 (photo by Peter Diana/Post Gazette) 

Monday, January 26, 2015

1/26: Ad Gumbert; Baseball to City Hall & The Cobra Discovers Money Can't Buy Me Love...

Ad Gumbert; Baseball to City Hall & The Cobra Discovers Money Can't Buy Me Love...
  • 1895 - RHP Addison “Ad” Gumbert was traded to the Brooklyn Grooms for C Tom Kinslow. Ad, only 26, had gone 26-21 for the Bucs in 1893-94 and Kinslow was a back-up catcher. Both ended up washes, retiring after the 1896 season. Ad was a local boy, and was elected County Sheriff in 1906 and County Commissioner in 1915. He headed a variety of benevolent efforts - in fact, Pittsburgh Mayor Magee once appointed him an Assistant Director of Charities - and belonged to many service groups, including the Masons, Shriners and Odd Fellows. Ad is buried in Homewood Cemetery. 
Ad Gumbert Old Judge Cigarettes series
  • 1979 - Dave Parker of the Pirates became the first $1M per year player in sports when he signed a five-year, $5M contract after winning consecutive batting crowns and being named MVP. He didn’t get to enjoy it long - he had three straight All-Star seasons, but missed half of the 1981 and 1982 campaigns with injuries before having a full-time but poor, by his standards, 1983. Fans behaved even more poorly when they tossed batteries, nuts, bolts, cups and other assorted trash at him in the field. He signed with Cincinnati when the deal expired. As Lennon and McCartney so aptly noted, “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Dave Parker at Press Conference - photo by Robert Pavuchak (Pittsbrugh Press)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ban the Shift? Sheesh.

Well, it didn't take MLB Commissioner Bud Selig Rob Manfred long to fire another salvo against teams that use their smarts versus their wallets to win baseball game.

"Things like eliminating shifts, I would be open to those sorts of ideas," Manfred told ESPN."We have really smart people working in the game and they're going to figure out ways to get a competitive advantage. I think it's incumbent upon us in the commissioner's office to look at the advantages produced and say, 'Is this what we want to happen in the game?'"

Huh? Is he saying teams are too smart for their own good? Or is the message that SABR savvy teams are draining the offense out of baseball by their various strategies, killing interest in the game? Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets (here and here) that the idea, as silly as it seems, may gain some serious traction around the league. He wrote:

"This is very telling: I ran Rob Manfred's idea to limit defensive shifts by two sabermetrically inclined GMs - and both said they agree. Both essentially said same thing: The game is better when the casual fans gets the product they want. Big concern baseball isn't delivering."

Hmmm. The last decade produced all 10 of the best-attended seasons in MLB history. The new national TV pact has teams rolling in dough. Sounds like fixing something that isn't broken.

We assume the metric that is Manfred's driver is World series TV ratings. Four of the five series that have put up the poorest TV numbers in history have been played since 2010. Since 2000, three of the five top viewed October Classic have been during Yankee series. So that appears to be where the casual fan and "the product" comes into play. The age of the average fan is trending up, too, and appealing to the younger go-go generation may be a part of the discussion.

Though the shift - three guys on one side of the bag - has gained in popularity in recent years (lookin' at you, Joe Maddon), it dates back to the twenties, and was originally called the "Boudreau" or "Williams" shift because Indian's manager Lou Boudreau used it against the Red Sox's Ted Williams starting in the forties. The Bucs have utilized it at the big-league level since 2011 and have long had it in place throughout their organization.

Well, may not need these much longer (from Brooks Baseball)
The truth be told, shifts affect just pull hitters, especially lead-footed ones and lefties (the SS can't make a play from short left nearly as well as a 2B can from short right because of the distance), with the corollary that a team that commits to the shift also has to commit to either power or ground-ball pitchers to be effective. And the infield shift isn't the only defensive ploy going on.

Middle infielders cheat up the middle in DP situations and move dependent on the pitch, game situation and batter, toward the hole or closer to the line. Outfielders shift left, right, shallow and deep. Catchers frame pitches. Pitchers work up and down, in and out, off and on the plate. LOOGYS are one-and-done. So we're looking at a potentially very slippery slope; there are a lot of moving pieces chipping away at hitters.

Of course, a change won't be all that drastic. The league will float a rule that there can be just two infielders on one side, and teams' smart guys, being smart guys, will come up with a data-driven alignment that's not exactly the same thing, but will serve the same purpose. The small fish learn to adapt if they want to swim in this league.

But the message it sends that the league wants to dummy down the game so the big money teams don't have to deal with gnats isn't a good one for lesser revenue clubs. First Selig took away big draft bonuses after the Bucs stole Josh Bell, and now Manfred wants to take away analysis-based strategy (ie, smart baseball); heaven forbid that a batter counters. Every step forward...

1/25: Greenburg, Cronin Get the Call; Clemente Cashes In...

Greenburg, Cronin Get the Call; Clemente Cashes In...
  • 1956 - SS Joe Cronin and OF Hank Greenburg were elected to the Hall of Fame. Both were considered to be among the top RH hitters of their era and had brief stops in Pittsburgh. Cronin started as a Pirate in 1926-27 and played sparingly before breaking out for Washington and Boston, while Greenburg spent 1947, his last MLB season, as a Bucco, hitting 25 HR and served as a mentor to up-and-coming slugger Ralph Kiner. They were inducted on July 23rd. 
Joe Cronin 1926 - via tnfoto Out of the Ballpark Development
  • 1967 - Roberto Clemente signed a $100,000 contract, then the highest in Pirate history. The Great One’s payday topped Ralph Kiner’s $90,000 deal of 1952. He joined the MLB elite of players with a six-figure deal. The others on the short list were Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

1/24: Stu and Ugly Johnny...

