Friday, February 28, 2014

Camp Notes..

Quiet camp so far...
  • The Bucs visit Toronto at 1:05 PM today, and MLBNetwork will show the replay at 10am Saturday morning. The lineup: Starling Marte CF, Clint Barmes SS, Jose Tabata RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Tony Sanchez C, Matt Hague DH, Robert Andino 2B, Mel Rojas Jr. LF, Gerrit Cole RHP, Jameson Taillon RHP, Phil Irwin RHP, Jay Jackson RHP, Jake Brigham RHP and  Andy Oliver LHP.
  • The Bucs sent the Evil Empire to defeat again 8-2. Gregory Polanco (in his first spring at-bat) and Mel Rojas, Jr. homered. Tony Sanchez kept up his extra-base barrage with a double while Andrew Lambo, playing at first, made a couple of nice digs, so it looks like he's adjusting to the position. 
  • Eno Sarris of Rotoworld looks at the Buc bullpen closer situation.
  • Jeanmar Gomez told's Tom Singer that there's no competition between him and Stolmy Pimentel because they're buds.
  • The "oven mitt" sliding glove Starling Marte wore after spraining his finger last year looks like it's a permanent attachment now. An ounce of prevention... 
  • In spite of his so far modest production, Bill Brink of the Post-Gazette writes that the Bucs have had an eye on Brent Morel for a few years.
  • Fangraph's Carson Cistulli looks at the Steamer projections for Pirate prospects; Jaff Decker leads the field, topping both Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco. Mark Hulet has the Top Ten prospects overall, and David Laurila has a piece on Stetson Allie; the word "immature" comes up pretty often.

2/28: Jud, Double Trouble, Drug Trials, A-Ram, Jack Wilson...

Jud, Double Trouble, Drug Trials, A-Ram, Jack Wilson...

  • 1897 - IF Ernest Judson (Jud or Boojum) Wilson was born in Remington, Virginia. Jud played for the Homestead Grays (1931-1932, 1940-1945) and had a brief stop with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932. The Grays’ captain and Hall of Fame infielder compiled a .351 lifetime BA. 
  • 1903 - Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss and James Potter led a syndicate to buy the Phillies from John Rogers and AJ Reach for $170,000. It took another seven years before owning more than one team was prohibited by baseball. 
  • 1986 - Commissioner Peter Ueberroth gave seven players who were admitted drug users, including Pirates Dave Parker and Dale Berra, a choice of a year's suspension without pay or heavy fines (10% of their salary) and career-long drug testing‚ along with 100 hours of drug-related community service as a result of the Pittsburgh Cocaine trial. 

  • 2002 - The team agreed to terms with 3B Aramis Ramirez on a back loaded, three-year contract extension through 2004 for $9.5M. The Bucs traded him to Chicago in mid-2003 before the big money fell due. 
  • 2006 - The team agreed to terms with SS Jack Wilson on a three-year, $20M contract extension through the 2009 season with an $8.4M club option for 2010.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2/26-27: Preacher, Vic Janowicz, Pie and a posse of HoF'ers...

Preacher, Vic Janowicz, Pie and a posse of HoF'ers...

  • February 26, 1916 - LHP Elwin “Preacher” Roe was born in Ash Flat, Arizona. Preacher worked early in his career with the Pirates from 1944-47, where he was 34-47/3.73 before blooming as a Brooklyn Dodger and earning four All-Star berths. 

 1945 Play Ball series

  • February 26, 1930 - C/3B Vic Janowicz was born in Elyria, Ohio. A gridiron All-America and Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, Janowicz passed on football to sign for $75K as a bonus baby with the Bucs. He hit only .214 over two seasons (1953-54) as a bench player. He returned to football late in the 1954 season with the Washington Redskins, and was their starting halfback in 1955. An automobile accident in 1956 ended his athletic career. 
  • February 27, 1948 - 3B Pie Traynor was elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers. The infielder spent his entire 17-year career with the Pirates, where he compiled a .320 lifetime batting average and never had a season where he struck out more than 28 times. Traynor was best known for his glove at third where he recorded 2,288 putouts and started 308 double plays. He was formally inducted on June 13th, 1949, and accepted with a 40 word speech. 
  • February 27, 2006 - Homestead Gray player, manager and owner Cumberland “Cum” Posey was elected to the Hall of Fame’s Special Committee on the Negro Leagues, along with 1B/3B Jud Wilson of the Grays/Pittsburgh Crawfords and RHP Ray Brown, also of the Grays. Included in the class was OF Pete Hill, born in Pittsburgh and who first played for the Pittsburgh Keystones. They were inducted on July 30th.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spring Has Sprung...

 Two in a row for the Buccos (of course, the first win was a scrimmage against themselves, so we guess they're actually 2-1)...
  • The Blacks beat the Golds 4-3 yesterday. Tony Sanchez had a three-run bomb and a double, both the opposite way. Andrew Lambo went 1-for-2 with a walk, whiff, very loud, long foul and two runs scored. He kept up the work today, banging out another three-run shot in a 6-5 wins over the Evil Empire.
  • Thursday's lineup: Jaff Decker RF, Gregory Polanco CF, Chris Dickerson LF, Andrew Lambo 1B, Tony Sanchez DH, Chris Stewart C, Josh Harrison 3B, Clint Barmes SS, Michael Martinez 2B, RHP Charlie Morton, LHP Jeff Locke, LHP Yao-Hsun Yang, LHP Daniel Schlereth,  RHP Brandon Cumpton and RHP Cody Eppley. They play at the Yankees and will be on radio at 1:05; they're also the tape delay game on MLB Network.
  • The first camp casualty: Travis Ishikawa has tightness in his right leg and will likely need a couple days of rest. 
  • Jon Heyman of Baseball Insider posts that the Bucs are one of seven teams that watched Johan Santana work out.
  • Joe Lucia of The Outside Corner gives the Bucs a C- for their off season activity. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs added that the Pirates dropped 5 WAR from 2013 to 2014, signalling some regression.
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects notes that the Bucs are making their presence felt in Taiwan.
  • Ex Bucs: Alex Presley is starting off camp with the CF job his to lose in Minnesota. Andy Martino of the NY Daily News writes that both the Mets and Yankees are watching Joel Hanrahan's recovery from TJ surgery. Erik Bedard is looking to land a back-end role in the Tampa Bay rotation.
  • The no-collision rule was adopted on an experimental basis for the season. Basically, runners can't go out of their way to trample catchers, and catchers can't block home without the ball.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2/25: Syd Thrift, Tony Womack, Matt Lawton...

Syd Thrift, Tony Womack, Matt Lawton...

  • 1929 - Pirate GM Syd Thrift was born in Locust Hill, Virginia. Thrift had been out of baseball for nine years when he was the surprise hire for general manager in 1985. He brought in dark horse Jim Leyland as manager and dealt veterans like Don Robinson, Tony Pena and Rick Reuschel in exchange for young prospects like Doug Drabek, Andy Van Slyke, Mike LaValliere, Mike Dunne, Chico Lind and Jeff Robinson. Thrift's term ended after the 1988 season when he was fired after noisily butting heads with team ownership. He’s credited for laying the foundation for the team's early nineties success.

  • 1999 - The Pirates traded 2B Tony Womack to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later (P Jason Boyd) and OF Paul Weichard (minors).
  • 2005 - OF Matt Lawton signed a one year, $7.75M deal with the Pirates. The Bucs traded him at the deadline to the Cubs for Jody Gerut.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mo' Notes...

The preseason rolls along...

