Saturday, October 31, 2015

10/31: HBD Clever Harry; Reuss-for-May Deal; Leyland MoY; Roster Shake Up

  • 1874 - C Harry Smith was born in Yorkshire, England. He was a reserve catcher from 1902-07, hitting just .202 as a Bucco. He joined the club as a highly touted youngster. When the Bucs signed him after the 1901 season, the Pittsburg Press wrote in a front page article that “Clever Harry the catcher pronounced by all the writers who are in sympathy with the National League as being the greatest young backstop in the country.” Smith was a player-manager for the Boston Doves briefly and went on to become a minor-league skipper after he hung up the spikes.
Harry Smith (photo Getty Images via Chicago History Museum)
  • 1973 - The Astros traded Jerry Reuss to the Pirates for Milt May. Reuss ended up 61-46 with a 3.52 ERA as a Buc and was a rotation mainstay for four seasons. The lefty worked six campaigns in Pittsburgh (1974-78, 1990) and spent his last MLB season as a Pirate. He did get around; Reuss was on the roster of eight different clubs at one time or another and won 220 games in a 22-year career.
  • 1990 - Jim Leyland was selected as the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He guided the Bucs to 95 wins and a division title, easily outdistancing the Cincinnati Reds’ Lou Piniella.
  • 2011 - Roster shake-up day: the Pirates lost four veterans to free agency: C Ryan Doumit, C Chris Snyder, SS Ronnie Cedeno and LHP Paul Maholm. Stretch run acquisitions OF Ryan Ludwick and 1B Derrek Lee had declared themselves FAs the day before.
Chris Snyder (photo Charles LeClaire/USA Today)

Friday, October 30, 2015

10/30: HBD Bobby, Lee & Ian; Mark Sauer Hired; Alleghenys Bulk Up

  • 1884 - Financially troubled despite finishing second to New York in the American Association‚ the Columbus Colts sold its players to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys for $6‚000 and disbanded. The Alleghenys needed all the help they could get; they finished the 1884 season 30-78 and 45-1/2 games behind the AA champion NY Metropolitans.
  • 1917 - Manager Bobby Bragan was born in Birmingham, Alabama. The former big league infielder managed the Bucs just before they turned the corner in 1956-57, with a record of 102-155 (.397) before Danny Murtaugh took the reins.
Bobby Bragan (photo via Sports Memorabilia)
  • 1960 - RHP Lee Tunnell was born in Tyler, Texas. The Baylor righty was the Bucs’ second pick in the 1981 draft. He arrived in Pittsburgh the following September and then went 11-6/3.85 in 1983, but his four year run (1982-85) produced just a 17-24/4.06 line overall.
  • 1981 - RHP Ian Snell was born in Dover, Delaware. He spent parts of six seasons (2004-09) as a Pirate starter, showing promise but never quite getting over the hump with a line of 33-46/4.75, and was traded to Seattle. Ian was demoted to Indy in 2009, at his own request, and traded to Seattle a month later. He bombed there and was DFA’ed in June of 2010, ending his MLB career, although he did make a couple of comeback efforts.
Ian Snell 2007 Upper Deck series
  • 1991 - Mark Sauer was hired as GM after Carl Barger left to run the Florida Marlins. He oversaw the cost-cutting that gutted the Pirates' 1990-92 powerhouse teams as per the orders of the Pirates' public-private ownership to reduce payroll. He was eased out of action by the McClatchy group and resigned in the summer of 1996.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

10/29: HBD Circus Solly, Fido & Big Jim...

