Sunday, January 31, 2016

1/31: Gentle Jeems, Three Others Go to HoF; Bonds, Suppan, Pettit Signings; Three HBD's

  • 1845 - IF Bob Ferguson was born in Brooklyn. In a 14 year career with eight teams, he closed out his playing days in 1884 with the Alleghenys, getting into 10 games and hitting .146. But he did leave a legacy; he was the first recognized switch hitter in baseball, and also had one of the all-time unforgettable nicknames, “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, because of his fielding prowess. He managed a couple of years after hanging up the spikes and then moved on to umpiring.
  • 1861 - Manager Al Buckenberger was born in Detroit. He managed the Pirates from 1892-94, coming in second in 1893 and posting an overall 187-144 slate while also serving as club president. He tried unsuccessfully to resurrect the old American Association, earning himself a brief league suspension during the 1894 off season.
Al Buckenberger 1914 Syracuse Herald
  • 1899 - LHP Don Songer was born in Walnut, Kansas. He tossed three of his four MLB years with the Bucs between 1925-27, going 7-9-3/3.55. Songer was part of two World Series teams, but never got to participate, being off the playoff roster in his rookie year of 1925, then traded to the Giants before the 1927 year ended.
  • 1919 - P Ken Gables was born in Walnut Grove, Missouri. He pitched for the 1945-47 Pirates, spending his entire brief career as a Bucco. Gables had a 13-11/4.69 slate before being traded to the PCL San Francisco Seals.
  • 1950 - The Pirates signed high school LHP Paul Pettit (“The Wizard of Whiff” pitched six prep no-hitters) for a record $100‚000 after buying his contract from film producer Fred Stephani‚ who had signed him to an exclusive contract as an athlete/actor. The lefty went 1-2/7.43 for the Pirates (1951, 1953) and retired in 1961 with arm problems that first surfaced a decade earlier.
  • 1952 - RF Paul “Big Poison” Waner was elected to the Hall of Fame and inducted on July 21st. In a 20 year career, he led the NL in hitting three times and put up a slash of .330/.404/.473.
  • 1965 - RHP Pud “Gentle Jeems” Galvin was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee and was the lone HOF selection that year. Galvin earned 20 victories ten times in 14 seasons. He tossed for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and Pirates from 1885-1892. Pud won 138 games and notched four 20+ win years for Pittsburgh. He was inducted on July 26th.
  • 1971 - The Hall of Fame Special Veterans Committee selected two Bucs from the early days to the Hall, 1B Jake Beckley and OF Joe Kelley. Beckley played for the Alleghenys, Burghers and Pirates from 1888-96, hitting .300. He banged a modest 43 HR, but legged out 113 triples in that span. Kelley got a cup of coffee with Pittsburgh in 1892, hitting just .239. The Pirates dumped him, and he went on to have a dozen consecutive .300+ seasons beginning the following year, playing mostly for the Baltimore Orioles. They were inducted on August 9th.
  • 1976 - The Special Veterans Committee selected C Al Lopez for the Hall of Fame. Lopez caught for Pittsburgh from 1940-46, hitting a modest .254. But he was best known for his glove and ability to handle a staff, and went on to manage the Indians and White Sox when his playing days ended. He was inducted on August 9th.
Al Lopez 1942 Play Ball
  • 1992 - The Pirates signed OF Barry Bonds to a one-year contract worth $4.7M‚ the largest one-year deal in baseball history at the time. Bonds won his second MVP trophy and the Bucs won their division, so it was money well spent.
  • 2003 - RHP Jeff Suppan was signed as a free agent to a $500K deal. After a breakout summer, he was flipped to the Red Sox at the deadline as part of the Freddy Sanchez/Mike Gonzalez deal. Steady Freddy was a Pirate All-Star while Gonzo eventually became the closer.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Notes: John Jaso; Fran; The Kid Signs w/Mets for $10.55M; Player Ratings & Moves

Seems like Fangraphs showed a lot of interest in the Buccos the past couple of days. Top 100 Prospect ratings blossomed to go along with the usual mix of Pirate tales.

  • Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review writes that Fran Cervelli is open to a contract extension. "Cervelli would consider foregoing the open market if the Pirates offered a three-year extension offer worth roughly $13 million per season, according to a source," per the article. The Bucs are deep at the spot: they already have Stew under club control for three years, with Elias Diaz knocking on the door and Reese McGuire's ETA 2018-19.  The price is about right for a 5-6 WAR performance over its duration, but the length is a big issue with the upcoming logjam.
  • Neil Weinberg of Fangraphs suggests an odd sort of late inning strategy for the Bucs involving Jaso/Morse, Fran & Stew.
  • John Jaso made Sport's on Earth Anthony Castrovince's list of the best under-the-radar deals this off season; four ex-Bucs were also included: Steve Pearce, Joe Blanton, Justin Wilson & pitching savant Jim Benedict. In a related article, Matthew Leach picked the Top 10 February signings of the past decade; Frankie Liriano was a biggie.
  • August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs calculated the value of MLB's expected 2016 platoon pairings. John Jaso and Michael Morse were one of the better offensive duos, but not so much for glovework. 
  • If you wondered what the national take on Pittsburgh's talent is, here's Fangraphs just completed ranking of players by position (click on the position to link).
  • Tony Watson's Iowa HS, the Dallas Center Grimes Mustangs, retired his jersey on Friday.
  • Scratch Doug Fister from the Pirate list of depth adds; he signed a deal with the Astros. It was for one year/$7M with $5M more on the table in incentives.
  • The Pirates have six of Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 Prospects - RHP Tyler Glasnow (#11), OF Austin Meadows (#22), 1B Josh Bell (#49), RHP Jameson Taillon (#51), C Reese McGuire (#76) and OF Harold Ramirez (#80).
  • MLB Pipeline picked five Pittsburgh pups in their Top 100 - Glasnow (#10), Meadows (#20), Bell (#49), Taillon (#54) and McGuire (#98).
  • Chris Mitchell of Fangraphs has six Bucco youngsters on his Top 100 List:  Glasnow (#13), 2B Alen Hanson (#22), SS Cole Tucker (#32), McGuire (#33), Meadows (#51) and Bell (#67).
  • Austin Meadows was ranked #4 on the MLB Pipeline prospect list for outfielders.
  • RHP Adrian Sampson has been invited to big league camp with the Mariners. He was the Bucco back-end rotation prospect who was traded to Seattle for JA Happ.
  • Neil Walker and the Mets settled his arb deal for $10.55M, pretty close to his projected going rate. He had requested $11.8M and was offered $9.4M by the Mets when figures were exchanged earlier.

1/30: Smoky, Kitten & Tiger Come to Town; Pokey, Maholm, Hinske Sign; HBD Scat; Highpockets to HoF

