Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12/31: Clemente Crash, Bobby Byrne, Estaban Loaiza...

Clemente Crash, Bobby Byrne, Estaban Loaiza...
  • 1884 - 3B Bobby Byrne was born in St. Louis. The pint sized (5-7, 145) scrapper played five seasons for the Pirates (1909-13) and hit .277 with 97 stolen bases in Pittsburgh. He was acquired late in 1909 and helped the Bucs to their World Series title against the Tigers. A leadoff hitter, Bobby had 176 stolen bases in his career and walked more often than he whiffed. Byrne was a very good soccer player, making the All-St. Louis team as a youth and playing in the area until Barney Dreyfuss made him stick to one sport. 
Bobby Byrnes 1911 Gold Border T205 series
  • 1971 - RHP Esteban Loaiza was born in Tijuana. He began his 14 year career in Pittsburgh from 1995-98, where he showed maddening promise, but no consistency, going 27-28/4.61 over that span. He did put it together once, in 2003 for the White Sox, going 21-9/2.90 and earning his first of two All-Star berths. He was also considered for the Cy Young that year, finishing second behind Roy Halladay but ahead of Pedro Martínez and Tim Hudson. 
Esteban Loaiz 1996 Fleer Ultra series
  • 1972 - The day that baseball died: Roberto Clemente, 38, was killed when his plane, on a humanitarian trip to Managua, crashed in the Atlantic while on a rescue mission. Click for the NY Times story. Clemente had somewhat quietly spent much of his time during his off-seasons involved in charity work. When Managua was affected by a massive earthquake, he put together relief flights to aid in its recovery, and was aboard on the fourth trip he had personally organized, on an overloaded and mechanically cranky DC-7. Roberto thought the situation called for his presence, but it wasn't to be. The plane crashed into the ocean, and Clemente's body was never recovered. In fact, Manny Sanguillen missed Roberto's memorial service; he was diving in a search for the body. Posthumously, Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame, not only as the first Latino player, but the first to have the five-year wait waived. The Roberto Clemente Award was established to provide a charitable grant to the player who was the most committed to community service. His number was retired by the Pirates. So while he's gone, his legacy remains to this day.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

12/30: Jim Viox, Babe for Babe Trade...

Jim Viox, Babe for Babe Trade...
  • 1890 - IF Jim Viox was born in Lockland, Ohio. Viox played from 1912-16, starting at second base from 1913-15. His five year career was spent as a Bucco, and he put up a .272 lifetime BA. In 1913, Viox hit .317, setting a rookie record for batting average by a second basemen that wasn’t equalled until 2007 by Dusty Pedroia. The Buc infielder had a good eye, drawing 100 more walks during his career than strikeouts, and finished with a lifetime .361 OBP. He left during the purge of 1916, when the Bucs, in a downward spiral since 1912, made major changes to the roster (it didn't help - the Pirates weren’t a contending club again until the 1920s). Viox became a minor league player/manager, and was 21 year old Pie Traynor’s skipper at Portsmouth of the Class B Virginia League. 
Jim Viox at Hot Springs ARK 1915 Spring Training
  • 1943 - The Phillies traded 1B Babe Dahlgren to the Pirates for C Babe Phelps and cash. Dahlgren hit .271 with 176 RBI in his two year stay with the Bucs. “Well traveled” described Dahlgren to a tee as he played for eight teams in his 12 year career, and he was best known as the player who replaced Lou Gehrig in 1939. The deal was a win for Pittsburgh as Phelps, 34, never played again after the trade. He did log a solid career, though, being named to the NL All-Star Team from 1938-40 while his .367 batting average in 1936 for Brooklyn remains the highest for any catcher of the modern era. 
Babe Dahlgren via Baseball Birthdays

Monday, December 29, 2014

12/29: Clyde Barnhart, Emil Brown, Jack Wilson, Bucs In; Steelers Out...