  • Bill Brink of the Post Gazette has the lineups for the Pirates first scrimmage on Tuesday and the pitchers due to work. After that, the Grapefruit League games kicks in.
  • Saber Bucs uses Brandon Moss and Bill Robinson as cautionary tales for those ready to give up on Travis Snider.
  • The Pirates claimed 3B Brent Morel, 26, off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. He has a .229 lifetime BA in parts of four big league years. Chase d'Arnaud was DFA'ed to clear a space for Morel. Looks like minor league depth - he and Josh Harrison (.250) will battle for a bench spot, but Harrison has played all over the field while Morel is pretty much a third baseman (and has an option year, tho Harrison has a pair).
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects features Brandon Cumpton, who went from 2013 hot mess to a MLB contributor by pitching to contact rather than going for swing-and-misses.
  • The Pirates placed three players on the MLB Network list of the current Top 100 - Cutch at #4, Pedro at #79 and Gerrit Cole at #94.
  • Allan Smith of Sports Media 101 looks at Cutch's chances of being a Bucco for life. Because of  his future value and the depth of OFer's in the pipeline, he thinks it's unlikely.
  • Baseball America picked its Top 300 minor league players by position; the Bucs have 13 on the list.
  • Michael Clair of Yahoo Sports calls out a problem the Pirates have - " long as MLB finances are set up as they are, the Pirates have to be perfect every year and Neal Huntington has to be the smartest man in the room, winning every trade, banking on the all right prospects. Sadly, that's that's just not sustainable."
  • Jaff Decker turned 24 on Sunday; happy belated B-Day!

2/24: Flying Dutchman, Wilbur Cooper, Earl Grace, Bye-Bye Bucs...

Flying Dutchman, Wilbur Cooper, Earl Grace, Bye-Bye Bucs...

  • 1874 - Hall of Famer (he was part of the first class, with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, et al) Honus Wagner was born in Chartiers, now a part of Carnegie. Considered by many to be the greatest SS to ever play, he spent 18 years (1900 -17) with Pittsburgh and played on a pair of World Series teams, winning in 1909. The Flying Dutchman won eight NL batting titles with a lifetime .328 BA. He drove in 100+ runs nine times and scored 100+ runs seven times. Wagner also served as a Pirate coach from 1933-51 and very briefly as a player/manager.
  • 1892 - LHP Wilbur Cooper was born in Bearsville, WV. Cooper tossed for 13 years in Pittsburgh, winning 202 games, the most in Pirate history, with a 2.74 ERA and 263 complete games to his credit. He and Carl Mays are the only two 20th century pitchers who worked over 3,000 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA that aren’t in the Hall of Fame.
  • 1907 - C Earl Grace was born in Barlow, Kentucky. He was a reserve catcher for the Bucs for five seasons (1931-35) with a .275 BA.
1934 Goudey series

  • 1981 - How close were the Bucs to leaving? The Pirates filed suit in the Allegheny County Courthouse for the annulment of its lease at Three Rivers Stadium after receiving relocation overtures from New Orleans, Washington & Tampa.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2/23: Barney, Pud, Bo, Al Martin, Raul ...

Barney, Pud, Bo, Al Martin, Raul ...

  • 1885 - Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss was born in Freiburg, Baden (Germany). He is often credited with the creation of the modern baseball World Series. Dreyfuss also built one of baseball's first modern steel and concrete baseball parks, Forbes Field, in 1909. During his period of ownership (1900-1932), the Pirates won six NL pennants and World Series titles in 1909 and 1925; only the New York Giants won more NL championships during the same period. He’s in the Hall of Fame as one of the founding fathers that helped steer MLB through its early growing pains.
  • 1888 - RHP James "Pud" Galvin signed with Pittsburgh for $3,000, including $1,000 in advance. The club offered the ace $3,500 with no front money, but Galvin needed the quick grand to carry him through the off season. “Gentleman Jeems” ended up in the Hall of Fame; he was a much better pitcher than financial whiz.
  • 1963 - OF Bobby “Bo” Bonilla was born in the Bronx. The switch hitter spent six years in Pittsburgh (1986-91) with a line of .284/114/500 and was a four-time All Star.
  •  February 23, 2000 - The Bucs dealt Al Martin to the San Diego Padres for OF John Vander Wal and pitchers Jim Sak and Geraldo Padua. martin played four more years as a platoon guy while Van der Wal lasted the better part of two seasons for the Bucs before being traded to the Giants.
 Al Martin - Fleers 2000 series
  • 2004 - The Pirates signed free agent OF Raul Mondesi to a $1.15M contract. He left the team in May to fight a lawsuit in his native Dominican Republic, didn’t return, and was released for breach of contract. Mondesi suspiciously signed another deal with the Angels a few days later, but was out of baseball in 2005.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2/21-22: College HOF, Roy Spencer, Bill Baker, Frankie Zak, Pittsburgh Visits the Prez...

College HOF, Roy Spencer, Bill Baker, Frankie Zak, Pittsburgh Visits the Prez...

  • February 21, 2011 - Seven new members of the College Baseball Hall of Fame were announced, including Duke’s Dick Groat, who became the first player ever inducted into both the college basketball (he was a two-time All-America who considered hoops to be his best sport) and baseball halls. Groat won a World Series and MVP while with the Pirates, so imagine what he may have done in the NBA!

 Dick Groat, Blue Devil

  • February 22, 1900 - C Roy Spencer was born in Scranton, NC. He played from 1925-27 on two World Series clubs, appearing in the ‘27 Classic. In three years, he hit .307 for Pittsburgh.
  • February 22, 1911 - C Bill Baker was born in Paw Creek, NC. The backup played four seasons (1941-43, 1946) with Pittsburgh, missing a couple of years while in the Navy during WW2, and hit .247. Baker went into umpiring after his career, and worked his way up to the NL for a season before his knees finally gave out, an almost unavoidable occupational hazard for an old catcher.
  • February 22, 1922 - SS Frankie Zak was born in Passaic, New Jersey. He played three years, all in Pittsburgh (1944-46) as a reserve infielder and pinch runner with a .266 lifetime BA. Even tho he only got 160 bats in 1944, he was named a replacement All-Star. The game was held at Forbes Field, and with the game in Pittsburgh and wartime travel restrictions creating logistic problems, it was thought the NL took the easy road by selecting him (and Zak did hit .300 that season).  
  • February 22, 1980 - President Jimmy Carter hosted both the Steelers and Pirates in a single ceremony at the White House to celebrate their respective championship wins in Super Bowl XIV and the 1979 World Series.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Campfire Notes...

Tidbits and Teasers...

  • Hidden Vigorish reports that stat-wise, Edinson Volquez fits in the AJ - Francisco mold. But he goes a step further, noting that both Burnett and Liriano had extended spring trainings due to AJ's wayward bunt and Frankie's broken arm, and wonders if that extra time to retool was the difference maker.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that Jordy Mercer and Clint Barmes complement rather than compete with one another.
  • The Kendrys Morales market heats up, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
  • Tom Singer of notes that Gregory Polanco has been turning heads in camp.
  • Pittsburgh has seven farm hands in this years Top 100 Baseball America list. They are: OF Gregory Polanco (#10), RHP Jameson Taillon (#22), RHP Tyler Glasnow (#46), OF Austin Meadows (#48), RHP Nick Kingham (#64), SS Alen Hanson (#76) and C Reese McGuire (#81). In a similar vein, Marc Normandin of Sports on Earth selected his breakout players for 2014 and included Taillon among the group.
  • Battlin' Bucs has made its choices for the almost modern-day All-Time Pirate team (1947-68).
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects tells how the Bucs are regaining their chops in Latin America.
  • Ex Bucs: FA Jeff Karstens tossed a side session in Pirate City, and may be ready to go in another month. Matt Capps has a strained right shoulder and will be shut down for two weeks as he fights for a bullpen spot in Cleveland.
  • The Pirates will have 10 spring games televised live on the MLB Network.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2/20: Tom O'Brien, IA, Frank Gustine, Elroy Face, Pat Meares...

Tom O'Brien, IA, Frank Gustine, Elroy Face, Pat Meares...