  • 1882 - OF Arthur Frederick “Solly” Hofman was born in St. Louis. Hofman played for the Pirates in 1903, then returned again in 1912-13. Coming off the bench, he hit .246 for the Bucs. Solly had a long run in the show, playing 14 years in the National, American and Federation leagues. His nickname was "Circus Solly." Some attribute the moniker to a comic strip of the era, while others claim it was due to his spectacular play in the field.
Solly Hoffman (image from 1912 Boston Herald)
  • 1893 - RHP Marcus “Fido” Baldwin was born in Homestead. He only pitched two years and some change for the Pirates (1891-93) but the club got its money’s worth. Between 1891-92, Fido started 104 games, went 47-55, and worked 878 IP with a 3.14 ERA. He was known as one of, if not the fastest, thrower of his era. He also was sued by St. Louis owner Chris von der Ahe for trying to influence his players to skip leagues (which he did), and was arrested for participating in the Homestead steel strike (he was freed, claiming to be just a spectator). Fido couldn't stay out of controversy; as a minor league owner in 1896, he and his teammates were arrested and convicted of a Blue Law violation for playing the first-ever Sunday professional game in Auburn, NY, and he was fined $5. Baldwin later became a doctor and was affiliated with Homestead’s Municipal Hospital. He’s buried in Allegheny Cemetery.
Fido Baldwin 1889 Old Judge series
  • 1944 - RHP Jim Bibby was born in Franklinton, NC. The big guy worked five years (1978-83; he was out all of 1982 with a shoulder injury) for Pittsburgh, and won 19 games in 1980 during his All-Star season. He was 50-32/3.53 during that span. Bibby started three games in the 1979 championship run (1 NLCS, 2 WS) and while not getting a decision in any of them, put up a 2.08 ERA. His career highlight was in 1981, when he gave up a leadoff single to Atlanta’s Terry Harper and retired the next 27 batters. A shoulder injury suffered later that season eventually led to his retirement in 1984. Oddly, the Pirates signed him as a free agent in 1978 to replace Goose Gossage as the new closer, but he started 91 of his 146 Bucco outings. Another oddity: at 6'5", you'd suspect he had some basketball genes, and he did. Jim was an older brother of Henry Bibby and the uncle of Mike Bibby, both NBA players.
Jim Bibby (image from Sports Illustrated)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

10/28: HBD Canena, Big Bob, & Nate; Leyland MoY

  • 1925 - OF Luis Ángel "Canena" Márquez Sánchez was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. One of the first Puerto Rican players in the MLB, he played for both the Homestead Grays (1946–1948) and briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1956), going 1-for-9 with four walks as a Bucco. Though he played just two MLB seasons and 68 games, he spent 14 years in the minors, spent four other seasons in the Negro League and played 20 years in the Puerto Rican winter league. Márquez was involved in baseball throughout his life as player, coach, trainer, and Little League coach, and the municipal baseball stadium in Aguadilla, Estadio Luis A. Canena Márquez, is named for him.
  • 1935 - Big lefty Bob Veale was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He pitched 10-1/2 years for the Pirates (1962-72) with a line of 116-91/3.06 and 1,652 strikeouts. Veale led the league with 250 K in 1964 and had 200+ whiffs four times in his career; his 276 punchouts in 1965 are still a club record. He also led the league in walks four times.
Bob Veale 1969 Topps series
  • 1981 - OF Nate McLouth was born in Muskegon, Michigan. Drafted in the 25th round of the 2000 draft, he spent his first five big league years (2005-’09) with the Bucs, hitting .256 and earning an All-Star spot in 2008. McLouth was traded to the Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke after his AS season when his value was high and Andrew McCutchen was ready to step in to play center field.
Nate McLouth 2005 Bowman series
  • 1992 - Jim Leyland was named the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the second time he won the award. Leyland received 20 of 24 first-place ballots to outpoll rookie manager Felipe Alou of the Expos. Pittsburgh won 96 games and the division, only to be derailed by Atlanta in a seven game NLCS.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pirates Add Trevor Williams, Jorge Rondon: The 411

The Pirates first move of the year was picking up righty Trevor Williams, 23, from Miami for righty Richard Mitchell, 20, who tossed in the GCL.

Williams, from Arizona State, was the Marlins' second-round pick (#44 overall) in 2013 out of Arizona State. He pitched for AA Jacksonville (7-8/4.00) and had a cup of coffee with AAA New Orleans (0-2/2.57 in three starts). He should open the coming campaign at Indy. In three seasons in the minors, his line was 15-19/3.35. While not a big K guy - he averaged less tham seven whiffs per nine - he is a ground ball machine.