Clyde Barnhart, Emil Brown, Jack Wilson, Bucs In; Steelers Out...
  • 1895 - OF Clyde "Pooch" Barnhart was born in Buck Valley, PA. He spent his entire career (1920-28) with the Pirates, starting as a third baseman and moving to the outfield. In 814 games, he hit .295, batting over .300 in five of his nine campaigns. Barnhart played on two World Series teams and hit .273 with nine RBI in 11 Fall Classic matches. Clyde played his college ball at Cumberland Valley State Normal School, now known as Shippensburg University. 
Clyde Barnhart 1921 photo from The Sporting News collection
  • 1974 - OF Emil Brown was born in Chicago. Brown started his career as a Pirate, playing in Pittsburgh from 1997-2001, but could never hit his way into the lineup, with a .205 BA as a Buc. Brown did breakout with the Royals from 2005-07 with a slash of .279/38/229, but after a so-so season with Oakland, he was released by the Mets in 2009 after just six PA. 
  • 1977 - Jack Wilson was born in Westlake Village, California. He played SS for the Bucs from 2001-09, hitting .269. He was named to the All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger in 2004. The slick fielder (he led MLB in PO, assists and DPs 2004-05) collected 201 hits that year, the franchise's first player since Dave Parker (1977) and the first Pirate shortstop since Honus Wagner (1908) to reach the 200-knock mark. After Pittsburgh, he played for Seattle and Atlanta, but a steady stream of nagging injuries led to his retirement after the 2012 season. 
Jack Wilson 2008 photo via LA Times (Matt York/Associated Press)
  • 2013 - The Steelers were eliminated from the post-season on this day. It was the first year since 1991 that the Pirates made the playoffs but the Steelers didn't. The streak began anew in 2014.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

12/28: The Hammer, Klu, Zane Smith & Charlie Hayes...

The Hammer, Klu, Zane Smith & Charlie Hayes...
  • 1949 - John Milner was born in Atlanta. “The Hammer” (he was a huge Henry Aaron fan growing up) was a platoon 1B/OF and pinch hitter for five years (1978-82) in Pittsburgh, hitting .263 with a .333 BA in the 1979 World Series. He had perhaps his best season during that championship year, hitting .276 with 16 HR and 60 RBI. His low point came during the coke trials, when he admitted to cocaine and amphetamine use. 
  • 1957 - The Pirates swapped first basemen with the Reds. Pittsburgh acquired Ted Kluszewski, known for wearing cut-off sleeves to show off his guns, and Cincinnati received seven year veteran Dee Fondy in return. Neither got much; Klu’s power days were behind him, and Fondy spent just one more season in MLB. Factoid: Klu’s last year was with the White Sox, and Bill Veeck introduced player names on the back of Chicago’s jerseys for the first time in MLB history. Kluszewski became the first player to appear in a game with his name misspelled (go figure), with a backwards "z" and an "x" instead of the second "k". 
Klu's misspelled jersey via Sports Illustrated (photos by Diamond Images/Getty Images)
  • 1960 - LHP Zane Smith was born in Madison, Wisconsin. Smith came to the Bucs in 1990 in the Moises Alou deal with Montreal. He pitched well down the stretch in ‘90 and won 16 games in ‘91. Zane tossed five years (1990-94, 1996) for the Buccos, with a 47-41/3.35 line. He almost made history in a clutch September match against the second place Mets, giving up a lead-off single to Keith Miller, then holding NY hitless afterward, and the Bucs won his complete game outing 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth to stretch their NL East lead to three games. 
Zane Smith via Sports Illustrated (photo by Ron Modra - Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
  • 1995 - IF Charlie Hayes was signed as a FA by the Bucs to a deal worth $1.75M and flipped at the deadline to the New York Yankees for a minor leaguer, P Chris Corn. Hayes had a good September run with the Bronx Bombers, made the playoff roster and earned himself a World Series ring.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

12/27: Jim Tobin Born, Don Hoak Hitched...

Jim Tobin Born, Don Hoak Hitched...
  • 1912 - RHP Jim Tobin was born in Oakland, California. Tobin spent his first three seasons (1937-39) as a Pirate, going 29-24 with a 3.71 ERA, before being traded to Boston, where he would spend the majority of his nine-year career. He was OK with a stick, too; Tobin pinch-hit over 100 times in his major league career with a batting line of .230/.303/.345 in the majors. He totaled 35 doubles, 17 homers and 102 RBI in 796 at-bats in the show. 
Jim Tobin 1939 Play Ball 9
  • 1961 - 3B Don Hoak married Avonmore’s Norma Jean Speranza, better known as pop singer and TV starlet Jill Corey, in a civil ceremony in Common Plea judge Frederick Weir’s chambers, with Mayor Joe Barr as a guest. The Tiger met the singer at a promotional event at Forbes Field and the pair exchanged vows 16 months later. Hoak died eight years later on the same day that Danny Murtaugh was named manager in 1969, a job the Tiger thought he deserved. His widow claimed that Hoak died of a broken heart because the Pirates had passed him over, although he suffered his fatal heart attack chasing after a relative’s stolen car.
Don Hoak & Jill Corey after the ceremony - Associated Press photo

Friday, December 26, 2014

12/26: Lee King, Mendoza Line, Six-For-One Deal, Jeff King, Hanny Trade...