  • 1873 - Utilityman Tom O’Brien was born in Verona. O’Brien played just two seasons for his hometown club (1898, 1900), hitting .274 for Pittsburgh before meeting an untimely death in 1901. 
  • 1877 - The International Association (so-called because it had a pair of Canadian clubs) was formed in Pittsburgh with the Alleghenys as one of the charter teams. Some baseball historians consider it to be the first minor league; others think the league was conceived to rival the National League. It was fairly short lived, folding after the 1880 season. It really didn’t have much a schedule; Alleghenys’ ace Pud Galvin tossed 18 of the 19 IA games played that first year. 
  • 1920 - All-Star infielder and restaurateur Frankie Gustine was born in Hoopeston, Illinois. He played 10 years (1939-48) for the Bucs, hitting .268 as a Pirate and earning three All-Star spots. Gustine later became the head coach at Point Park College from 1968-74, and operated a bar/restaurant on Forbes Avenue in Oakland a few steps away from Forbes Field. 

Frank Gustine - Bowman series 1949

  • 1928 - The Baron of the Bullpen, ElRoy Face, was born in Stephentown, NY. He pitched fifteen years (1953, 1955-68) for the Bucs, going 100-93-188/3.36. Face was the first major leaguer to save 20 games more than once, leading the league three times and finishing second three times; in 1959 he set the still-standing major league record for winning percentage (.947) at 18-1, winning 22 games in a row over two seasons (19548-59). He held the NL record for career games pitched (846) from 1967-86, and the league record for career saves (193) from 1962-82. Face still holds the NL record for career wins in relief (96), and he held the league mark for career innings pitched in relief (1,211-1/3) until 1983. 
  • 1999 - The Pirates signed free agent SS Pat Meares to a $1.5M contract. In April, they extended the deal through the 2003 season for $15M. He broke his hand early in 1999, had surgery, and was out of baseball by 2002, having played 240 games for the Bucs while hitting .238.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Camp Notes

  • Jayson Stark of ESPN has some Bucco camp notes. Most is same old, except he reports that the Bucs are still monitoring Ike Davis and some other 1B candidates.
  • One of the big stories in the spring will be the bullpen, with more candidates available than spots. Bill Brink of the Post Gazette notes that Clint is well aware of the situation: "We know the guys who don’t have options. We understand all the different dynamics that could take place."
  • The pitchers are now advancing past bullpen sessions and moving on to live BP.
  • Well, so much for the mystery. Francisco Liriano will toss on Opening Day, March 31st at 1:05 PM against the Chicago Cubs. It's his second OD start; he opened for the Twins in 2009.
  • All will be quiet for a couple of days on the Travis Snider front. He cut his finger getting dinner ready and it took three stitches to close the wound, so he'll just hang out for the time being, tho he is chasing flies and took BP today.
  • Josh Harrison won the last man in camp award, coming in a day late after welcoming a daughter into the world.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland ranks the teams for 2014, and has the Bucs at 17, calling this a bridge year to 2015 and beyond.
  • Dayn Perry of Eye on Baseball says approval by the umps and players for the no-collision rule at home could be on the way, allowing the new rule to be put in effect by the time the spring exhibition games begin.

2/18-19: Manny Mota, Bob Miller, Bruce Kison, AJ...

Manny Mota, Bob Miller, Bruce Kison, AJ...

  • February 18, 1938 - OF Manny "Geronimo" Mota was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The pinch hitter supreme spent six season (1963-68) with Pittsburgh as a fourth outfielder early in his career, hitting .297 during that span. It wasn’t until 1974 that the Dodgers used him solely as a bench bat and he came through in spades, smacking 150 career pinch hits. 

Topps 1967 Set Break series

  • February 18, 1939 - RHP Bob Miller was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Miller spent 18 years in the show, tossing for the Bucs in 1971-72 (6-4-6, 2.19), and pitched in two NLCS sets and a World Series. He later managed in the Padres organization and was pitching coach for the Blue Jays and Giants. 
  • February 18, 1950 - P Bruce Kison was born in Pasco, Washington. The righty pitched nine years (1971-79) for the Bucs, and his career bookended Pittsburgh World series titles; he was 4-1 in the post-season, including a memorable 6-1/3 shutout innings stint against the Orioles in game #4 of the 1971 Fall Classic. He was part of the rotation for three years, but was used mostly as a spot starter and long guy, putting up a Pirate pitching line of 81-63/3.49. 
  • February 19, 2012 - The Pirates had AJ Burnett drop in their laps. The Yankees sent him to Pittsburgh for farm hands Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones and agreed to pay $20M of the $33M remaining on the last two years of his contract.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No Snow In Bradenton...


  • All 58 players due in camp (40 man roster + 18 invitees) have reported in. The best news so far is that Wandy has gone through two bullpens sessions and been pain-free.
  • Another year, another Opening Day starter: Ian Snell (2008), Paul Maholm (2009), Zach Duke (2010), Kevin Correia (2011), Erik Bedard (2012), AJ Burnett (2013) and TBA (we're expecting Frankie). The first game is right around the corner, on March 31st at PNC Park against the Cubbies.
  • Hey, guess what - Scott Boras thinks his client, Kendrys Morales, is a "perfect fit" in Pittsburgh. Can't blame him for touting his client; the market is pretty dry right now for Morales.
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN takes an unbiased look at AJ's decision to pitch for Philly
  • It's not bad enough the Phils grabbed AJ - now CSN Philly is joining the regression chorus for the 2014 Bucs.
  • It doesn't seem like the Buc FO is concerned about their pitching, even with the loss of AJ and a bunch of question marks on the staff. By all indicators, they're not looking for help, so they're apparently not blowing smoke when they say they like what they've got on hand. And if that's the case, the Bucs have a few weeks to look for some help for the Pirate attack with AJ's budgeted money ($12M, reportedly) freed up.
  • The Mets will wear a commemorative patch to honor Ralph Kiner; we're a bit surprised the Bucs aren't. After all, Kiner did lead the NL in HR for seven straight years as a Pirate among his other feats.
  • Ex-Bucs: LHP Dana Eveland is back from Korea and signed a minor league deal with the Mets.

Monday, February 17, 2014

2/16-17: Flying Dutchman, Negro League Stars, Nate McLouth...

Flying Dutchman, Negro League Stars, Nate McLouth...

  • February 16, 1952 - Carnegie’s Honus Wagner’s number 33 was retired following his retirement as a Bucco coach. Wagner spent 39 years with the team and was rewarded with a pension. Other retired Pirate numbers belong to Billy Meyer (1), Ralph Kiner (4), Willie Stargell (8), Bill Mazeroski (9), Pie Traynor (20), Roberto Clemente (21) and Danny Murtaugh (40).
  • February 16, 1996 - General Mills put out a Wheaties cereal box commemorating Negro League stars Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell to celebrate the league's 75th anniversary. All three played in Pittsburgh/Homestead at some point in their Hall of Fame careers.

  • February 17, 2009 - CF Nate McLouth signed a three-year, $15.75M contract with an option that bought out his arbitration years. It didn’t provide a lot of security - he was traded to Atlanta in June to clear the CF spot for Andrew McCutchen.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

To Be Determined...

The players are trickling into camp. All the pitchers and catchers are accounted for, and of this morning, 51 of 58 invited position players have reported; they're all due in tomorrow. And the Bucco season will be determined by the way camp plays out...