Trevor Williams (photo Mark LoMaglio/Tampa Yankees)
John Sickels' report on him is "Listed at 6-3, 230, the 23-year-old Williams features a fastball that tops in the low-90s to mix with a curve, slider, and change-up. He throws strikes and is durable but none of his pitches project as outstanding or overpowering. His best attributes are control and durability, giving him a shot at being a fourth or fifth starter."

Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America thinks a little more highly of him. "A sum-of-his-parts pitcher, Williams’ polish and cerebral approach help him overcome the lack of a plus pitch. He does a good job keeping the ball low, allowing just 14 homers in 309 pro innings. He throws both a four- and two-seam fastball from a drop-and-drive delivery and mixes in a curve and slider, although the organization wants him to settle on one of those. The curveball showed the most promise, flashing plus. With the depth and power of his curveball improving, Williams projects as a mid-rotation arm as soon as 2016."

Mitchell hasn't shown much as a Pirate, but apparently Jim Benedict saw something he liked about the youngster. Maybe he represents a hit-or-miss lottery pick on the part of the Fish. At any rate, he wasn't one of the Pirate projectables, and he did bring back a potentially useful arm in Williams. With Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham & Casey Sadler returning from injury and Brandon Cumpton & Angel Sanchez out for the year, Williams joins Tyler Glasnow to provide a little young pitching depth for the organization later this season.

The Pirates also claimed Venezuelan righty Jorge Rondon off waivers from the Orioles. He was DFA'ed to make roster room for Vance Worley, so it's all in the family.

Rondon put up a 3-1-1/2.23 ERA slash over 60-2/3 IP in AAA last year for two teams (he started the season in the Rockies' organization), with 50K and 19 BB. He has a workmanlike career AAA line of 24-48-39/3.03, 6.9 K/9, and 4 BB/9 over four seasons. Rondon was converted from a swingman in 2011 and has been used as a set up guy and occasional closer since.

Jorge Rondon (photo Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press)
He hasn't gotten much work at the major league level, and with pretty good reason. His line in 15-1/3 MLB innings is 0-1/12.33 with a WHIP of 2.478 (28 hits, two homers) and ten walks to go with just nine whiffs. Rondon has put up a zero in only four of his 11 big league appearances, with the look of a AAAA poster child all over him.

It's not that he doesn't have tools; his fastball, both four and two seam, averages 95 with some sink and he's touched triple figures. His slider clocks in at 87, and he's trying to develop at least a show-me change up. But for that stuff, he's never been a big strikeout guy and his control has been erratic; some compare him in a way to Charlie Morton, who some days has all the movement in the world but no idea where the ball is going to end up sixty feet later.

He's out of options, so Ray Searage will have to get him up to speed in a hurry. It's been done before, with the most recent example being Arquimedes Caminero (10.80 ERA in 2014 with 5+ walks per game), but that's the exception rather than the rule. So we'll see if he makes it to camp and then through it, or if he's just the first of the 2016 off-season reliever grab bags.