Lee King, Mendoza Line, Six-For-One Deal, Jeff King, Hanny Trade...
  • 1892 - OF Lee King was born in Hundred, West Virginia, just across the PA state line. After being picked up from the Central League’s Wheeling Stogies, he played for Pittsburgh from 1916-18, with a .241 BA. King’s Bucco career ended when he enlisted during the war, and he returned in 1919 and had his contract purchased by the New York Giants. He played through 1922, mostly in NY, spent a few seasons in the minors and retired to his native West Virginia, where he would relive the old days with an occasional trip to watch the Pirates at Forbes Field. 
  • 1950 - IF Mario Mendoza was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. In five seasons (1974-78) with the Pirates, the infielder put up a .204 BA. About the Mendoza line: "My (Seattle Mariner) teammates Tom Paciorek and Bruce Bochte used it to make fun of me," Mendoza told Dave Seminara of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 2010. "Then they were giving George Brett a hard time because he had a slow start that year, so they told him, 'Hey, man, you're going to sink down below the Mendoza Line if you're not careful.' And then Brett mentioned it to Chris Berman from ESPN, and eventually it spread and became a part of the game." 
Mario Mendoza 1975 Topps series
  • 1953 - The Pirates sent 2B Danny O'Connell to the Milwaukee Braves for 3B Sid Gordon, P Max Surkont, OF Sam Jethroe, and minor league hurlers Curt Raydon, Fred Waters, and Larry LaSalle. The Braves threw in $100,000 to sweeten the deal. It was the only 6-for-1 deal in MLB history, outgunned only by Vida Blue’s 7-for-1 swap in 1978. 
  • 1964 - 3B Jeff King was born in Marion, Indiana. The first pick overall in the 1986 draft, King reached Pittsburgh in 1989 and spent the next eight seasons (1989-96), hitting .258 with 493 RBI during that span and was part of two division titlist teams in 1990 and 1992. King is one of three players, along with Willie McCovey and Andre Dawson, to hit two home runs in the same inning twice during his career. On August 8th, 1995, he hit two home runs in the second inning of the Pirates' 9-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. On April 30th, 1996, he repeated the feat in the fourth inning of the Pirates' 10-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Cinergy Field. 
Jeff King 1993 Stadium Club series
  • 2012 - RH closer Joel Hanrahan and IF Brock Holt were traded to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Stolmy Pimentel, IF Ivan De Jesus, RHP Mark Melancon and 1B/OF Jerry Sands. Hanny, 31, was the key player for Boston, with 76 saves in 2011-12 with Holt blossoming as a utility guy, while the Bucs got some prospects and an effective back end man in Melancon.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

12/25: Merry Christmas To You & Happy Birthday To Pud Galvin, Gene Lamont and Rick Renteria

 Merry Christmas!

And Happy Birthday To Pud Galvin, Gene Lamont and Rick Renteria...
  • 1856 - RHP James Galvin was born in St. Louis. The Hall of Famer was MLB’s first 300 game winner and may have had the most nicknames of any player ever, going by "Pud," "Gentle Jeems," “Gentleman James” and "The Little Steam Engine." He threw 6,003 IP and 646 complete games, both of which are second only to Cy Young. Pud tossed seven years (1885-89, ‘91-92) for the Pirates, with the 1890 campaign lost when he jumped to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the rogue Player’s League. He was 126-110 with an ERA of 3.10 during his Buc career. 
James "Pud" Galvin 1994 American Archives "Origins of Baseball" series
  • 1946 - Gene Lamont was born in Rockford, Illinois. After serving stints as Jim Leyland’s 3B coach, he took over the team reins in 1997. In his first year Lamont finished second with a young, inexperienced team (“The Freak Show”) that was widely predicted to finish last, and he was runner up behind Dusty Bake for the Manager of the Year. That was the highlight; after the 2000 season, Lamont was fired after compiling a record of 295–352 and replaced by Lloyd McClendon. 
Gene Lamont 2001 Topps series
  •  1961 - Rick Renteria was born in Harbor City, California. The Pirates selected him 20th in the 1980 draft, and he was rewarded with a cup of coffee with the team in 1986. He went on to play parts of four more seasons in the show before taking coaching jobs with the Marlins and Padres. His latest gig was a one-year stint as manager of the Cubs, but despite doing a generally fine job with a rebuilding team, he was shown the door when Joe Maddon became available. 
Rick Renteria