  • Can the starting rotation overcome the loss of AJ Burnett and his 200 IP? Edison Volquez, Charlie Morton and Wandy Rodriguez/Jeff Locke will have to pick up the slack, and how the bottom three pitchers perform will have a big impact on whether the Pirates regress or not in 2014. Jameson Taillon is on the horizon, but his ETA is still up for debate.
  • Will the staff get deeper into games? The Buc bullpen was ridden hard last year, and more seven-inning games would help keep the arms fresh.
  • Can the bullpen perform up to 2013 standards? There's every indication that they can, but Jason Grilli is 37 and Mark Melancon saw more RH batters in September to take away his cutter's run. Tony Watson and Justin Wilson should remain solid as the bridge, and the long guys are strong, too.
  • What will the Pirates do with Jeanmar Gomez, Stolmy Pimentel, Bryan Morris and Vin Mazzaro? All are out of options, and either one has to move to the rotation, which seems unlikely at this point, or be exposed to waivers.
  • Will the Bucs make a late dive into the first base market or move Andrew Lambo to first? Garrett Jones didn't set a very high bar last year, and Lambo right now is Gaby Sanchez's platoon partner. But the market - both FA and trade - still have several weeks to shake out, so we'll see what the FO has up its sleeve.
  • RF looks like Jose Tabata's to lose, tho the Pirates are taking a chance that a healthy Travis Snider can play up to his hype. Pittsburgh has plenty of outfielders in the pipeline, and the spot should be a seat-warmer until Gregory Polanco is ready. He looks like all that, but has virtually no AAA experience, which may temper the expectations of an early arrival.
The Pirates have sat pat during the off season, both because their prime targets signed elsewhere and they believe that as a young club that there's natural improvement due throughout the lineup. Other than the Cards, the rest of the division was pretty quiet, too, which helps. But the projection services aren't sold on the team as constructed, so young guys like Starling Marte, Pedro and Jordy Mercer, along with a thinner rotation, will determine if the 2014 season is a smash repeat of last season or a step back.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Camp Notes, OF Shift, Off Season Takes & Stuff...

USA USA USA - oh, wait, this is baseball...

  • Gaby Sanchez, the forgotten man at first, came to camp 20 pounds lighter and looking for a full-time gig according to Rob Biertempfel of the Trib. The in-house competition, Andrew Lambo, is also in camp and taking plays at first.
  • So far, so good. Wandy Rodriguez, who was shut down much of last season with arthritis, threw his first camp bullpen and said it was painless.
  • Charlie Wilmoth of Bucs Dugout believes that the Pirate inactivity this off season was due to their Plan A scenario crashing in flames and no real Plan B to back it up. Tom Singer of wrote that the Pirate brass have a different spin: Clint Hurdle emphasized that "We will always rely...on developing our own talent," while Neal Huntington simply stated that "Payroll does not equal playoff."
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects says the next Bucco edge may come via outfield shifts. With Cutch and Starling Marte, they already have a pair of premier defenders, and when Gregory Polanco comes along, they'll have three bona-fide center fielders roaming the pasture.
  • Ex Bucs: Lloyd McClendon is fired up and ready to lead the Mariners. The Rays are kicking Eric Bedard's tires.
  • A college note: Pitt went to South Carolina to play their season opener yesterday against Coastal Carolina - and got snowed out.

2/15: The Bad Old Days, Barry Jones, Don Kelly, Russ Martin, Lockout...

The Bad Old Days, Barry Jones, Don Kelly, Russ Martin, Lockout... 
  • 1956 - The Pirates and the Kansas City A's canceled an exhibition game in Birmingham‚ Alabama‚ because of a local ordinance barring black players from playing against white players. 
  • 1963 - RHP Barry Jones was born in Centerville, Indiana. He began his career in Pittsburgh after being selected in the third round of the 1984 draft. From 1986-88, Jones went 6-9-6/3.81 with the Bucs before being traded to the White Sox for Dave LaPoint. 
  • 1980 - IF Don Kelly was born in Butler. Kelly went to Mt Lebanon HS and Point Park College before signing with the Bucs and making his debut in 2007. From 2009 onward, he’s been with the Tigers. He married Carrie Walker in 2007; his brother-in-law is Neil Walker and his father-in-law is former big league pitcher Tom Walker. The Kellys live in Wexford.
 Don Kelly image from
  • 1983 - C Russ Martin was born in East York, Ontario, Canada. Happy 31st B-Day! 
  • 1990 - The owners refused to open spring training camps without a new Basic Agreement with the Players' Association, beginning a lockout that lasted 32 days and delayed the start of the regular season by one week.

Friday, February 14, 2014

2/14: Natonal Colored Baseball League, Damaso Marte, Kevin McClatchy...

National Colored Baseball League, Damaso Marte, Kevin McClatchy...

  • 1887 - Per Wikipedia, the National Colored Base Ball League, the first attempt at a professional Negro League, was organized at a meeting in Baltimore. Eight clubs were represented, including the original Pittsburgh Keystones. The league quickly folded (the Keystones finished 3-4), but set a foundation that would eventually allow the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays to enter the baseball scene. 
  • 1975 - LHP Damaso Marte was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He pitched from the Buc bullpen in 2001 and again from 2006-08. He went 7-8-5 with a 3.52 ERA and struck out 200 batters in 186-⅔ IP. 

 Damaso Marte from the NY Daily News

  • 1996 - Kevin McClatchy and partners purchased the Pirates from the Pittsburgh Associates with the understanding that a baseball-only stadium be built within five years. The sale saved the franchise from being moved out of Pittsburgh by other potential buyers, but proved a mixed blessing.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Camp Opens & Thursday Tidbits

The team is shufflin' into camp...can spring be far behind?
  • No visa or injury problems this year; all the Buc pitchers and catchers are in camp.
  • A couple more pieces of the Burnett deal: Travis Sawchk of the Trib confirmed the Pirate bid was for $12M, and another source says that the Philadelphia contract contains a 2015 mutual option and a limited no-trade clause.
  • With AJ gone, the Bucs may look to add another arm. Drew Silva of Hardball Talk says that the Pirates are one of the teams that have been watching Johan Santana.
  • Per Pirate Prospects' John Dreker, Pittsburgh agreed to a deal with LHP Yao-Hsun Yang, a veteran starter from Taiwan. It's a minor league deal with a camp invite
  • Michael Clair of The Daily Dish picks the four least productive teams during this off season, and your Buccos are one of them. Stan McNeal of Fox Sports has a different take. In his Central rundown, he notes that most of the clubs in the division are filling in with homegrown players rather than FAs.
  • On the other hand, John Lembo of the Bradenton Herald has five reasons to follow the Bucs, at least through spring training.
  • CBS Sports has been running a series on the best teams by single season performance, and capped it with a simulation season among the creme de la creme. The Central Division was a red hot race, and man, did Honus Wagner have himself a simulated year!
  • Marc Hulet and Fangraphs has their Top 100 Prospect list out; seven young Bucs are on the roster.
  • Tom Smith of Rumbunter makes a case for the Bucs establishing their own secondary ticket outlet, like the Yankees and Dodgers, both for security and financial reasons. 
  • Ex Bucs: Ronny Paulino was suspended for 100 games after being busted for his second PED violation.
  • Should be a great year for rookie OFers in the Central Division - aside from Gregory Polanco, the Cards' Oscar Tavaras and the Reds Billy Hamilton should all be playing this summer.
  • A band of ex-minor leaguers are suing baseball over their wages, or lack thereof. We've never understood why the MLBPA hasn't tried to cultivate some kind of relationship with the farm guys.

2/13: Pete Castiglione, Cool Papa, Nellie...

Pete Castiglione, Cool Papa, Nellie...

  • 1921 - IF Pete Castiglione was born in Greenwich, Connecticut. He played seven years (1947-53) for the Bucs, mainly as a reserve, and hit .258 as a Pirate. 
  • 1974 - OF James "Cool Papa" Bell was named to the Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues. He played for both the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords, and was inducted on August 12th. 
Perez Steele Hall of Fame card

  • 2005 - RHP Nelson “Nellie” Briles, who was part of the Pirates 1971 World Series club, died at age 61 in Orlando, Florida, after suffering a heart attack at a Pirates alumni golf tournament. In his game five start in the Series against the Orioles, Briles pitched a two-hit, complete game 4-0 shutout, also driving in a run with a second inning single. He pitched three seasons for the Pirates, going 36-28 with a 2.98 ERA. Following his retirement in 1979, Briles worked as a color man for the Pirates, and joined the front office in 1986 as director of corporate sales. He founded the Pittsburgh Pirates Alumni Association, and was also the director of the team's annual fantasy camp.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Money Talks, AJ Philadelphia

Well, one long-running soap opera has ended. The AJ "he loves me, he loves me not..." drama has been resolved by a reported $16M, one year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

AJ, 37, should feel at home in the Philadelphia locker room; a quick count shows that the Phils have made Burnett the 11th player that's over 30 to earn a roster spot on the club, and that's the biggest surprise to us regarding his signing. Philly is an old team that instead of going young dropped some serious coin on a perhaps one-and-done pitcher. Of course, the Phils really like experience; Ruben Amaro also snatched up Marlon Byrd, 36, inking him to a two-year contract.