  • 1947 - Pinch runner Matt (“The Scat”) Alexander was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He spent the last four years of his career (1978-81) with the Pirates, and though he only got 27 at-bats during that time, he stole 30 bases (out of 37 tries) and scored 36 runs. During his nine year MLB career, he was in the field for just 138 games, while pinch-running 271 times.
Matt The Scat - 1981 Topps
  • 1959 - C Smoky Burgess (he was born in the Smoky Mountains region), LHP Harvey Haddix and 3B Don Hoak went from the Reds to the Pirates in exchange for RHP Whammy Douglas (his moniker came from his American Legion days; he said “I was striking everyone out, so they just started calling me ‘Whammy’”) , OF Jim Pendleton, OF John Powers and 3B Frank Thomas, providing three major pieces of the 1960 championship club. Slugger Thomas, the key figure in the deal, was the last to know - he was touring military bases in Germany when the deal was made, and the press had to get trade reaction quotes from his wife Dolores.
  • 1973 - The Veteran’s Committee selected 1B George “Highpockets” Kelly to the Hall of Fame. Kelly spent one season with the Pirates, more or less on loan from the NY Giants, to replace an injured Honus Wagner in 1917 (he was playing first in the twilight of his career). Highpockets was a slick fielder who played 16 MLB season with a .297 BA. He was inducted on August 6th. He got his nickname (he was also called Long George) because of his 6’4” frame.
  • 2002 - The Pirates signed FA 2B Pokey Reese to a two year, $4.25M contract with a 2004 club option. Pittsburgh was the fourth team for Reese since the end of the 2001 season. He finished the year with Cincinnati, and then was traded to the Colorado Rockies and the Boston Red Sox in a span of three days in December. Boston didn’t offer him a deal, making him a free agent. Pokey stuck with the Bucs for both seasons, although he lost all but 37 games to injury in 2003. His nickname dates back to his infancy. Reese was born chubby and also had a hernia (it wasn’t repaired until he was six) that caused his navel to poke out, so his grandma called young Calvin "Pokey."
Pokey Reese 2002 (photo Associated Press)
  • 2009 - The Pirates avoided arbitration by signing former first round pick LHP Paul Maholm to a three year, $14.5M contract, which included a team option for 2012. He was released after the 2011 season, playing for three different teams since. The lefty reinvented himself in 2014, switching to a bullpen role, but a late-year torn ACL (and 4.84 ERA) made that his last MLB campaign.
  • 2009 - OF/UT Eric Hinske signed a one year, $1.5M FA contract with Pittsburgh. Hinske was shipped to the NY Yankees before the deadline, hitting .255 with one HR for the Bucs. He retired after the 2013 season, having played 12 years for seven teams.

Friday, January 29, 2016

1/29: Big Day For Birthdays, Trades, Signings, & HoF Selections...

  • 1848 - Harmar Denny McKnight, son of local politico Robert McKnight, was born on Western Avenue in Allegheny City. He founded the Allegheny Baseball Club of Pittsburgh on October 15, 1881, making him the father of the Pirates. McKnight was the first president of the American Association and also managed the club during the 1884 season. The Alleghenys bolted to the NL in 1887 after a flap over signing Sam Barkley, after which McKnight sold the club to William Nimick.
  • 1932 - P Billy Swift was traded by Kansas City Blues of the American Association to the Pirates for P Bob Osborn and C Eddie Phillips. It was a good deal: Osborne never pitched in the majors again and Phillips played for three more seasons while Swift worked eight years for the Bucs and notched 91 wins. Swift was a pitch-to-contact guy; he walked few (1.9/9 innings), struck out almost no one (3.4/9 innings) and still put up a 3.57 ERA in Pittsburgh.
Bill Swift 1939 Play Ball
  • 1936 - Honus Wagner, along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson, was selected by the BBWAA to become the first Hall of Fame class. They had to wait until July 12th, 1939, for the enshrinement, though, until the museum in Cooperstown was opened and the first four HoF classes were inducted en masse.
  • 1949 - The Pirates purchased RHP Murry “Dick” Dickson from the Cardinals for $125,000. During his five-year stay in Pittsburgh, he went 66-85 with a 3.83 ERA and had a 20-win season in 1951; the Pirates won only 64 games that year. Dickson was a soft thrower with a variety of pitches and a rubber arm. Beginning in 1947, when he turned 31, he worked more than 200 innings in each of the next ten seasons.
  • 1961 - OF Max Carey was voted into the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee and inducted on July 24th. In 17 seasons with Pittsburgh, he collected 2,400+ hits, batted .287 and stole 688 bases. Carey joined the Bucs planning to become Pittsburgh’s everyday shortstop, but thanks to Honus Wagner, Max spent the entirety of his long Pirate career as an outfielder.
Maz Carey 1912 Recruit Cigars
  • 1967 - GM Branch Rickey and OF Lloyd Waner were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a unanimous vote of the Special Veterans Committee and were inducted on July 24th. Rickey was GM from 1950-55; his teams were terrible but he began the process of building a farm system that paid dividends in 1960. “Little Poison” spent 17 years with the Pirates, mainly in CF, and batted .319 during that time.
  • 1971 - The Pirates traded OF Matty Alou and P George Brunet to the Cardinals for OF Vic Davalillo and RHP Nellie Briles. Davalillo spent 2-½ years in Pittsburgh as a role player, hitting .290. Briles spent three full seasons as a Bucco, winning 36 games with a 2.98 ERA.
  • 1973 - RHP Jason Schmidt was born in Lewiston, Idaho. He was drafted by Atlanta and came to the Pirates in 1996 as part of the Denny Neagle deal. In 5-1/2 seasons with Pittsburgh, he went 44-47/4.39 before being traded to San Francisco, where he had three All-Star campaigns.
Jason Schmidt 1997 Fleer Ultra
  • 2004 - The Bucs signed RHP Jose Mesa, 37, to a minor-league deal after a dismal season in Philly. The vet rediscovered his mojo and became the Buc closer, saving 43 games in 2004 and 27 in 2005 before leaving for Colorado as a FA. He saved 321 games over a 19 year big-league career.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

1/28: HBD Emil, Spittin' Bill, Alf, Chris; Lunchbox Trade; Deacon, Kiki to Hall; Cobra Sportsman of the Year

  • 1900 - LHP Emil Yde was born in Great Lakes, Illinois. As a rookie in 1924, Yde led the NL in shutouts with four, in winning percentage (.842) with a record of 16–3 and he was a member of the Pirates 1925 World Series championship team, going 17-9 during the season. His career was brief; he pitched four years for the Pirates with a 44-22/3.84 line before the bottom fell out in 1927 (1-3/9.71). He spent 1928 in the minors and was out of MLB after a stint with the Tigers in 1929.
  • 1908 - P “Spittin’ Bill” (guess what his bread and butter pitch was) Doak was born in Pittsburgh. Even though he never pitched for the hometown nine, the Bucs and MLB can thank him for an innovation still in use, the first modern glove. He proposed to Rawlings that a web should be placed between the first finger and thumb to create a natural pocket, and his model was introduced when he pitched against the Pirates in 1920. The Bill Doak glove soon replaced all other mitts and is still considered a classic design.
  • 1914 - SS Alf Anderson was born in Gainesville, Georgia, where he was an all-state HS baseball player and a two-sport (baseball/football) athlete for the Georgia Bulldogs. He saw some action in 1941-42 for the Bucs, but lost the next three years to wartime service. He returned for a cup of coffee in 1946, but that was it; he retired after the season. Alf hit .238 as a Bucco. After baseball, Anderson worked for Jefferson Mills HS in Georgia as athletic director and baseball coach. He was inducted in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Alf Anderson 1941 (MEARS/Sporting News Collection)
  • 1962 - Local boy Bill “Deacon” (he was a quiet soul who even sang in his church choir) McKechnie was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee. He was inducted on July 22nd. The Wilkinsburg native played for and managed the Pirates, winning the 1925 World Series. McKechnie was the first manager to win World Series titles with two different teams (1925 Pirates and the 1940 Cincinnati Reds; he’s one of 15 to pull off that feat), and is one of only two managers (Dick Williams is the other) to win pennants with three teams, also capturing the NL title in 1928 with the St. Louis Cardinals. 
  • 1968 - OF Kiki Cuyler was elected into the Hall of Fame by a unanimous vote of the Special Veterans Committee, and was inducted on July 22nd. Kiki spent his first seven MLB seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .336. Cuyler was traded for the equivalent of a bag of baseballs by the Bucs when he bumped heads with management over a new contract and then with new manager Donie Bush when he didn’t slide into second to break up a DP. 
  • 1972 - LHP Chris Peters was born in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He graduated from Peters Township HS in McMurray, was drafted by the Pirates in 1993 and toiled five years (1996-2000) for the Bucs, going 17-21/4.57 as a long man/spot starter. His career was short circuited by shoulder surgery in 1999, and 2001 was his last season in MLB, with the Expos. Chrios still lives and works in the area, coached at Point Park for a spell and tosses BP for the Bucs at PNC.
Chris Peters 1999 Stadium Club
  • 1979 - Dave “The Cobra” Parker, a couple of days removed from signing his $5M contract, was feted as the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year at the Hilton ballroom. He was the first Pirate to take home the award since 1971 when Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Danny Murtaugh were named co-winners, breaking a football awardee streak of six seasons. The Cobra had a monster year, with a .334/30/117 slash despite breaking his jaw. Like many other Bucs, Parker was nicknamed “The Cobra” by Bob Prince who noted Parker was always poised to strike at the plate.
  • 2015 - Fourth outfielder Travis “Lunchbox Hero” (he was renown for his team cook-outs) Snider, a former first round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, was traded to Baltimore for a pair of minor league prospects, LHP Stephen Tarpley and a PTBNL (LHP Steven Brault); he returned later in the year for free, as the O’s released him in mid-August and the Bucs signed him a week later before releasing him in the off season. From 2012-15, Snider had a slash of .242/20/80 in 818 PAs for Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Notes: Frankie; Prospect Honors; Ex-Bucs; MLB & Clemente; Staff Moves