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas - Steamer Takes the First Crack at Pittsburgh's 2015 Player Projections

First, hohoho and we're hoping that jolly ol' elf will take good care of his Pirate faithful this Christmas. Now, to unwrap our group present a bit early...the 2015 Buccos.

Steamer has released its projections for the season. Here's its peek at the hitters.

No huge surprises. They expect Cutch to continue to kick butt (6.2 WAR) and for Neil Walker to continue his slugging. They project Starling Marte to continue strong, and have Josh regressing but still performing at a solid level both offensively and defensively. Pedro is pegged as, well, Pedro once again, with 26 HR, a .242 BA and 151 K.

They don't have Gregory Polanco as the everyday RF'ed; they give that honor to Travis Snider. We'll see how that works out. Steamer also projects Pedro Floriman to get the back-up middle infielder nod over Justin Sellers; both are predicted to nudge the .225 mark at the dish.

They also have the pitchers projections ready, too. Not much of a surprise there, either. They like the bullpen a lot, but don't see any ace-like performances from the rotation, with Frankie and Gerritt being more solid workmen than lights-out wizards. And they don't have a Bucco starter near the 200 IP mark, not even AJ. So the pen better be good.


Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12/23-24: The Goshen Schoolmaster, Pud, Frank Taveras, Fire at Forbes Field...

The Goshen Schoolmaster, Pud, Frank Taveras, Fire at Forbes Field...
  • December 23, 1871 - RHP Sam "The Goshen Schoolmaster" Leever was born in Goshen, Ohio. He was a Pirate mainstay on the hill from 1898-1910, compiling a record of 191-100 with a 2.47 ERA, spending his entire career with Pittsburgh. Leever won 20 games or more four times and led the league with seven shutouts in 1903. Sadly for Sam, he went 0-2 in the 1903 World Series, trying to pitch through a shoulder injury, and didn’t appear in the 1909 World Series.
Sam Leever 1910 Tip Top Bread series
  • December 23, 1968 - RHP Rick White was born in Springfield, Ohio. White, a 15th round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1990, began his 12-year MLB career as a Buc in 1994-95, and made another Steel City stop in 2005. He went 10-15-8 with a 4.03 ERA as a Pirate, who used him as a swingman. He was converted successfully full-time to the bullpen by Tampa Bay in 1998. 
Rick White 1994 Flair Wave of the Future series
  • December 24, 1949 - Frank Taveras was born in Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic. The SS spent eight years (1971-72, 1974-79) with the Pirates as a top-of-the order guy, swiping 206 bases with a streak of four seasons with 44+ steals, including an NL-leading 70 in 1977. But his bat (.253), OBP (.306) and not-so-steady glovework made him expendable and he was sent to the Mets in April of 1979 for Tim Foli, a dependable fielder and contact hitter that helped jell the World Series infield. Taveras played three seasons in NY, then spent his final year (1982) with Montreal. 
Frank Taveras 1979 Topps
  • December 24, 1970 - There was a fire in the right field stands of the vacated Forbes Field. The damage this blaze caused, followed by a July 1971 fire, hastened the old ballyard’s demolition. The Christmas Eve blaze became a five-alarm fire when Pitt security guards couldn’t find the keys to the center-field gate, delaying the firefighter’s entry to the ballpark. 
Forbes Field ablaze photo by Bill Levis/Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Have a merry, joyful and safe Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Jung-Ho Kang: Bucs Reach Into Korea

The winning bid on the Korean Baseball Organization's (KBO) Nexen Heroes SS Jung-Ho Kang was $5,002,015, as reported by the Yonhap News Agency over the weekend. And - here's the shocker - it was made by the Buccos, the first successful bid they've made for an Asian player in GW's memory.