Burnett had an in there, too. His agent, Darek Braunecker, represents Cliff Lee, and DB got the Phillies to fork over $120M for Lee. So AJ had his man ready to profitably parlay in Philly.

Burnett signed for just about book value with maybe a cherry on top. The Pirates lowballed him, and their tact was apparent right from the git-go, when they didn't offer him a $14.1M qualifier. He probably would have taken that deal, which is why the Pirates didn't offer it.

The FO wasn't worried about the draft pick in the least because he would never be offered a contract this rich if the loss of a first-round pick was attached to the signing. If he was to return to the fold, it would be on the Pirates' terms, not his.

The question at the crux is whether AJ has reinvented himself sufficiently to slot as a number two or three pitcher - and his K rate, grounder rate and sinker velocity speak well of his stuff - or whether age is going to send him down that inevitable hill. The Fangraph projections have him performing at about a 3.0 WAR in 2014, which is plenty solid. Then again, the only 37 year old mound geezers to post 3+ WAR since 2008 are Hiroki Kuroda (twice), R.A. Dickey, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Randy Johnson & Bartolo Colon.

His erratic August and September performances - AJ gave up four runs or more in five starts, and two or less in the other six - brought his consistency into question. He missed a month with a calf strain, which brought his durability into question.

Burnett's public spats with Bucco on-field management certainly didn't endear him to the brass. Ask Clint Barmes what AJ thinks of infield shifts. And very early in the process, the FO made it quite clear that they weren't ready to pony up a sizable chunk of their budget for a guy that works once every fifth day, which may be a concern not very many seasons down the road when Gerritt Cole, Jameson Taillon and company get into arbitration.

We appreciate the effort AJ made in helping turn the Bucs around the past two years, and we think the rotation would be stronger with him than without. But he and the FO are both stubborn kind of fellows. The management dared him to find a better offer, and he did. So time to STFD and move on. At least now that we have a little cushion to spend on a first baseman...

2/11-12: Aldridge-Grimes, TRS, Dutch, Woody and Joe Garagiola...

Aldridge-Grimes, TRS, Dutch, Woody and Joe Garagiola...

  • February 11, 1928 - Pittsburgh sent RHP Vic Aldridge, who was fishing for a raise from owner Barney Dreyfuss, to the NY Giants for RHP Burleigh Grimes, who they had traded away nine years earlier. Grimes won 42 games in 1928-29 before being sent to the Braves after the Bucs reached a contract impasse with him. He returned in 1934 for his third Pittsburgh stint to finish his MLB career as a Pirate, the team he started with. The Hall of Famer won 48 of his 270 career victories as a Buc. As for Aldridge, he also bumped heads over money with Giants, held out and had a terrible year, prompting him to retire from baseball in 1929.
  • February 11, 2001 - Three Rivers Stadium‚ the home of the Pirates since 1970‚ was imploded before a full complement of TV cameras and thousands of onlookers. Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit, Mike Schmidt's 500th home run and a couple of World Series teams were part of the park's legacy. 

Three Rivers Stadium Implosion from ESPN

  • February 12, 1912 - RHP Lloyd “Dutch” Dietz was born in Cincinnati. Dutch tossed from 1940-43 for the Bucs, going 14-16-6 with a 3.86 ERA, compiling a 7-2/2.33 slash in 1941. 
  • February 12, 1922 - RHP Forrest “Woody” Main was born in Delano, California. He pitched off and on for the Bucs in 1948, 1950, and 1952-53 after being claimed from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft. Woody went 4-13-3 with a 5.14 ERA as a Pirate. 
  • February 12, 1926 - C Joe Garagiola was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent the middle of his MLB career (1951-53) with Pittsburgh. Joe hit .262 over that span, but is best known as an announcer, a profession he began after his playing days in 1955.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Takes...

The Daily  411...

  • First base: Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe examines the Bucs first base choices; nothing really new here. Eye on Baseball's Max Axisa writes that the Bucs and Kendrys Morales have a "mutual interest," but we think the combination of Scott Boras looking for a top dollar contract and the loss of a first round pick works against that interest. Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs looks at all the players available and concludes "...there’s not a ton out there." He advocates that the FO's best value move is Andrew Lambo. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects adds that he thinks the Bucs are in a great bargaining position.
  • The overall ability of the Pirate infield is discussed by Fangraph's Jack Weiland.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines the Freddy Freeman deal, and later in the article spends a few paragraphs explaining how much money the Bucs saved by signing Andrew McCutchen when they did.
  • John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports on a pair of Latinos the Buc scouts are following.
  • William Tasker of The Flagrant Fan picks the five least valuable players based on the projection systems; Garrett Jones leads the list with a predicted .23 WAR.
  • The Dodgers signed Paul Maholm to a $1.5M deal; we wonder if the Bucs missed the boat by not bringing him back to anchor the bottom of the rotation.
  • Game on! Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow and begin camp Thursday.

Monday, February 10, 2014

2/10: Bill Evans, Cotton Tierney, the Wet One, Judy Johnson, Larry McWilliams...

Bill Evans, Cotton Tierney, the Wet One, Judy Johnson, Larry McWilliams...

  • 1893 - RHP Bill Evans was born in Reidsville, NC. He spent his entire three year MLB stint with the Bucs (1916-17, 1919) as a fringe hurler, going 2-13 with a 3.85 ERA. 
  • 1894 - 2B James “Cotton” Tierney was born in Kansas City, KS. He started his pro career in Pittsburgh (1920-23), mainly as a second baseman but a jack of all trades, also playing the outfield and hot corner. He hit .315 for Pittsburgh, and was the main piece in the 1923 trade for P Lee Meadows. Cotton was remembered when in 2005, Jeff Euston, his great-great-nephew, created the popular website "Cot's Baseball Contracts", named after his MLB ancestor. 

Cotton Tierney from The Baseball Historian

  • 1920 - The spitball, shineball, and emeryball were outlawed by the AL/NL Joint Rules Committee. Seventeen pitchers, including off-and-on Pirate Burleigh Grimes, were grandfathered so they could continue to toss a wet one. Grimes, who finished his career in 1934 with Pittsburgh, was the last man to legally throw a spitter. 
  • 1975 - 3B Judy Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro League Committee. Playing in the 1920s and 1930s, Johnson was a defensive whiz who batted .309 over a 17 year career, including stops at the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. He was inducted on August 18th. 
  • 1954 - LHP Larry McWilliams was born in Wichita, Kansas. The sixth overall pick of the 1974 draft by the Braves, he worked for the Pirates from 1982-86. Larry had three strong years as a starter, then faded and was shipped back to his original club, the Braves. His line with the Bucs was 43-44-2 with a 3.86 ERA.
  • 1988 - Happy B-Day Jeanmar Gomez, who was born in Caracas, Venezuela 26 years ago.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

2/9: Preacher Roe, Buddy Solomon, Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston...

Preacher Roe, Buddy Solomon, Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston...