Yes, baby - 23 days until the Pirates start spring training!

Frankie (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • Dave Jauss was named officially as the Bucco bench coach, a position he held ex facto last season. Brad Fischer remains as a "major league coach." Geez, couldn't the FO could come up with a better title for ol' Brad? They also made a couple of administrative moves, the most noteworthy being Kevan Graves, formerly the director of baseball ops, now becoming an assistant GM.
  • Bronson Arroyo is still tossing, and apparently the Bucs were looking although Arroyo ended up signing a minor league deal w/invite to camp sweetened with MLB incentive $ with Washington.
  • MLB Pipeline chose Josh Bell as baseball's #2 1B prospect. Reese McGuire and Elias Diaz rank #4 and #6 in the catcher rankings. Ke'Bryan Hayes rates #5 among 3B while 2B Alen Hanson checks in at #6 for his position..
  • SS Gift Ngoepe will play for South Africa in this year's World Baseball Classic. His club's qualifier is slated for February 11-14th in Sydney. The winner of that pool will play in the March 2017 WBC.
  • Speaking of Gift, the Pirates signed his 18 year old brother Victor, a SS who played in the 2015 U18 World Cup for South Africa.
  • Zain Pyarelli of Baseball Essentials looks at some potential AL landing spots for the yet unsigned Pedro Alvarez.
  • Bobby LaFromboise was DFA'ed by the Angels, which had claimed him earlier in the off season. But vanquish thoughts of a reunion; the Phils claimed him.
  • Jaff Decker signed a MiLB deal with Tampa Bay.
  • Gaby Sanchez, 32, after a year in Japan (he hit .226 there), has signed a MiLB w/camp invite deal with the Seattle Mariners.
  • Buster Olney of ESPN thinks MLB should retire Roberto Clemente's number "for all teams and for all time."

1/27: HBD Otis Clymer; Maz Statue; St. Marys' Joe Returns

  • 1876 - OF Otis Clymer was born in Pine Grove (Schuylkill County) Pennsylvania. Clymer started his career in Pittsburgh, playing from 1905-07, when the often injured OF’er was traded to Washington after hitting .285 during his Pirate days. He was a feisty guy, once getting into a fight with Reds 1B Cliff Blankenship during a 2-1 win at Expo Park in 1905. It started when Clymer spiked Blankenship as a payback for an event a few days prior when the Reds infielder ran into Honus Wagner. Blankenship won the fight but not the war as he was pelted with bottles (and even a knife was tossed from the stands) by heated Bucco fans after the pair were ejected, per The Baseball Library. A more memorable moment career highlight came in 1908 when Otis hit for the cycle while a Cub.
  • 2010 - Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette leaked the news that the Bucs were going to build a Maz statue, confirmed by the team two days later during the Fan Fest. Maz joined Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, and former teammate Roberto Clemente as Bucco greats honored with a statue outside of PNC Park. The 12-foot bronze, designed by local sculptor Susan Wagner, showed the Hall of Fame infielder rounding second base after his legendary homer, and was dedicated in September during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Pirates 1960 World Championship season.
Maz Statue (photo by Scott Shetler)
  • 2011 - St. Marys (it's in Elk county) native Joe Beimel signed a minor league deal with the Bucs, reuniting him with both the Pirates and his former manager, Clint Hurdle. The lefty reliever started the year on the DL with forearm stiffness, pitched six weeks to a 5.33 ERA, went back on the DL and was DFA’ed in August. He had TJ surgery in 2012, and returned as a Mariner in 2014-15.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

1/26: Ad Gumbert Deal; The Cobra Strikes It Rich; HBD Josh Sharpless

  • 1895 - RHP Addison “Ad” Gumbert was traded to the Brooklyn Grooms for C Tom Kinslow. Ad, only 26, had gone 26-21 for the Bucs in 1893-94 and Kinslow was a back-up catcher. Neither team got much use out of the deal as both retired after the 1896 season. Ad was a local boy, and was elected County Sheriff in 1906 & County Commissioner in 1915. He headed a variety of benevolent efforts - in fact, Pittsburgh Mayor William Magee once appointed him an Assistant Director of Charities - and belonged to many service groups, including the Masons, Shriners and Odd Fellows. Ad is buried in Homewood Cemetery.
  • 1979 - Dave Parker of the Pirates became the first $1M per year player in sports when he signed a five-year, $5M contract after winning consecutive batting crowns and being named MVP. He didn’t get to enjoy it long - he had three straight All-Star seasons, but missed half of the 1981 and 1982 campaigns with injuries before having a full-time but poor, by his standards, 1983. Fans behaved even more poorly when they tossed batteries, nuts, bolts, cups and other assorted trash at him in the field. He signed with Cincinnati when the deal expired. As Lennon and McCartney so aptly noted, “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.” 
The Cobra strikes a deal. (photo: Robert Pavuchak Post Gazette)
  • 1981 - RHP Josh Sharpless was born in Beaver. Josh went to Freedom Area HS and was drafted in the 24th round of the 2003 draft out of Allegheny College, where he still ranks in the top five in several career pitching categories. He blew through the Pirates minor league system in three years, even pitching in the Futures game, and tossed briefly for the Bucs, going 0-1 with a 4.41 ERA between 2006-07 cups of coffee in the show. Sharpless still lives in the area and gives pitching lessons while helping coach the LaRoche College Redhawks nine.