Jung-Ho Kang via Fansided
Kang will have 30 days to negotiate a deal with the Pirates. If a contract isn't inked, he returns to Nexen and the Pirates get a refund. Jeeho Yoo of the Yonhap News tweeted that "...what (agent) Alan Nero is seeking for Kang (is) $20M for 4 yrs, or $16.5M for 3 yrs, or $12M for 2 yrs." Those aren't really outrageous terms for right handed power from a middle infielder, which is Kang's calling card.

The 27-year-old Kang hit .356/.459/.739 with 40 homers and 117 RBI over 501 PA while winning Korea's MVP award last season, and that's not a rabbit-in-the-hat slash; he's been beating up KBO pitchers for five years. The KBO is a hitter's paradise, akin somewhat to the Pacific Coast League but perhaps not quite so advanced, so those numbers won't be sustainable in the MLB. There are said to be a couple of holes in his swing, and he has a pronounced leg kick.

Scouts don't believe that his glove will play at short either, so he may end up at second or third base. He plays a passive infield on a turf field - he gets away with it more often than not because of a strong arm - and is a converted catcher.

Ben Badler of Baseball America offers this scouting report (behind a subscription wall, reported by CBS Sports) that says in part "scouts were skeptical of Kang's skill set translating into an everyday role in the majors. Kang ...has average raw power (he is 6', 180 lbs), with a chance for 15-20 home runs if he plays every day... He doesn't have the range to play shortstop in the majors, (but) there's enough potential at the plate for him to be an offensive-oriented utility player who starts his U.S. career in the majors."

Dan Szymborski of ESPN noted that "ZiPS has Kang at .230/.299/.389, 93 OPS+ in Pittsburgh, and his WAR depends on how the defense shakes out. If -5, it's 1.5 WAR in 498 PA." So he looks like more of a project than an everyday player, and that's fine.

The Pirates are set in the infield with Josh Harrison at third, Jordy Mercer at shortstop and Neil Walker at second, so the team likely plans to get Kang's feet wet as a utility infielder/bench bat, and the projections seem to agree with that initial notion. He's also an insurance policy, as Walker has had back issues and Harrison has to show that his 2014 performance wasn't fluky. We don't expect him to be a threat to Mercer; Kang's bat may be willing to give Jordy a run, but his leather won't pass muster.

A more interesting scenario is down the road a little way - if in a perfect world Walker is moved in the future to first, the Bucs most muddled spot, that would free the multi-positional Harrison to move to second and leave Kang at third, if he can stand up to MLB pitching. The FO may be looking at him more for 2016 than 2015, betting that his upside with the stick is attainable.

He seems more likely to bump Sean Rodriguez than anyone else on the roster right now. If that's the case, it leads to an interesting decision whether to carry Sean or one of the good-glove middle infielders like Justin Sellers or Pedro Florimon. There is also the possibility that Kang begins his Pirate career at Indy to acclimate himself not only to American ball but American life, culture and Sonic Drive Ins.

But that's jumping the gun a bit. We expect that the Bucs will get a deal done with Kang, and it will be telling to see if the contract's final form is more on Neal Huntington's terms or Alan Nero's. And it's a move that's being made for future team building rather than today. The Bucs are growing up.

There's not much in the way of success stories for Asian infielders (remember Aki?), much less one from the KBO. Kang would become just the second KBO player to join the big leagues, following the LA Dodgers Ryu Hyun-jin.  But the Pirates have a decent record of coaching up players, and they're betting they can coach up Kang to become an eventual everyday player.

12/22: Connie, Matty, Lee, Teke, Todd, Dewey & Garrett Jones...