  • 1946 - Talk about your off season mishaps! Bucco LHP Preacher Roe’s 148 strikeouts in 1945 led the NL and he was selected for the All-Star Game. But while coaching high school basketball after the season, Roe suffered a concussion in a fight with a referee. His pitching fell off a cliff, dropping from 27 wins in 1944-45 to seven in 1946-47, and his ERA doubled. He was traded to Brooklyn, where he lasted seven seasons, winning 93 games while earning four All-Star berths. Some credit the comeback to a return to health, and others to his new pitch - the spitter. 

 1983 TCMA Playball 1945 series

  • 1951 - RHP Ed “Buddy” Solomon was born in Perry, Georgia. The ten year vet worked the end of his career (1980-82) in Pittsburgh, splitting time between the pen and the rotation. He went 17-15-1 with a 3.58 ERA for the Pirates before being dealt to the White Sox in 1982, where he concluded his MLB run. 
  • 1971 - RHP Satchel Paige became the first Negro League star to be selected to the Hall of Fame. Satch pitched for both the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, and was inducted on August 9th. 
  • 1976 - The Hall of Fame Special Committee on the Negro Leagues selected OF Oscar Charleston for enshrinement. He was with both the Pittsburgh Crawfords (as a player/manager) and Homestead Grays, and was inducted on August 9th.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday Updates...

Saturday Update...

  • Baseball Prospectus, based on PECOTA ratings, project the Pirates to have 78 wins in 2014.
  • Matthew Pouliat of Hardball Talk projects the Bucco bullpen as #10 in the NL by ERA. He writes "The Pirates’ ranking here is getting dragged down by Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro, who are both projected to throw more innings than the top guys in their pen. They’ll be higher in the subjective rankings." And they are; he rates them #8 overall in effectiveness.
  •'s Tracy Ringolsby has a piece on Clint Hurdle and expectations
  • Pittsburgh signed C Omir Santos, who has played parts of five MLB seasons with the Orioles, Mets, Tigers and Indians with a .248 lifetime average. It's a minor league deal with an invite to camp.
  • Bernie Pleskoff of selected Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon to the All-NL Prospect dream team.
  • The "Million Dollar Arm," Rinku Singh, tells's Barry Bloom that he still has MLB aspirations
  • The Pirates traded OF Quincy Latimore to the Cleveland Indians  for Jeanmar Gomez last year after originally signing him out of high school as a fourth-rounder in 2007. Guess what - they just picked him back up after the Tribe let him go.
  • Ex Bucs: Paul Maholm is reported to have taken a pre-signing physical for the Dodgers. Evan Meek signed a minor league deal with the Orioles, as has Brian Bixler with the Phillies.
  • Almost time: Pirate pitchers and catchers report on February 12th and the full squad on February 17th, with drills beginning the next day.

2/8: Cookie, Monty, The King & His Court, Josh Gibson, Buck and Francisco Liriano...

Cookie, Monty, The King & His Court, Josh Gibson, Buck and Francisco Liriano...

  • 1918 - LHP Arthur “Cookie” Cuccrullo was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He spent his three year MLB career as a Pirate from 1943-45, with a record of 3-5-5 and 4.55 ERA in 62 games, nine of which were starts. 
  • 1922 - 2B Romanus “Monty” Basgall was born in Pfeifer, Kansas. Monty was a yo-yo player for the Bucs from 1948-51, hitting just .215 as he went back and forth from the minors to the show. He was in the Pirate system until 1958, ending his pro career as a player/manager at Waco, Beaumont and Lincoln. He went on to become a successful scout and coach for the Dodgers. 
  • 1967 - Eddie Feigner, headliner softball pitcher of the King and his Court, appeared in a charity softball game at Dodger Stadium and struck out six MLB players in a row, including Roberto Clemente, allegedly tossing a 114 MPH underhand heater. 
  • 1972 - C Josh Gibson and OF Walter “Buck” Leonard were selected for the Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues. Gibson, the “Black Babe Ruth,” played for the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. His statue is at Nationals Park, where the Grays often played, and Ammon Field in the Hill District was renamed after him. The Grays’ Leonard batted behind him and was called the “Black Lou Gehrig.” The “Thunder Twins” were inducted on August 7th. 

2007 Topps "Home Run History"series

  • 2013 - LHP Francisco Liriano was signed as a free agent. The Cisco Kid had agreed to a two-year contract worth $12.75M on December 21st, 2012, but broke his arm before the physical, voiding the deal. A new two-year agreement was reached with lots of incentives based on starts that would allow him, if he stayed healthy, to reach the original contract figures.Frankie came back May 11th, finishing 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and was the NL Comeback Player of the Year.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ralph Kiner

Ralph Kiner, one of Pittsburgh's most prolific long ballers, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. We thought we'd present his life and career to you in small slices of stats and anecdotes, which taken together add up to one heck of a ballplayer.

Ralph Kiner from Dugout Legends
  • Kiner was raised in California by his mother after his father passed away when he was four years old.
  • While still in high school, he hit a home run off Satchel Paige during a barnstorming tour according to the AP.
  •  Kiner spent from 1942-45 as a Navy pilot in the South Pacific after signing with the Bucs in 1940 for a $3,000 bonus.
  •  Ralph credited Hank Greenberg, who spent the 1949 season as a Pirate (Kiner's second MLB season), with teaching him the baseball ropes, like pulling the ball more and moving up in the box. Before Hammerin' Hank appeared in Pittsburgh, Kiner hit 23 homers with 109 K. In the seven following seasons, before he hurt his back, Kiner never hit fewer than 37 HR and never struck out 100 times in a season again during his career. In fact, only two RH hitters reached 35 HR in Forbes Field’s 52-year history, Frank Thomas (1958) and Dick Stuart (1961).
  • The Pirates shortened Forbes Field's left field fence by 30 feet when Greenberg arrived, and it was dubbed "Greenberg Gardens." The following year, after Hank left, the short porch became "Kiner's Korner." Alan Robinson of the Trib noted that Ralph Kiner hit 175 home runs at Forbes Field. The second most was 85 by Roberto Clemente.
  • Kiner hit 215 home runs in his first five seasons, 14 more than any other player in MLB history.
  • He played himself in the 1951 film "Angels in the Outfield." 
  • Ralph was the premier drawing card of the Bucs, perhaps of all-time. Fans would pack the left field stands in Kiner's Korner and then leave after his last at-bat in the eighth or ninth inning. Small wonder. From 1947-51, the Pirates drew a million+ in attendance four times and 980,000 the other year. They were the first million+ gates in club history.
  • On June 4, 1953, Kiner was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of a salary dump by GM Branch Rickey, who reportedly told Kiner "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."
  • Kiner played in six straight All-Star Games, homering in three consecutive AS contests.
  • He finished in the top seven in the MVP voting four consecutive years (1947-50), and the Sporting News named him Player of the Year in 1950.
  •  In the fifties, Kiner had a comic book dedicated to him (thx SB Nation
  • His average annual slash over 162 per games, per Baseball Reference, is .279/41/112 with a .398 OBP, .548 slugging %, 111 walks and 82 whiffs. Ralph's counting numbers were 369 home runs, 1,015 RBIs, 971 runs scored and seven straight seasons (1948-54) drawing at least 100 walks
  • He has the record for most consecutive seasons leading a league in HRs with seven from 1946-52 and was the only player in baseball history to lead the majors in home runs for six consecutive seasons (1947-52). Kiner still ranks sixth all-time with a home run every 14.1 at-bats. As he was alleged to have said: "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords."
  • The only Pirates to hit 40 or more homers in a season are Willie Stargell (1971, 1973) and  Kiner (1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, & 1951). Kiner pounded a franchise high 54 homers in 1949. He ranks second on the Pirates all-time home run list with 301 in seven years and some change, behind Pops' 475 dingers swatted over 21 seasons.
  • After baseball, Kiner spent 52 years as a Mets broadcaster. His show was called Kiner's Korner, and he once introduced himself this way: "Hello everybody, welcome to Kiner's Korner, I'm Ralph Korner." Other komic quotes include “If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be spinning in his grave”and “On Father’s Day, we again wish you all a Happy Birthday.”
  • Kiner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.
  • His #4 was retired by the Pirates in 1987, and in 2003 a statue of his hands grasping a bat was dedicated at PNC Park.