Monday, January 25, 2016

1/25: Roberto's Payday; Joe & Hank Join HoF; HBD Gregg

  • 1956 - SS Joe Cronin and OF Hank Greenberg were elected to the Hall of Fame. Both were considered to be among the top RH hitters of their era and had brief stops in Pittsburgh. Cronin started as a Pirate in 1926-27 and played sparingly before breaking out for Washington and Boston, while Greenberg spent 1947, his last MLB season, as a Bucco, hitting 25 HR and served as a mentor to up-and-coming slugger Ralph Kiner. They were inducted on July 23rd.
Hank Greenberg & Joe Cronin 1956 HoF (photo via Sports Treasures)
  • 1964 - Former Pirate coach Gregg Ritchie was born in Washington DC. Ritchie played in the Giant system, reaching AAA, and then went on to coach in the White Sox organization for a decade before joining Pittsburgh. In 2006, Ritchie became the Bucs roving minor league hitting coordinator and later the hitting coach for the big club during the 2011-12 seasons. He left to take the George Washington University’s baseball manager job.
  • 1967 - Roberto Clemente signed a $100,000 contract, then the highest in Pirate history. The Great One’s payday topped Ralph Kiner’s $90,000 deal of 1952. He joined the MLB elite of players with a six-figure deal. The others on the short list at the time were Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson.
Roberto & Joe Brown after inking $100K deal (photo - Associated Press)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

1/24: HBD Ugly Johnny, Stu & Tim

  • 1906 - IF William “Stu” (for Stewart) Clarke was born in San Francisco. He spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, albeit one that lasted just from 1929-30. The back-up infielder hit fairly well, putting up a .273 BA over his 61 big league games, but finished out his time in the bushes, where he compiled a lifetime .238 average before retiring after the 1933 season.
  • 1910 - OF “Ugly Johnny” (he gave himself the moniker as the self-proclaimed “ugliest man in baseball”) Dickshot, whose given name was John Oscar Dicksus, was born in Waukegan, Illinois. He played for the Bucs from 1936-38. Ugly was a feared hitter in the minors, putting up a .318 BA in 14 seasons, but was just a .250 batter with Pittsburgh, although his career MLB average was .276 after six seasons. When he retired after the 1945 campaign, he opened a bar in his hometown. John Ducey, an actor who appears quite often in TV sitcoms, is his grandson.
Johnny Dickshot via Ducey.com
  • 1954 - RHP Tim Jones was born in Sacramento. He only tossed three games in his MLB career, all as a September call up of the Bucs in 1977, but at least he left the league on a high note. After a pair of mop-up details, Chuck Tanner let the 1972 fourth-round pick start on the last day of the season. Jones tossed seven shutout innings against the Cubs, surrendering just four hits, to win his one and only MLB start and finishing his cup of coffee with a 1-0/0.00 slash in 10 IP.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

1/23: Billy for Rabbit Deal; Kiner Gets the Call; HBD Kurt & Benny

  • 1921 - SS Rabbit Maranville was traded to the Bucs by the Boston Braves for IF Walter Barbare, OF Fred Nicholson, OF Billy Southworth and $15,000. Billy and Rabbit were the keys to the deal. Hall of Famer Maranville played four seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .283. Southworth played another eight seasons and entered the Hall of Fame with a career slash of .297/52/561 and a stellar coaching record, winning four league titles and a pair of World Series.
Rabbit Maranville 1924 Conlon Collection/The Sporting News
  • 1947 - IF Kurt Bevacqua was born in Miami Beach. The Bucs called on him twice, in 1974 and then again from 1980-81 despite him hitting just .171 in a Pirate uniform. But he was a popular bench guy, especially in San Diego. He spent 15 years in MLB (six with SD) and hit 2 homers in the Padres’ World Series win against the Detroit Tigers in 1984.
  • 1962 - 1B/OF Benny Distefano was born in Brooklyn. He played for the Bucs in 1984, 1986, and 1988-89, hitting .227 in 300 PA. Distefano was the last lefty to catch a major league game, going behind the dish three times for the Pirates in 1989.
Benny Distefano 1987 Topps
  • 1975 - OF Ralph Kiner was elected to the Hall of Fame and was inducted on August 18th. Kiner played only 10 years in MLB, but led the NL in home runs for seven consecutive seasons. He received 273 votes on the 362 ballots cast by the writers, exactly enough to be selected. There are a pair of often cited quotes that follow Kiner. One, attributed to Kiner himself was "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords." The other was a quote by Bucco GM Branch Rickey when he told Kiner that he had traded him to the Cubs: "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."

Friday, January 22, 2016

1/22: HBD Huck, Diomedes & Jimmy

  • 1917 - SS Eugene “Huck” Geary was born in Buffalo. His MLB career was spent as a Pirate reserve from 1942-43, as Huck could only muster a .160 BA in 55 games. A takeout slide may have had more to do with his short career than his stick, though. The Cubs’ Eddie Stanky made a hard slide at second and cut Geary down, breaking his leg. There was some doubt that Geary would ever play again, and that was the last season that he spent in the majors. Mike Buczkowski, Huck’s grandson & minor league executive, says Geary got his nickname as a kid because of his Huck Finn-like habit of hanging his glove from a bat propped on his shoulder as he walked to the Buffalo ball fields.
Huck Geary 1943 photo Pittsburgh Post Gazette
  • 1919 - LHP Diomedes Olivo was born in Guayubin, Dominican Republic. He was the second oldest rookie to pitch MLB when in 1960 he got a September call-up at age 41 after being plucked from the Mexican League (although many questioned his age, believing he was older). He spent the following season in AAA, then all of 1962 in Pittsburgh, going 5-1-7/2.78 in his 66 big league games with Pittsburgh. He was traded to St. Louis in 1963.
Diomedes Olivo 1960 TCMA
  • 1976 - LHP Jimmy Anderson was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. After being drafted in the ninth round of the 1994 draft, he pitched the first four years (1999-2002) of his six-season career in Pittsburgh, going 24-42 with a 5.17 ERA. He retired in 2006.
Jimmy Anderson 2002 Topps

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Notes: Looking for Lefties; Stew's Deal Finalized; Schugel Claimed, Medina DFA'ed; Bastardo, Blanton Gone; Ex Buc News

This week's notebook:

  • The Pirates claimed RHP AJ Schugel, 26, from Seattle, who had claimed him from Arizona last month.  He pitched relief in his short and largely ineffective (5.00 ERA/0IP) MLB cup of coffee last season, although he's worked mostly as a starter in the minors. He has two options left and is a depth move, featuring a sinker that induces grounders. RHP Yoervis Medina was DFA'ed to clear a roster space.
  • C Chris Stewart's two year deal was made official by the Pirates on Tuesday. The terms were reported to be $3M guaranteed: $1.35M this year, $1.4M in 2017, and a $250K buyout/$1.5M club option for 2018 (numbers confirmed by other sources).
  • The Mets signed LHP Antonio Bastardo to a reported 2 year/$12M deal; the Bucs were said to had offered two years/$8M, which was just an extension of his $4M 2015 salary. Even depth lefty Bobby LaFromboise was lost to the LA Angels, so Tony Watson (maybe Kyle Lobstein, too) are the only bullpen southpaws now on the 40-man roster, with Robert Zarate and Jim Fuller NRI. There are some lefties remaining on the market: Neal Cotts, Craig Breslow and Sean Marshall among others are still unsigned.
  • The Dodgers reached agreement w/RHP Joe Blanton, signing him for a one-year/$4M.
  • Jim Callis of MLB.com has ranked the Top Ten MiLB righties; Tyler Glasnow has moved up a spot to take second place. 
  • Alex Craft of MLB.com has a Q&A piece with Jameson Taillon.
  • Director of player personnel Tyrone Brooks has taken a post with the MLB commissioner's office to head up diversity outreach; another admin guy lost.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays agree to terms with 1B Steve Pearce on a one year deal, salary not yet disclosed.
  • You can go home again: LHP Wandy Rodrigiez signed a MiLB deal with the Houston Astros.
  • RHP Kyle McPherson, 28, who before injuries (he had TJ surgery in 2013) was considered a solid MLB prospect, landed a MiLB deal/camp invite with Tampa Bay. He earned the Pirate Minor League Pitcher of the year in 2011 and worked 10 games for Pittsburgh in 2012 (0-2/2.73).  
  • RHP Brooks Pounders was re-signed to a MiLB deal  with an invite to camp by the Royals. A second round draft pick out of HS by the Bucs in 2009, he was traded  to KC for infielder Yamaico Navarro two years later. Fun fact: his dad wanted to name him Brooks Robinson Pounders, but his mom put her foot down and only conceded part way. He ended up being Brooks Casey.
  • LHP Zack Dodson, 25, has received a 100-game suspension without pay after a third positive test for a drug of abuse. The fourth round pick in 2009 as a high school hurler didn't advance past Altoona for Pittsburgh; he's in the Oriole system now.
  • Ben Fredericksen of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes that the Cards aren't overlooking the Bucs.
  • Bob Nightengale of USA Today ties the Bucs (and most small revenue teams') competitive future to the new CBA & revenue sharing.
  • Pete Rose will have his #14 retired by the Reds this season and enter their team Hall of Fame.