Connie, Matty, Lee, Teke, Todd, Dewey & Garrett Jones...
  • 1862 - Cornelius “Connie” Mack was born in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Mack was a back up catcher for the Pirates from 1891-96, hitting a modest .242. Mack's last three seasons in the NL were as a player-manager with Pittsburgh from 1894 to 1896, eventually leading to a 50 year gig as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics (1901–1950), where he won five World Series and became a Hall-of-Fame skipper.
  • 1938 - CF Matty Alou was born in Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic. Obtained from the Giants for the 1966 season, he became a hitting machine under Harry “The Hat” Walker’s tutelage. In his time in Pittsburgh, he won a batting title and hit .300+ for four straight years. Mateo was traded to the Cards for the 1971 campaign after hitting .327 as a Pirate. Alou is part of the Dominican’s first family of baseball, joining his brothers Felipe and Jesus in the show.
Matty Alou via SABR
  • 1982 - OF Lee Mazzilli was traded by the New York Yankees to the Pirates for minor league players Don Aubin, John Holland, Jose Rivera and RHP Tim Burke. The key figures were Burke, who had an eight year career as a reliever with 100+ saves, and Mazzilli, who played 3-½ years (1982-85) for Pittsburgh, playing outfield and first base while putting up a .244 Bucco BA.
  • 1983 - Free agent RHP Kent Tekulve re-signed with the Pirates for three years/$900K per season. In 1983, Teke had 18 saves and a 1.64 ERA for Pittsburgh. The inking was a big deal for the Bucs; Telkulve had been a bullpen fixture since 1975 in Pittsburgh, and the Pirates had to fend off the deep pockets of California Angel owner Gene Autry to seal the deal. Teke picked a good year to hit the market; after the Yankee's Goose Gossage, he was the top reliever available.
Kent Tekulve undated Topps Gypsy Queen series
  • 1998 - RHP Todd Ritchie signed as a free agent with the Pirates. Ritchie won a career-high 15 games in 1999, and was the Pirates’ Opening Day starter in 2001. In his three Pirate seasons, he went 35-32/4.29 for the Bucs before he was dealt to the White Sox for Kip Wells, Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe after the 2001 campaign.
  • 2008 - C Ryan Doumit signed a three year, $11.5M extension that bought out his arbitration years, with a team option for 2012/13 worth $15.5M. Doumit hit .271 during his time as a Pirate, but he was often injured and not very strong defensively. The Pirates didn’t pick up the option seasons, and Dewey signed with Minnesota in 2012.
Ryan Doumit 2011 photo by Jared Wickersham/Getty Images
  • 2008 - The Bucs signed FA 1B/OF Garrett Jones to a minor-league deal. He was on the big club by mid-year and never looked back. He sprinted from the gates, becoming the first Buc to hit seven home runs in his first twelve games since Dino Restelli in 1949 and finished with flair when in 2013 he became the second player and first Pirate to hit a home run out of PNC Park and into the Allegheny River on the fly. The big lefty hit .256 with 100 HR/325 RBI in his five Pittsburgh seasons before signing with the Marlins in 2013.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pitching Staff Takes Shape For 2015

With the return of Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett, who was flipped for Eddie Volquez again, the Pirate rotation is shaping up for 2015. Gerrit Cole is healthy, Charlie Morton is hoped to be on schedule to start the year, and the group of Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, Stolmy Pimentel and Brandon Cumpton are looking for back-end spots.

Radhames Liz is a swingman who the Pirates will tinker with, as his stuff has always been better than his performance. The righty has the potential to become a starter, though he's probably slated for the pen this year. Clayton Richard is another reclamation project, and the southpaw will start at Indy while the Bucs try to rekindle his San Diego mojo.

Jamison Taillon and Nick Kingham will both begin the year at Indy, and for different reasons have iffy estimated times of arrival. Taillon is back after missing a year due to TJ surgery, and will knock off some rust with his innings monitored by the Pirates. Kingham has upside but not many upper level innings; he's worked 144 frames in AA and 88 at Indy. Still, he's been steady and could reach the show before Jamison, perhaps as soon as the All-Star break.

Tyler Glasnow, Adrian Sampson, Casey Sadler and Luis Heredia are the top group below Taillon and Kingham.

Some of that depth may come in handy in the early going. Morton is recovering from hip labrum surgery and Burnett from a sports hernia procedure. Both are said to be on track to open the season on time, but the key will be whether or not they can get their spring work in. Lack of Florida innings could delay one or both guys' return (AJ is the better bet to be ready at the bell), albeit for a short time. The Bucs will need a fifth starter three times in April, so their availability may impact the early form of the staff.

But the telling battle will be for the last spot; Cole, Liriano, Morton and Burnett are set in stone. The competition will have an organizational impact, as well - Worley, Locke, Pimentel, and Liz are out of options; Cumpton has one remaining. That should prove an interesting sidebar for the spring.