Stu and Ugly Johnny...
  • 1906 - IF William “Stu” (for Stewart) Clarke was born in San Francisco. He spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, albeit one that lasted just from 1929-30. The back-up infielder hit fairly well, putting up a .273 BA over his 61 big league games, but finished out his time in the bushes, where he compiled a lifetime .238 average before retiring after the 1933 season. 
Stu Clarke - from Ctrane via Out of the Park Development
  • 1910 - OF “Ugly Johnny” (he gave himself the nickname as the self-proclaimed “ugliest man in baseball”) Dickshot, whose given name was John Oscar Dicksus, was born in Waukegan, Illinois. He played for the Bucs from 1936-38. Ugly was a feared hitter in the minors, putting up a .318 BA in 14 seasons, but was just a .250 batter with Pittsburgh, although his career MLB average was .276 after six seasons. When he retired after the 1945 campaign, he opened a bar in his hometown. John Ducey, an actor who appears quite often in TV sitcoms, is his grandson.  
Johnny Dickshot from Ducey.com

Friday, January 23, 2015

1/23: Rabbit Maranville, Kurt Bevacqua, Benny Distefano, Ralph Kiner...

Rabbit Maranville, Kurt Bevacqua, Benny Distefano, Ralph Kiner...
  • 1921 - SS Rabbit Maranville was traded to the Bucs by the Boston Braves for IF Walter Barbare, OF Fred Nicholson, OF Billy Southworth and $15,000. Billy and Rabbit were the keys to the deal. Hall of Famer Maranville played four seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .283. Southworth played another eight seasons and entered the Hall of Fame with a career slash of .297/52/561 and a stellar coaching record, winning four league titles and a pair of World Series. 
  • 1947 - IF Kurt Bevacqua was born in Miami Beach. The Bucs called on him twice, in 1974 and then again from 1980-81 despite him hitting just .171 in a Pirate uniform. But he was a popular bench guy, especially in San Diego. He spent 15 years in MLB (six with SD) and hit 2 homers in the Padres’ World Series win against the Detroit Tigers in 1984. 
Kurt Bevacqua 1982 Topps series
  • 1962 - 1B/OF Benny Distefano was born in Brooklyn. He played for the Bucs in 1984, 1986, and 1988-89, hitting .227 in 300 PA. Distefano was the last lefty to catch a major league game, catching in three games for the Pirates in 1989. 
Benny Distefano 1989 Fleer series
  • 1975 - OF Ralph Kiner was elected to the Hall of Fame and was inducted on August 18th. Kiner played only 10 years in MLB, but led the NL in home runs for seven consecutive seasons. He received 273 votes on the 362 ballots cast by the writers, exactly enough to be selected. There are a pair of often cited quotes that follow Kiner. One, attributed to Kiner himself was "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords." The other was a quote by Bucco GM Branch Rickey when he told Kiner that he had traded him to the Cubs: "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

1/22: Diomedes Olivo, Jimmy Anderson...

Diomedes Olivo, Jimmy Anderson...
  • 1919 - LHP Diomedes Olivo was born in Guayubin, Dominican Republic. He was the second oldest rookie to pitch MLB when in 1960 he got a September call-up at age 41 after being plucked from the Mexican League (although many questioned his age, believing he was older). He spent the following season in AAA, then all of 1962 in Pittsburgh, going 5-1-7/2.78 in his 66 big league games with Pittsburgh. He was traded to St. Louis in 1963. 
Diomedes Olivo via SABR
  • 1976 - LHP Jimmy Anderson was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. After being drafted in the ninth round of the 1994 draft, he pitched the first four years (1999-2002) of his six-season career in Pittsburgh, going 24-42 with a 5.17 ERA before retiring in 2006.
Jimmy Anderson 2002 Topps series

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

1/21: Jimmy Zinn, Waite Hoyt, Octavio Dotel...

Jimmy Zinn, Waite Hoyt, Octavio Dotel...
  • 1895 - RHP Jimmy Zinn was born in Benton, Arkansas. Zinn worked three years for the Bucs (1920-22), with the last his only full season with the club. But he was a minor league legend. A fringe hurler in the majors, he tossed on different farm clubs for 25 years, collecting 279 wins and compiling a 3.49 ERA. 
Jimmy Zinn
  • 1933 - Future Hall of Fame RHP Waite Hoyt was signed by the Pirates after being waived by the New York Giants. Working mostly out of the bullpen, he went 35-31/3.08 in his five year Bucco career before being sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937. 
Waite Hoyt - Out of the Park Development (Pegasus27)
  • 2010 - Free agent RHP Octavio Dotel agreed to a one year, $3.5M deal with the Bucs, the only team that offered the right-hander the opportunity to save games. The 36-year old reliever hadn't been a closer since 2007 with Kansas City. He thrived in the role, saving 21 games before being traded at the deadline to the Dodgers.
Octavio Dotel 2010 - Jared Wickersham/USAToday/Getty Images