1/21: HBD Jimmy & Danny; Bucs Sign Waite Hoyt, Octavio Dotel

  • 1895 - RHP Jimmy Zinn was born in Benton, Arkansas. Zinn worked three years for the Bucs (1920-22), with the last year being his only full season with the club. But he was a minor league legend. A fringe hurler in the majors, he tossed on different farm clubs for 25 years, collecting 279 wins and compiling a 3.49 ERA.
Jimmy Zinn 1920 (tnfoto Baseball Page)
  • 1927 - IF Danny O’Connell (1927) was born in Paterson, New Jersey. As a Buc rookie in 1950 he hit .292 and finished third in the NL ROY voting. He spent the next two years in the Army during the Korean War but came back strong for Pittsburgh in 1953, hitting .294. The Pirates traded him in the off season to the Milwaukee Braves in one of MLB’s biggest deals, netting six players and $100,000. O’Connell hit .279 for the Braves in ‘54, then never had an average above .266 during the rest of his career. But he was steady and finished with a lifetime BA of .260 average over ten years.
  • 1933 - Future Hall of Fame RHP Waite Hoyt was signed by the Pirates after being waived by the New York Giants. Working mostly out of the bullpen, he went 35-31/3.08 in his five year Bucco career before being sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937.
Waite Hoyt 1933 Goudey
  • 2010 - Free agent RHP Octavio Dotel agreed to a one year, $3.5M deal with the Bucs, the only team that offered the right-hander the opportunity to save games rather than be a set-up guy. The 36-year old reliever hadn't been a closer since 2007 with Kansas City, but thrived in the role, saving 21 games before being traded at the deadline to the Dodgers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

1/20: Josh Passes Away; HBD Giles & Taylor; LaRoche & Carrasco Inked

  • 1947 - Homestead Gray and Pittsburgh Crawfords C Josh Gibson, the “black Babe Ruth,” died of a stroke at the age of 35. The future Hall of Fame catcher was put to rest in an unmarked grave in Allegheny Cemetery. In 1975, Negro League teammate Ted Page and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn paid for a granite marker that read: "Josh Gibson, 1911-1947, Legendary Baseball Player."
Josh's marker via Baseball Think Factory
  • 1944 - UT Carl Taylor was born in Sarasota, Florida. He caught, played first and pinch hit for the Bucs in 1968-69, and again in September of 1971 for their pennant drive. His best season far and away was 1969, when he hit .348/4/33 in just 221 at-bats.
  • 2009 - 1B Adam LaRoche signed a one-year, $7.05M contract and avoided arbitration. He lasted until July 22, when he was shipped to Boston for RHP Hunter Strickland and SS Argenis Diaz.
  • 2010 - RHP DJ Carrasco was signed to a one year, $950K contract. The reliever stuck around (2-2, 3.88) until the deadline, and was packaged as part of a deal with Arizona. His last MLB gig was in 2012 with the NY Mets. Carrasco was a part of the Pirate organization way back in 2002, before KC took him in that year’s Rule 5 draft from Pittsburgh’s High A Carolina League club, Lynchburg.
DJ Carrasco (photo: Getty Images)
  • 1971 - RF Brian Giles was born in El Cajon, California. In five years with Pittsburgh, he put up a line of .308/.426/.591 with 165 HR/506 RBI and three All-Star berths. He retired in 2010 after a couple of rough seasons with San Diego while trying to play through an arthritic knee.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Notes: Still Shopping? The Kid Goes to Arb; Expanded Rosters; Ex-Buccos in the News

Notes from a long weekend:

  • John Perrotto in Knuckleball says the Pirates are hoping for a drop in price for Matt Latos, Cliff Lee and/or Mike Minor as they look to add to the rotational depth. You can probably add Justin Masterson and Doug Fister to that list. Lee, however, is looking for a hefty contract and Fister wants a two-year deal.
  • Ouch! Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times said that Trevor Cahill turned down a two year offer from Pirates to start over his one year bullpen deal with Cubs for $4.5M. However, the Pirates salary offer wasn't given.
  • The Kid may go to arb; he didn't sign a deal w/the Mets. Walker filed his asking price of $11.8M while the Mets countered with $9.4M, according to Jeff Passan. Matt Schwartz of MLBTR had his value pegged at the midpoint of $10.7M.
Neil Walker 2014 Topps Heritage
  • What do the remaining 1B free agents have in common: Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis, Corey Hart, Justin Morneau and Steve Pearce? Clint Barmes, Casey McGehee, Nate McLouth & Marlon Byrd are looking for spots, too.
  • The Cards agreed to a $8.25M contract with 1B/OF Brandon Moss.
  • Travis Ishikawa signed a MiLB deal with Seattle. 
  • Johnstown's Pete Vuckovich, who spent 20 years in the Pirate organization (pitching coach/Assistant to the GM) and a handful more with Seattle, joined the Arizona D-Backs as a pros scout.
  • Brandon Wood, who suited up for the Bucs in 2011, was named manager of the Padre's short season Tri City Dust Devils.
  • Interesting thought: SB Nation's John Sickels wrote that MLB rosters could be expanded in the upcoming CBA. One proposal being tossed about is expansion to a 28-man roster, with 25 men being active on game day. Teams could then sit starting pitchers who aren't available and rest players with minor injuries without resorting to the DL.

1/19: Adam LaRoche Deal, Donora's Stan the Man Passes On

  • 2007 - The Bucs traded LHP Mike Gonzalez and SS Brent Lillibridge to the Atlanta Braves for 1B Adam LaRoche and minor league 1B/OF Jamie Romak. Gonzo ended up injury-bitten, Lillibridge became a utility player for six seasons and Romak has been a callup the past two seasons, getting into 27 MLB games, while LaRoche has held a starting job at first for several clubs since the deal after putting up a slash of .265/58/213 in three Bucco seasons.
Brent Lillibridge 2005 Bowman
  • 2013 - Hall of Famer Stan the Man Musial of the Cards, who was born in Donora, died at the age of 92. His 24 All-Star Game selections are more than anyone except Hank Aaron. When he retired after the 1963 season, Musial had an NL record 3,630 hits – 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road – and a .331 batting average. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969 on his first appearance on the ballot, garnering 93.2 percent of the vote. In 2001, SABR master Bill James ranked Musial the tenth-greatest baseball player in history. No wonder Mon Valley’s Donora is called “The Home of Champions.” Ben Cosgrove of Sports Illustrated noted that his nickname was dubbed by not St. Louis, but Brooklyn, fans. “The story goes that at Ebbets Field on June 23, 1946, Dodgers fans took to chanting "Here comes the man" when Musial, who routinely destroyed Dodger pitching, stepped to the plate. St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Bob Broeg heard the chant, stuck it (Stan the Man) into his next column, and the most fitting nickname in baseball history was born.”
Stan Musial 1948 Bowman (Blony Bubble Gum)