The pen is in good shape as far as the top guys go - Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Antonio Bastardo and Jared Hughes are set, with Bastardo a solid Plan B acquisition after Pat Neshek signed elsewhere. Big John Holdzkem had a nice 2014 debut; he also has all his options intact, which could be a factor in his April destination.

Will the Pirates try to carry, at least early on, the losers of the rotation wars? The FO also has LOOGY Bobby LaFromboise and Rob Scahill stashed on the 40-man roster, and a couple of interesting arms like Blake Wood and Brad Lincoln are part of the seven-man group of non-roster invitees. So that's where the fiercest competition should take place in the spring, among the crew of long and bridge pitchers.

One thing Neal Huntington did was quietly put his stamp of approval this year on the pitching depth and the organizational support behind it. There was no reclamation/bounce-back project on his shopping list this year, quite unlike seasons past.

Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy, Brandon Morrow, Jake Peavy and yes, even Eddie Volquez went by the boards without a gentle whiff of public interest shown by the Pirates. Some inked pretty nice contracts, and it could be that the rest of the league has caught on to the Pirates' milking of a market inefficiency. It could also be the Bucco organization is finally filling the pipeline, too.

Neal did put together his usual cattle call of relievers, more to build depth over a long season than to really challenge for a back-end spot. Bastardo replaced Justin Wilson, and Pirates probably could use one more seventh inning arm, especially with Bryan Morris and Jason Grilli gone. But that looks to be the only hole, and perhaps one that can be filled internally. Remember, Watson and Hughes were both converted starters, and they worked out without skipping a beat. Locke and Liz both potentially fit that mold.

This is as deep as Pirate pitching has been in the Nutting era. When AJ, even during his farewell tour year, is the #4 pitcher, you have a pretty solid staff on paper. One more late inning arm will fill the bullpen bill. Taillon and Kingham are on the rotation's horizon, and the pitching is in as good a place as it's been for quite a spell.

12/21: Josh, Bugs, Danny Kravitz, December Deals, AVS, John Hope, Steady Freddy & Frankie...

Josh, Bugs, Danny Kravitz, December Deals, AVS, John Hope, Steady Freddy & Frankie...
  • 1911 - Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia. Considered the top HR hitter (the “Babe Ruth”) of the Negro Leagues, he played for the Grays and Crawfords. Gibson was the second ballplayer, behind Satchel Paige, to be elected to the Hall of Fame because of their exceptional Negro League careers. 
  • 1920 - LHP Bill Werle was born in Oakland, California. Werle was known as “Bugs” because he was an amateur entomologist - a bug collector. He spent from 1949-1952 with the Bucs, going 29-39-15 and working everything from starts to closing. Bugs got into some hot water with the Bucco suits in 1952, coming in late one night, was fined, suspended, and traded soon thereafter. 
Bill "Bugs" Werle 1951 Topps Red Back series
  • 1930 - C Danny Kravitz was born in Lopez, near Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The reserve catcher played five years (1956-60) for Pittsburgh, hitting .236, but missed out on the ‘60 Series when he was traded in June to KC for Hank Foiles. His first homer was memorable: it happened on May 11, 1956 in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the Pirates trailing the Phillies 5-2, and his walk-off grand slam gave the Pirates a 6-5 win 
  • 1959 - Deals made and not made: After Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh rejected the A's offer to deal Roger Maris for SS Dick Groat earlier in the month, Pittsburgh obtained OF Gino Cimoli along with RHP Tom Cheney from the Cardinals for RHP Ron Kline. Maris, who was dealt to the Yankees, had the first of his two consecutive MVP years in New York, while Groat played a key role for the World Champion Bucs the next season and was named the NL MVP. 
Gino Cimoli 1960 Topps series
  • 1960 - OF Andy Van Slyke was born in Utica, NY. AVS played eight years (1987-94) for the Bucs, hitting .283, earning three All-Star spots while winning five Golden Gloves and two Silver Sluggers during his stay. He was a mainstay of the Jimmy Leyland teams of the early nineties after coming over from the Cards in the Tony Pena deal. 
  • 1970 - RHP John Hope was born in Fort Lauderdale. The high schooler was a second round draft pick in 1989, signing for an $85K bonus, but never panned out. He went through elbow and shoulder surgery, and in part of four seasons (1993-96) with the Pirates, the righty went 1-5 with a 5.99 ERA.
John Hope 1994 Fleer series
  • 1977 - 2B Freddy Sanchez was born in Hollywood. In six years (2004-09) as a Pirate, he hit .301, winning the batting crown in 2006 with a .344 BA and appearing in three All-Star games. It was a dark day in the City when fan favorite Steady Freddy was traded to the Giants, where injuries derailed his career. He hit .292 for the G-Men in the 2010 World Series season, but shoulder and back surgeries followed in 2011-12. 
  • 2012 - LHP Francisco Liriano reached an agreement to sign with the Bucs, pending his physical. He broke his right arm over the holidays, but he and and the Pirates worked out an alternate deal that was worth $7M over two years. The Cisco Kid won 16 games in 2013 and was the “Comeback Player of the Year.” After the 2014 season, he returned after testing the free agent market, inking a three year contract worth $39M.
Francisco Liriano - photo Justin Aller/Getty Images