2/7: Joe Lonnett, Adrian Brown, Humberto Cota...

Joe Lonnett, Adrian Brown, Humberto Cota...

  • 1927 - Joe Lonnett was born in Beaver Falls. A long time bud of Chuck Tanner, he came to Pittsburgh with him from the AL and was a member of the Pirates staff from 1977-84, serving as the third base coach for the Bucs during the 1979 World Championship season. 
  • 1974 - OF Adrian Brown was born in McComb, Mississippi. A 48th round draft pick in 1992, he beat the odds by having a nine year MLB career, the first six (1997 - 2002) with the Pirates as a reserve. He hit .258 during his Pittsburgh stay. 
  • 1979 - C Humberto Cota was born in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico. Cota was the Pirate back-up catcher for his entire MLB career of seven seasons (2001-07) with a .233 lifetime BA after coming over from Tampa Bay as part of the Jose Guillen deal.. 

Bowman 2000 series

Thursday, February 6, 2014

2/6: Glenn Wright, Dale Long, Smokey, Richie Zisk, El Toro, Cutch, Jonathan Sanchez, Clint...

Glenn Wright, Dale Long, Smokey, Richie Zisk, El Toro, Cutch, Jonathan Sanchez, Clint...

  • 1901 - SS Glenn Wright was born in Archie, Missouri. He played five years (1924-28) for Pittsburgh, hitting .294, and was considered one of the league’s elite shortstops until a shoulder injury suffered in 1929. Wright was a member of the 1925 and 1927 World Series clubs, and was named a Sporting News All-Star in ‘25 while finishing fourth in the NL-MVP vote. 
  • 1926 - 1B Dale Long was born in Springfield, Missouri. Long played four seasons for the Pirates (1951, 1955-57), hitting 27 homers in 1956 and earning a spot on the All-Star team. He put his name in the record books that year by hitting eight home runs in eight consecutive games between May 19th and May 28th, still the MLB standard, tied but never topped. Long was one of the few lefties that caught (though not much) in the majors. The big guy had a choice of careers; he turned down a try-out with the Green Bay Packers to focus on baseball. 

 1955 Topps Series

  • 1927 - C Smokey Burgess was born in Caroleen, NC. He spent six years (1959-64) as Pirate platoon catcher, hitting .296 as a Buc and was a key part of the 1960 World Series club. 
  • 1949 - LF Richie Zisk was born in Brooklyn. A third round pick in the of the 1966 draft, he spent six seasons in Pittsburgh (1971-76), hitting .299 as a Buc before being traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of the Goose Gossage deal. 
  • 1987 - 3B Pedro Alvarez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. El Toro, who played at Vandy, was drafted in the first round (second overall) of the 2008 MLB draft. A last minute signing, complicated by some posturing by the FO and Scott Boras along with a suit filed by the MLBPA, was resolved and he joined the club, ultimately receiving a $6.4M bonus. He’s developed into a middling average, high strikeout middle-of-the-order boomer since his 2010 MLB debut, and tied for the NL lead in homers in 2013 with 36, also netting an All-Star berth. 
  • 2013 - Two-time All Star Andrew McCutchen was honored with the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year Award. He hit .327/.400/.533 with 31 home runs in a break out 2012 season. 
  • 2013 - The Pirates signed free agent LHP Jonathan Sanchez. He broke camp as the fifth starter, but was released on May 8th after posting an 0-3/11.85 line. 
  • 2014 - Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle was named as the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year. Hurdle joined Andrew McCutchen, Ralph Kiner, Danny Murtaugh, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Dave Parker as winners of the award. Cutch was the 2013 winner, and it was the first time Pirates had won back-to-back Dapper Dans since Parker in 1978 and Willie in 1979.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow and Ice and Notes...

And the wheel keeps on rollin'...though it might need chains today!
  • David Weirs of Fangraphs takes a look at the Bucco bullpen while Mike Pordhozer examines the starters. Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk ranks the rotation in the middle of the NL pack.
  • Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated told the 93.7 crew that the Pirates get an F grade for the off season. In a like vein, Jorge Ortiz of USA Today rates the Bucs among MLB's biggest losers during the Hot Stove days.
  • Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus has the Bucs Top Ten prospects.
  • Jim Callis of picked Jameson Taillon/Tyler Glasnow as the third best pitching combo in the minors. He adds that Jonathan Mayo believes they're the top duo. 
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects has completed his list of this year's Top 20 Pirate Prospects
  • Battling Bucs has a series on Pittsburgh All-Era teams, and opens with the pre-1900 picks.
  • Ex-Bucs: Kyle Farnsworth signed a minor league deal with a camp invite with the Mets. Joel Hanrahan is reportedly on the Mets radar, too. Brian Burres, after a year in Japan, is trying to get back to the show with a showcase outing. Matt Diaz hung 'em up.

2/5: The Tiger, Barney Dreyfuss, Ted Simmons, Steady Freddy...

The Tiger, Barney Dreyfuss, Ted Simmons, Steady Freddy...

  • 1928 - 3B Don Hoak was born in the Potter County town of Roulette. The Tiger played four years for the Pirates (1959-62), hitting .281 and was renowned for his scrappy play on the diamond, living up to his resume as an ex-boxer and Marine. After his playing days ended, Hoak was a Pirates' broadcaster for two years and managed a couple of seasons in the Pirate farm system. 
  • 1932 - Longtime owner Barney Dreyfuss died at 66, leaving Pirate ownership to his widow Florence and his son-in-law Bill Benswanger. 

 Barney Dreyfuss - 1910 Tip-Top Bread series

  • 1992 - The Pirates hired Ted Simmons as General Manager. He served in that position for only a year, retiring after suffering a heart attack in June 1993. 
  • 2008 - 2B Freddy Sanchez inked a two year, $11M contract with an option for $8M in 2010. He was traded at the 2009 deadline to the Giants for RHP Tim Alderson.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Position Battles In Camp...

The starting positions, save for first base and right field, are fairly set up going into camp.

Andrew McCutchen
Starling Marte
Jose Tabata
Travis Snider
Chris Dickerson
Jaff Decker

The first three players are in; the other three, with maybe Andrew Lambo added to the list, are fighting for a spot or two. Snider was tendered in arbitration and will get a last chance to make an impression; many liken him to late-blooming Brandon Moss. Dickerson can play all three outfield positions, but hasn't been able to handle LHP. Decker is a corner OF'er with an impressive minor league OBP, but with a pair of options is likely to start his Pirate career at Indy. Lambo comes into RF play if first base isn't addressed, and has all his options intact. Of course, they are all expected to be throne-warmers until the coronation of Gregory Polanco. But he may not burst on the scene as soon as expected. For all his hype, Polanco has just nine AAA plate appearances.

Russ Martin
Chris Stewart
Tony Sanchez

It seems like the Bucs are happy to begin the season with defensive stalwart Stewart as the back up, and giving Sanchez a regular gig at Indy.

First Base:
Gaby Sanchez
Andrew Lambo
Travis Ishikawa
Chris McGuiness

Gaby is the right side of the first base platoon; the other trio with jostle for the lefty half of the equation. Lambo had a breakout year in the minors, but no track record in the show. Ishikawa has some MLB time and a .260 BA, but his lifetime .737 OPS against RHP barely edges Garrett Jones .730 of last season. McGuiness is a glove guy with 10 games in the show, but has an advantage in that he's on the 40-man roster, which Ishikawa isn't. Matt Hague is still around if Pittsburgh needs a right handed stick The Bucs have waited out the market for a first baseman, and we still expect them to land one once Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz sign; that should shake a couple of 1B candidates free.