Monday, January 18, 2016

1/18: HBD Wandy; Welcome Aboard, Hammerin' Hank

  • 1947 - The Pirates purchased Hank Greenberg, the original "Hammerin' Hank," from the Tigers for $75,000 after a contract dispute. Team co-owner Bing Crosby celebrated the move by recording the song "Goodbye, Mr. Ball, Goodbye" with Groucho Marx and Hank after the Bucs signed him to a reported $90,000 deal, the biggest in history at that time. In his one season with Pittsburgh, he hit .249 with 25 HR/74 RBI to become the first player with a 25 homer season in both leagues, walked a league high 104 times and served as a mentor to a young Ralph Kiner. He inspired “Greenberg Gardens” when the Bucs shortened Forbes Field’s left field for him. When he retired after the season, his garden was renamed Kiner’s Korner.
Hank Greenberg 1947 Illustrated Current News
  • 1979 - LHP Wandy Rodriguez was born in Santiago Rodriguez, Dominican Republic. Wandy joined the Bucs in 2012, when he was acquired in a deadline deal from the Astros. He didn’t become a major contributor as hoped, as his 2013 season derailed after a dozen starts with arthritis in his pitching arm, and contributed just 11 wins in 25 outings, with a 3.66 ERA, as a Pirate before being released in May of 2014. 
Wandy Rodriguez 2012 Topps Update

Sunday, January 17, 2016

1/17: Duke of Pittsburgh; Kip Signs; Draft/Arb Day

  • 1895 - The Pirates traded P Red Ehret and cash to the St Louis Browns for P Pink Hawley. Hawley won 71 games for the Pirates in his three year (1895-97) stint with Pittsburgh, becoming one of only three Bucs to win 30 games in a single season, notching 31 victories in 1985, while Ehret would claim just more 35 victories during the remainder of his MLB career. Pink was well compensated for his era - the Pirates paid him $2,400 a year, the maximum salary at the time. According to Dale Voiss of SABR “Emerson was born one of two twins, the other being named Elmer. People had trouble telling the twins apart so the nurse who assisted in their birth pinned a blue ribbon to one and a pink one to the other. This resulted in Emerson being given the middle name Pink, and the brothers were known  as Pink and Blue." He was a hit with the local fans, too. "Hawley earned the nickname ‘Duke of Pittsburgh’ because of his stylish dress and good looks. He was known to wear diamonds and other items of high fashion and developed a reputation similar to that of a matinee idol in Pittsburgh. Later a cigar was named Duke of Pittsburgh after Hawley. Boxes of these cigars featured his picture.”
Pink Hawley via Horsehide Trivia
  • 1984 - The Pirates drafted pitcher Gil Heredia first, but the righty from Pima CC didn’t sign. He went pro three years later, albeit as a ninth round pick of the Giants. He made up for lost bonus money by carving out a 10 year MLB career. Light hitting OF Alex Cole was also selected that year. The best pick was in the secondary phase when the Bucs took OF Jay Buhner, who ended up swatting 310 HR in 15 big league seasons after being traded to the Yankees.
  • 2006 - The Bucs signed RHP Kip Wells to a one-year, $4.15M contract, avoiding arbitration. Kipper only lasted to the deadline, going 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA before being dealt away to the Texas Rangers for Jesse Chavez. Wells, a former first round draft pick of the White Sox in 1998, pitched for nine teams in 12 seasons with a career slash of 69-103-2/4.78 ERA.
  • 2014 - The Pirates signed five players to one year deals - 2B Neil Walker, 3B Pedro Alvarez, P Mark Melancon, 1B Gaby Sanchez and P Vin Mazzaro - to avoid arbitration. They had previously inked deals with arb-eligible P Charlie Morton, OF Travis Snider and C Chris Stewart, and non-tendered 1B Garrett Jones, C Mike McKenry and OF Felix Pie to close out a king-sized 2014 arbitration class.
Vin Mazzaro - 2103 Quarry
  • 2015 - The Pirates had a MLB-high dozen players eligible for arbitration: Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Mark Melancon, Josh Harrison, Tony Watson, Francisco Cervelli, Jared Hughes, Travis Snider, Antonio Bastardo, Chris Stewart, Vance Worley and Sean Rodriguez, after previously releasing arb-eligible players Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, John Axford, Jeanmar Gomez and Chaz Roe. Nine signed one year deals; Walker, Alvarez and Worley opted to take the arbitration route. Walker lost his case; Alvarez and Worley won their hearings.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

1/16: Jung Ho Signed; HBD Art & Erskine; Steelers-Bucs Clash

  • 1858 - IF Art Whitney was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. Known for his glove, he played for the Alleghenys from 1884-87, hitting .248 while in Pittsburgh. His lifetime BA was a paltry .223, but the slick gloveman led the league four times in fielding percentage, three times as a third baseman (1886, 1887, and 1891) and once as a shortstop (1885).
  • 1890 - RHP Erskine Mayer was born in Atlanta. He only worked two seasons for Pittsburgh, from 1918-19, going 14-6 with a 3.19 ERA. In 1919, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox, becoming part of the infamous "Black Sox" team. His only appearance in the scandal-tainted 1919 World Series was a one-inning relief stint, his last in a MLB uniform. He ended his eight-year career with a slash of of 91-70-6 and a 2.96 ERA. Over that time, he had several notable moments. His best as a Bucco was going 15-⅓ shutout innings, starting the longest scoreless game in Pirate history (the Bucs beat the Braves 2-0 in 21 innings). He had a couple of lowlights, too. As a rookie for the Phils in 1912, Mayer set the MLB record for consecutive hits allowed with nine (since broken), and also was the pitcher who surrendered Honus Wagner’s 3,000th hit in 1914 while wearing the same uniform.
Erskine Mayer 1915-16 via The Sporting News Collection
  • 1960 - The Steelers beat the Pirates, 22-20 in overtime, in a benefit basketball game played at the Pitt Field House to help support Children's Hospital. Former Duke All-America and Buc shortstop Dick Groat led all scorers with 14 points in the 15 minute contest.
  • 2015 - The Pirates officially signed Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang to a four year, $11M contract ($2.5M, $2.5M, $2.75M & $3M with a $250K/$5.5M option for 2019). He could earn up to $750K/year in at-bat bonuses, with a guaranteed annual stipend for family travel and an interpreter. Pittsburgh also paid his club a posting fee of $5,002,015 for negotiating rights, making the deal the most expensive the Pirates ever paid out for an international signee. Kang, 27, hit .356 with 40 home runs and 117 RBIs in 501 PAs for the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2014. His slash was .287/.355/.461 in his first MLB campaign. 
Jung Ho Kang 2015 Topps Hi Tek

Friday, January 15, 2016

Notes: Arb Signings - All But Stew; Former Players Moving Into New Careers; Bunts & Names

Everyone inked but Chris Stewart, ex-Bucs starting their life's work and a couple of baseball pieces...

  • Fran Cervelli agreed to a $3.5M contract with the Bucs to carry him into his walk year, according to Jon Heyman. That's a nice bump over his projected $2.5M value as calculated by Matt Schwartz of MLBTradeRumors (as are all the projections noted).
Fran Cervelli (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • Heyman also reported that Jody Mercer inked a deal for $2.075M, pretty close to his projected value. Now if he just comes out of the box swinging this year - he's a .209 hitter through May, and a .274 batter afterward. 
  • Bill Brink was first to discover that Tony Watson signed for $3.45M, well under the $4.6M value that was floated. The set-up man is in line to become the Bucco closer in the near future.
  • LHP Jeff Locke has settled at $3.025M for the 2016 season per Ken Rosenthal. He was projected to have an arb value of $3.5M. Locke worked a career high 168-1/3 IP last season, and was 8-11/4.49. The staff was working on simplifying his motion during mini-camp, and a more consistent Locke would be a huge boost to the back of the Pirate rotation. 
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith tweeted that Jared Hughes signed for $2.175M, almost on the nose for his estimated value. He's carved out a pretty effective notch as Clint's mid-inning fireman.
  • The last guy inked: Mark the Shark. His value was estimated at $10M for 2016; Heyman says he signed for $9.65M.
Mark Melancon (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • The Pirates have agreed to a two-year extension with C Chris Stewart, 34, according to Robert Murray of Baseball Essential (a bit prematurely, it seems). The deal also comes with a club option for a third season. No details on the amount yet; he was projected to have $1.6M value for 2016. The agreement isn't final yet; Stew did file for arb while the details are being hashed out, altho it appears everything is on track pending his physical. The proposed length indicates that Pittsburgh and Fran Cervelli aren't near agreement on a contract beyond this season, his final arb campaign. That opens the door for Elias Diaz and eventually Reese McGuire. 
  • Ben Lindbergh of FiveThirtyEight charts the ebb of bunts, pitchouts and intentional walks.
  • Cut Four's Chris Landers has the story behind six team names, including the Pirates; it's an interesting little slice of MLB history.
  • On LSU's list of spring football walk-ons for spring: LHP Zack Von Rosenberg, 2009 6th round pick of the Bucs, since released. He was an All-State punter in HS, and many speculate that's his niche for the Tigers, the school he had committed to (for baseball) before being drafted and lured away with a $1.2M signing bonus.
  • Hot Rod Barajas will manage San Diego's AAA El Paso Chihuahuas in 2016. He's managed in the Padre system since 2014 at Rookie League, then AA, levels.
  • Kip Wells, 39, joined the LA Dodgers organization as the pitching coach for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.