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Is the Pirate Position Roster Set?

The last lingering question remaining in the construction of Pirates 2015 on-field roster was first base, but with the league's interest in Pedro seemingly non-existent and the signing of another lumbering bounce-back platoon guy, Corey Hart, it appears the Bucs have made their major moves for the upcoming season.

Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Neil Walker fill the remaining infield dance card. Sean Rodriguez is the Harrison handyman replacement on the bench, leaving just the Clint Barmes' middle infield back-up slot open. We don't think Rodriguez will be that player. In the past two seasons for Tampa Bay, he's logged 148 innings at second and just 37 at short with lots of time at the infield and outfield corners, quite comparable to Josh's tool kit as a bench option.

That leaves the pick-up gang of Justin Sellers, Pedro Florimon and Jake Elmore as the likely up-the-middle suspects. All are on the 40-man roster and have had big league stops. None would scare Mario Mendoza with the bat, but Sellers and Florimon both have shown some skills at short.

Gustavo Nunez (SS/2B) and Deibinson Romero (3B) are non-roster invitees with some tools, while home-grown infielders Alan Hansen and Gift Ngoepe both could start the season at Indy. JaCoby Jones made some noise in the lower levels last year, while 2014's top pick Cole Tucker is learning the ropes. Stetson Allie continues his conversion to first, and the Pirates may flip some guys (Andrew Lambo, Tony Sanchez, Josh Bell) to first to add some depth to the spot while reducing an organization logjam or two.

The outfield is set with Cutch, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco with Travis Snider as the fourth man. Corey Hart is penciled in as an outfielder, but with his surgically repaired knees, he's a stretch. The Pirates may call on Rodriguez/Harrison as a fifth outfielder if they opt for a middle infield glove on the bench, and that spells bad news for Andrew Lambo. He has an option left, and looks like he'll spend time honing first base at Indy as the Pirates have no long term answer there while the outfield is young and under team control for the foreseeable future.

Jaff Decker is still around, and he'll meet prospects Willy Garcia and Josh Bell as they work their way through the system. Austin Meadows and Mel Rojas Jr. are farm guys to watch, and glove man Gorkys Hernandez has returned to the fold on a minor-league deal.

The Pirates were proactive after Russ Martin left and grabbed Francisco Cervelli early in the game to catch. They'll be ginger with him, as he's proved to be a capable two-way catcher but with a history of injury. Chris Stewart will regress at the plate, but his defensive skill set and experience make him a comfortable fit as the second banana.

Tony Sanchez is the odd man out; he has an option remaining and some hot competition with Elias Diaz for the Indy catcher's job. The Bucs have flirted with spotting him at first, which says all you need to know about his future projection. Pick-up Sebastian Valle has had a hot winter league session while former top pick Reese McGuire is early in his apprenticeship.

Picking a roster the week before Christmas is as certain as hitting the Lotto; maybe Neil Huntington will discover a hidden AJ Preller gene and start dealing like a madman, or more likely, dumpster dive for another infielder. But if the season opened tomorrow, our guess at the 13 position players sitting in the dugout would be:

Infield: Pedro Alvarez, Josh Harrison, Corey Hart, Jordy Mercer, Sean Rodriguez, Justin Sellers & Neil Walker.
Outfield: Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco & Travis Snider.
Catcher: Francisco Cervelli & Chris Stewart.

(Tomorrow - Pitching Roster)


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

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

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

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

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

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