Second Base:
Neil Walker
Josh Harrison

The Pittsburgh Kid is it, but with injuries becoming more commonplace and his RH batting suspect, we'd expect to see him sitting a little more with Harrison and Jordy Mercer picking up the slack against southpaws. Robert Andino provides veteran back-up at Indy, along with multi-positional Mike Martinez and Chase d'Arnaud.

Jordy Mercer
Clint Barmes

Same as last year, and we wouldn't be surprised to see Barmes at least split time with Mercer. Blake Davis, along with Martinez and d'Arnaud, will be the depth.

Third Base:
Pedro Alvarez

What, you expected more? Harrison is his back up, but doesn't swing a Pedro-esque hammer, and that complete lack of anyone behind El Toro is the major reason this isn't more of a platoon position. Proof of the pudding - Russ Martin is third on the hot corner depth chart, behind Harrison.

2/4: Possum, the Great One, Bronson Arroyo...

Possum, the Great One, Bronson Arroyo...

  • 1890 - UT George “Possum” Whitted was born in Durham, North Carolina. Possum played in Pittsburgh from 1919-21, hitting .286 while manning first, third and left field. 

 Possum Whitted image from Wikipedia

  • 1962 - Roberto Clemente was given the Dapper Dan Man of the Year Award after hitting .351 in 1961 to claim the NL batting title, his first of four crowns. 
  • 2003 - The Red Sox claimed Bronson Arroyo off waivers from the Pirates. After three seasons and a 9-14/5.44 ERA for Pittsburgh, he’s quietly worked another decade in the show since then, winning 100+ games with a resume of an inning eater.

Monday, February 3, 2014

17 Pitchers for 12 Spots

Camp is fast approaching, and without any moves, this is how the pitching battles will shape up in February and March:

Francisco Liriano
Gerrit Cole
Charlie Morton
Wandy Rodriguez
Edison Volquez
Jeff Locke
Brandon Cumpton

Locke and Cumpton both have options remaining, which works against them. Wandy has to show that he's recovered from his arthritis, and Volquez that he can contribute, even if he is slotted into the fifth spot. If one of those two fail to make the opening day roster, look for Locke to slide in, so the Bucs have another lefty in the rotation. Jameson Taillon may get his opportunity to crack the lineup sometime this summer. The FO may also bring in a back-ender to add some depth, perhaps a guy like Chris Capuano. (We consider AJ out of the mix; but if he returns, he could calm the mid-rotation questions)

Swing Men:
Jeanmar Gomez
Stolmy Pimentel
Justin Wilson

Gomez and Pimentel are out of options, while the Bucs haven't shown any indication that they are planning to stretch out Wilson, a minor league starter, to compete for a starting role.

Jason Grilli
Mark Melancon
Tony Watson
Vin Mazzaro
Bryan Morris
Jared Hughes
Daniel Schlereth

Grilli, Melancon, Watson and the three swing men are pretty well set for the pen. Mazzaro and Morris are out of options in the battle for the last spot. Hughes has two options remaining, while Schlereth, a non-roster invitee, brings a decent MLB record as a LOOGY, something Clint Hurdle has never had in Pittsburgh, and so could join the mix. The Bucs also got back Duke Welker from the Twins. This is a deep position, and if the Pirates swing a deal for a first baseman in the next few weeks, a bullpen arm will likely be part of the package.

(Next up: the position battles)

2/3: A couple odd events; Billy Herman HOF...

A couple odd events; Billy Herman to the Hall...

  • 1901 - Pirate utilityman Tom O’Brien, who was born in Verona, died from “consumption” caused by drinking sea water. He was sailing to Cuba on a ball playing tour, got sea sick, and was allegedly advised by one of his tour teammates that the cure was to drink sea water. This was one time the cure proved worse than the disease. 
  •  1975 - The Special Veterans Committee selected 2B Billy Herman (Cubs, Dodgers, Braves and Pirates) for the Hall of Fame. He spent his final season in 1947 as a Bucco player/manager, getting into 15 games and hitting .213. Herman was inducted on August 18th. 

Billy Herman image from Joey Scoll's collection

  • 1982 - Minor league C Angel Rodriguez‚ who played for the Pirates' Alexandria club (Carolina League), was suspended from organized baseball for one year for telling opposing Latin American batters what pitches were coming. Rodriguez had been suspended by the Pirates after spilling the beans during an August 19th game against Lynchburg.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2/2: Honus, Burleigh, Schoolboy, Freddie Lindstrom, Ronny and Travis...

Honus, Burleigh, Schoolboy, Freddie Lindstrom, Ronny and Travis...

  • 1936 - Honus Wagner joined Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson in becoming the first players to enter the new Baseball Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony took place on June 12th, 1939 when the Hall officially opened. 
  • 1964 - P Burleigh Grimes was selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee and was inducted on July 27th. The 270 game winner began, ended, and played some during the middle of his career with the Pirates. Also chosen was OF Heinie Manush, who spent his last two seasons (1938-39) in Pittsburgh, getting 25 at-bats. 

The magazine cover says it all..."Burleigh Grimes, the Spitball King."

  • 1969 - RHP Waite "Schoolboy" Hoyt was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Special Veteran's Committee. He spent 4-1/2 of his 21 pro seasons in Pittsburgh between 1933-37, going 35-31, topped by a 15-5 record in 1934. He was inducted on July 28th. 
  • 1976 - The Special Veterans Committee selected OF Freddie Lindstrom to the Hall of Fame. He played two years for Pittsburgh, hitting .302 and driving in 147 runs. He was inducted on August 9th. 
  • 1983 - SS Ronny Cedeno was born in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. He manned the spot for Pittsburgh from 2009-11, hitting a streaky .254 but never showing any consistency in the field, flashing the good, the bad and the ugly with his leather. 
  • 1988 - Buc OF Travis Snider was born in Kirkland, Washington. Happy 26th B-Day!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

2/1: A quiet day - Rosey Rowswell, Cecilio Guante, Stolmy, Rube Waddell...

A quiet day - Rosey Rowswell, Cecilio Guante, Stolmy, Rube Waddell...

  • February 1, 1884 - Pirate announcer Rosey Rowswell was born in Alton, Illinois (although raised in Tarentum). In 1936, he joined KDKA as a Pirate broadcaster, and remained there until his death in 1955. His last on-air partner was Bob Prince from 1948-54, who called Rowswell his mentor. Rosey was an unabashed homer, and known for his home run call of “Open the window, Aunt Minnie, here she comes” followed by the sound of shattering glass. 

 Rosey Rowswell from Wikipedia

  • February 1, 1960 - P Cecilio Guante was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The righty was a bridge guy for Pittsburgh for five seasons (1982-86) and went 13-17-20/3.06 in that role before being traded to the Yankees as part of the Doug Drabek deal. 
  • February 1, 1990 - Happy B-Day to Stolmy Pimentel, who was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. He's 23 today.
  • While unrelated to the date, Dayn Perry of Eye on Baseball has a piece on one of baseballs truly eccentric figures, Rube Waddell, who pitched for the Pirates at the turn of the century.

Saturday Stuff...

Saturday stuff..

  • Vinny Gala of Rant Sports thinks the time may not be quite right to consider a platoon for Pedro at the hot corner, but thinks the Bucs should consider it seriously next season. 
  • Saber Bucs thinks by the numbers that another Jordy Mercer-Clint Barmes platoon is in the cards.
  • Matt Shetler of City of Champions thinks that when Kendrys Morales signs, it could shake free a first base candidate for the Pirates.
  • Teams are lining up for a run at AJ, per NBC's Hardball Talk.
  • Keith Law of ESPN released his Top Ten Pirate Prospects. It's behind a subscriber wall, but Tim Williams has the recap at Pirates Prospects
  • Clint Hurdle's Merritt Island high school field has been renamed for him.
  • Ex Bucs: James McDonald signed on with the Cubs on a minor league deal with an invite to camp.
  • Lance Berkman, who the Bucs were showing at least due diligence on early in the Hot Stove season, has retired