1/15: HBD Mike, Jock & Banny; Hartenstein Deal

  • 1858 - OF Mike Mansell was born in Auburn, New York. He played three seasons (1882-84) for the Alleghenys with a .251 BA. His final big league year was 1884, when he played for three teams. Mansell did have a knack for scoring - in 202 games for the Alleghenys, he touched home 164 times. His two brothers also played in the MLB, and the trio even played the outfield together, albeit for minor league Albany.
  • 1868 - RHP John “Jock” (the Scottish version of Jack) Menefee was born in Rowlesburg, West Virginia. Jock tossed three not very successful campaigns for Pittsburgh (1892, 1894-95), going 5-9/5.75. But he did have a shining MLB moment: Menefee became the first NL pitcher to pull off a successful steal of home, against Brooklyn on July 15th, 1902, while with the Cubs.
  • 1965 - Jeff “Banny” Banister was born in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Drafted in 1986, he got one at-bat with the Bucs in 1991 and singled. After going through the minor league system, he then served as a coach or manager for the franchise since 1993. He finally left the system in 2014 when he was hired as the manager of the Texas Rangers, being selected as the AL Manager of the Year in 2015. His nickname, btw, isn’t based on his surname, but is short for “bantam rooster” because of his scrappy style of play.
Jeff Banister Topps rookie card
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded OF Manny Jimenez to the Cubs for minor league IF Ron Campbell and RHP Chuck Hartenstein. Jimenez played briefly for Chicago before fading into the minors, while Campbell never did make it to the show. Hartenstein made 56 appearances for the Bucs in 1969, with 10 saves and a 3.95 ERA, but slipped in 1970 and was traded to St. Louis.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Notes: Bard Aboard; Best OF; Arb; El Coffee Contract; Osuna RoY; Knudson, Sanchez; Trade Proposal; Mini-Camp

Bits n pieces heading into camp...

  • The Pirates signed RHP Daniel Bard. He was a top notch set-up guy from 2009-11, then his career went south. He was converted to a starter, and ended up with thoracic outlet syndrome (nerve damage) surgery in 2014, similar to Clayton Richard and way-back Bucco prospect Craig Hansen. Bard, 30, hasn't thrown in MLB since 2013, and was inked to a minor league deal. He wasn't invited to camp; the FO expects to build him back up at Indy.
  •  ESPN's Buster Olney rates the Pirate outfield as baseball's best (Insider column).
  • All seven remaining arb eligible Pirates - Fran Cervelli, Jared Hughes, Jeff Locke, Mark Melancon, Jordy Mercer, Chris Stewart and Tony Watson - filed for hearings, a pro forma move. The hearings will be set up for February, and the Pirates have until then to reach an agreement with the players. Friday is when the player and club exchange salary figures, and often deals are hammered out then.
  • Rob Biertemfel of The Trib says El Coffee is open to talking a long term deal (altho the Bucs haven't made any new overtures yet). He adds that CBS's Jon Heyman said the last time they talked, the money and length (8years/$75M) was right, but only $25M was guaranteed due to team options, and that was the stumbling block.
Gregory Polanco 2015 Topps Gypsy Queen
  • JJ Cooper of Baseball America proposes some prospect-for-prospect trades, and suggests the Bucs move young outfielders for a promising arm...
  • RHP Guido Knudson, recently removed from the 40 man roster, cleared waivers and rejoined the Bucs on a minor league deal.
  • Casey Sadler, released by the Bucs after TJ surgery, was re-signed to a multi year minor league deal while he works his way back, per Adam Berry of MLB.com in his notes column.
  • Jose Osuna, 23, was named the Venezuelan Winter League Rookie of the Year. He hit .330 with nine homers for the Margarita Braves. (s/o to Pirates Prospects)
  • Tony Sanchez cleared waivers and was released by the Buccos. Sanchez, 27, was the fourth overall selection in the 2009 draft. He appeared in 51 games for the Pirates over the last three seasons, hitting .259, but his glove never played behind the plate.
  • Partial list of guys at mini-camp: Daniel Bard, Josh Bell, Archimedes Caminaro, Juan Diaz, Pedro Florimon, Adam Frazier, Dan Gamache, Willie Garcia, Tyler Glasnow, Jake Goebbert, Alen Hansen, Luis Heredia, Jared Hughes, John Jaso, Guido Knudson, Jeff Locke, Reese McGuire, Max Moroff, Gift Ngoepe, Jon Niese, Gregory Polanco, Harold Ramirez, Jameson Taillon, Tony Watson and Trevor Williams. Jung Ho Kang was also at Pirate City, playing long toss and hitting the iron. It should be noted the camp is optional for members of the 40-man roster and most vets prefer to sit it out and get to work next month, so it's usually a get-to-know-ya for players trying to establish themselves.

1/14: HBD Billy, Chet, Hank & Steve; Bucs Select Moises, Bring Back Adam

  • 1893 - Manager Billy Meyer was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was skipper from 1948-52, with a dismal 317-452 record after a promising fourth place finish in his first year. In fact, the Yankees thought so highly of him that they asked if they could hire him after that season to replace Bucky Harris. NY was rebuffed and had to settle for Casey Stengel instead. After managing, Meyer scouted for the Bucs until 1955, and later had his jersey #1 retired.
  • 1907- RHP Chet Brewer was born in Leavenworth, Kansas. While he pitched for a couple of dozen teams in the black leagues and Central America, the pitcher never toiled in Pittsburgh until his playing days were done. Brewer was a Pirates scout based in LA from 1957 to 1974 (he signed Dock Ellis) and later worked for the Major League Scouting Bureau, discovering players like Willie Crawford, George Hendrick, Eddie Murray, Reggie Smith and Roy White. His Chet Brewer Rookies program was the forerunner of MLB’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) project.
Chet Brewer - photo via National Pastime Museum
  • 1911 - RHP Hank Gornicki was born in Niagara Falls, NY. He pitched his final three seasons (1943-44, 1946) for the Bucs, with a two year break when he served during WW2. His slate as a Pirate was 14-19/3.38, and he was used primarily as a spot starter. He had a notable week in August of 1943. Gornicki won both ends of a doubleheader against Boston on the 17th, then lost both games of a twinbill on the 22nd against Brooklyn.
  • 1970 - LHP Steve Cooke was born in Lihue-Kauai, Hawaii. A 35th round draft pick in 1989, he spent five years with the Pirates (1992-97), going 26-36/4.31. 1993 looked like a breakout year when he went 10-10 with a 3.89 ERA and he was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team. But he had shoulder problems that surfaced in 1994 and missed the 1995 season, and never again matched his rookie performance.
  • 1986 - The Pirates selected OF Moises Alou as the second overall pick in the draft, behind pitcher Jeff Shaw. He played two games for the Pirates in 1990 before being shipped to Montreal for Zane Smith. Moises went on to have a 17 year career, with six All-Star berths and a lifetime .303 BA. He’s the nephew of former Pirate Matty Alou and the cousin of current Bucco farmhand Mel Rojas, Jr.
Moises Alou 2015 Bowman Chrome Flashback
  • 2008 - The Pirates re-signed 1B Adam LaRoche to a 1-year/$5M contract. He hit .270 with 25 homers, and was sent to Boston the following year. Baseball runs in his blood - literally. He’s the son of former MLB pitcher Dave and older brother of Andy, who is still bumping around in the minors.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

1/13: HBD Odell & Elmer; Murry Traded, Church Signed

  • 1953 - RHP Odell Jones was born in Tulare, California. Jones had several stints with the Bucs, starting out in 1975, spending a year in the minors and returning from 1977-78, then coming back via trade in 1981. He went 9-12/4.28, splitting his time between the pen and starting. The fastballer last pitched in the show in 1988; his final hurrah was in 1992, when he finished in the Mexican League.
Odell Jones photo via Sports Memorabilia
  • 1954 - The Pirates traded workhorse P Murry Dickson, a 1953 NL All-Star, to the Phils for P Andy “Swede” Hansen, IF Jack "Lucky" Lohrke and cash estimated in the $70-80,000 range. Dickson won 62 more games until he retired in 1959, while neither Hansen or Lohre ever suited up for Pittsburgh (nor any other MLB club); both were sent to the top Bucco farm team, the Hollywood Stars. Dickson was a victim of a Branch Rickey payroll dump; both he and Ralph Kiner (in June, 1953) were traded, trimming $115,000 of Bucco salary. Swede’s moniker was because of his Scandinavian heritage (although he was actually Danish). Lucky came by his nickname honestly; by the time he was 22, he had at least six close calls with the Reaper. Several were in WW2 combat, another in a plane wreck and yet another in a bus crash.
  • January 13, 1971 - RHP Elmer Dessens was born in Hermosillo, Mexico. He started out with the Bucs, pitching from the bullpen from 1996-98 with a 2-8/6.12 slash. He went to Japan the following year, then came back to toss in the MLB through the 2010 season, wearing eight different uniforms (including two stops with the Mets).
Elmer Dessen 1997 Pacific Prisms
  • 2010 - Ryan Church inked a $1.5M, one-year deal with the Bucs. The 31-year old outfielder was expected to be the Bucs' fourth outfielder, behind Brandon Moss, Andrew McCutchen, and Lastings Milledge. Instead, Church hit .182 and was traded to Arizona at the deadline in what was his final MLB season.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

1/12: Big Date for Cap'n Willie; HBD Ed, Big Ed & Rich

  • 1859 - C/1B Ed Swartwood was born in Rockford, Illinois. Swartwood played for the Alleghenys from 1882-84 and then spent his last big league season as a Pirate in 1892. He put up some good numbers, including a .322 BA in Pittsburgh. In 1882 he led the American Association with 86 runs, 18 doubles, and 159 total bases, then went on to become the league batting champion in 1883 with a .357 average. Swartwood married a Pittsburgh gal in 1883 while with the Alleghenys and became an Allegheny County sheriff when he was done with baseball (he also umped for a spell after his playing career). He was buried in Union Dale cemetery after he passed on in 1924.
Ed Swartwood 1887 Old Judge
  • 1925 - 1B Big Ed Stevens (actually, a modest 6’1”, 190 lbs, but king-sized in the forties) was born in Galveston, Texas. He played in 212 games from 1948-50 for Pittsburgh, batting .253 with 14 HR. The Pirates got him from Brooklyn when he was bumped off the bag by a rookie named Jackie Robinson. Big Ed didn’t hit it big in the MLB, but was a minor league legend. In 16 farm seasons spanning 1941-61, Stevens belted 257 home runs and drove in 1,013 runs on his way to being named to the International League Hall of Fame. After his retirement, he scouted for the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s.
  • 1972 - RH reliever Rich Loiselle was born in Neenah, Wisconsin. He tossed his entire career of six seasons (1996-2001) for the Bucs, and went 9-18-49/4.38 during that span. Loiselle was the Bucco closer in 1997-98 when he picked up 48 of his 49 career saves. He struggled after that, having both control and elbow problems.
  • 1980 - Willie Stargell was featured on the cover of The Sporting News after being selected as TSN’s Man of the Year. Pops hit 32 homers in 1979 and added five more in the post season, winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards.
  • 1988 - Willie Stargell was the only player elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA‚ and the 17th player elected in his first year of eligibility. He was inducted on August 1st. In 21 Pirate seasons, his slash was .282/.360/.529 with 475 HR and 1,540 RBI. Ralph Kiner is second on the Bucco list of homers; he hit 301.

Monday, January 11, 2016

1/11: HBD Silver, Max, Lloyd, Warren; Game Boy Cutch; Boo, DH

  • 1868 - P Silver King was born in St. Louis. King only played one season in Pittsburgh, but it was a big deal when he signed. King won 110 games from 1888-90 and signed with the Pirates for $5,000, becoming the highest paid player in the game. The investment fizzled; the Bucs got a 14-29 record (although he wasn’t all that bad; he made 44 starts and tossed 384 innings to a 3.11 ERA). But problems were looming. The Bucs released him, and the early sidewinder - one of the first submariners - had one more good year with the Giants before the rules committee chopped him down to size. He threw sidearm from the far right of the pitcher’s circle, making the ball appear to be launched from third base. In 1893, the rubber was introduced and he lost his territorial advantage, never posting an ERA south of four afterward. His nom de guerre is combination nickname and writer’s Anglicizing: His real name was Charles Koenig, but his prematurely white hair gave him the moniker of Silver; King was the English translation of Koenig.
Silver King photo via Robert Shaw
  • 1890 - Hall of Fame OF Max Carey was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He played 17 seasons in Pittsburgh, compiling a .287 BA and stole 688 bases, leading the NL in that category 10 times. He was at his best during the 1925 World Series, hitting .458 as the Pirates dethroned the Washington Senators and Walter “Big Train” Johnson in seven games.
  • 1959 - Utilityman and later manager Lloyd McClendon was born in Gary, Indiana. McClendon spent five years (1990-94) as a player in Pittsburgh where he hit .251, mainly off the bench. He was named Buc manager in 2001, and in his five seasons as skipper, McClendon compiled a 336–446 record and famously “stole” a base. A side note: In 1971, as a 12-year old, McClendon earned the nickname "Legendary Lloyd" when he hit five home runs in five at bats, all on the first pitch, and was walked in his other five plate appearances in the three games he played in the Little League World Series.
  • 1973 - This is a red letter day in baseball history. The owners voted to allow the AL to use a designated hitter, drawing a line in the sand that still exists between the junior and senior circuits. On April 6th, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the Yankees became the first regular season DH in major-league history, drawing a bases-loaded walk off the Red Sox’s Luis Tiant.
  • 1974 - 2B Warren Morris was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. He made his major league debut in 1999, going from non-roster invitee in spring training to starting second baseman early in the season for the Bucs. Morris had a sharp rookie campaign, hitting .288 with 15 home runs, 73 RBI and earning a spot on the 1999 Topps All-Star Rookie team at second base. It went downhill fast, and the Pirates released him before the 2002 season; his last MLB campaign was in 2003 and he formally retired in 2006.
Warren Morris 2000 Revolution
  • 2013 - Andrew McCutchen was voted to be the cover athlete on the baseball video game “MLB 13: The Show.” Cutch gathered 108,147 votes from fans via Twitter and Facebook, while NY Yankees' pitcher CC Sabathia came in second place with 89,054 votes.