10/27: HBD Ralph, Vook & Mike; Big Trade; AL All-Stars v Crawfords

  • 1922 - Ralph Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico. He led the NL in home runs for seven straight seasons as a Buc. Kiner hit 301 bombs, drove in 801 runs, had a .971 OPS in his eight Pittsburgh seasons (1946-53) and was an All-Star six times.
  • 1924 - 1B Charlie Grimm, LHP Wilbur Cooper and SS Rabbit Maranville were traded to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Vic Aldridge, 1B George Grantham and 1B Al Niehaus. Cooper was near the end of his career, Maranville would have two more strong seasons with Boston, and Grimm played for Chicago for the next dozen years, hitting .296 with 1,079 RBI and became their player-manager. Grantham hit .300 for six seasons with Pittsburgh and Aldridge won 40 games in his three year Bucco tenure.
Vic Aldridge (image from The Sporting News/Mear Collection)
  • 1935 - According to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, a touring group of AL All-Stars topped the Negro League champion Pittsburgh Crawfords 7-2 in Mexico City in the final match of a three game stand. Rogers Hornsby drove in three runs against Bert Hunter‚ and he drove in three more the day before when the All-Stars won 11-7. The first game ended in a 6-6 tie. The AL squad featured Hornsby‚ Jimmie Foxx‚ Ted Lyons‚ and Vern Kennedy while the Crawfords roster included Josh Gibson‚ Judy Johnson‚ and Cool Papa Bell.
  • 1952 - P Pete Vuckovich was born in Johnstown. In his 11 year MLB career, he never tossed for the Pirates, but in 1992 he was hired by Pittsburgh as a pitching instructor. Vuckovich served as the pitching coach during the 1997–2000 seasons for Gene Lamont, then worked his way through the organization to become the Special Assistant to the General Manager until joining the Seattle organization in 2012. Pete also had a role in the movie “Major League,” uttering the snarky “How’s your wife and my kids?” line to the catcher.
Pete Vuckovich in Major League (image via the Cambria County Sports HOF)
  • 1962 - RHP Mike Dunne was born in South Bend, Indiana. He came to the Pirates as part of the Tony Pena trade and paid immediate dividends, going 13-6 with a 3.03 ERA in 1987 and finishing second to Benito Santiago in the Rookie-of-the-Year balloting. He couldn’t match his first-year numbers down the road, winning just eight more games before being traded to Seattle in 1989. His Pittsburgh slash was 21-18/3.65.

Monday, October 26, 2015

10/26: HBD Judy Johnson, Frankie Liriano, Harry Camnitz & Diomedes Mateo

  • 1884 - RHP Harry Camnitz was born in McKinney, Kentucky. He worked once for the Pirates in 1909, going four innings and giving up a pair of runs, but that was long enough for him to became an early brother act with sib Howie, who won 109 games with the Bucs. Harry did have a strong minor league career, once winning 27 games for the McKeesport Tubers. 
  • 1899 - 3B William Julius "Judy" Johnson was born in Snow Hill, Maryland. The Hall-of-Famer spent the twenties as a stalwart of the legendary Hilldale Darby teams, then played and managed for the Homestead Grays in 1929-30. He was also with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, serving as team captain from 1932-1936. He retired after 17 seasons with a career .290 BA. The New York Times wrote that " a third baseman, Johnson was often compared with Pie Traynor," and the paper recalled Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack’s comment about Johnson: "If Judy were only white," Mack said, "he could name his own price." 
Judy Johnson (image via Negro League Hall of Fame)
  •  1983 - LHP Frankie Liriano was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. One of the Pirates most notable reclamation projects, the southpaw went 35-25 with a 3.26 ERA from 2013-15 for the Bucs and won the 2013 "Comeback Player of the Year" award. 
  • 1989 - RHP Diomedes Mateo was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. John Dreker in Pirates Prospects “This Date In Pirate History” noted that the Bucs were hoodwinked by Mateo, who they signed under the false pretense that he was a 16-year old player named Yoldi Sierra instead of the 20-year old Mateo. The MLB found out, suspended Mateo for two seasons, and he was out of organized ball following the 2012 season.
Diomedes Mateo (photo Bryan Green via Flickr)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

10/25: Branch Steps Down; Garber-for-Rooker; HBD Vic & JJ

  • 1893 - RHP Vic Aldridge was born in Crane, Indiana. He only tossed three seasons for the Bucs (1925-27), but bookended those campaigns with World Series appearances. Vic went 40-30-2/3.99 for the Pirates, starting 86 times, and went 2-1 in his four WS starts, claiming both his wins in 1925 against the Washington Senators’ Stan Coveleski. 
  • 1955 - Hall-of-Fame executive Branch Rickey stepped down as the Pirates' general manager, replaced by Joe L. Brown. During the Mahatma's five-year tenure, Pittsburgh’s “Rickey-Dinks” had three 100-loss seasons. Rickey was credited with developing a solid farm system for the Pirates and stayed with the organization as an advisor. 
Branch Rickey (photo via The Brittaenica Encyclopedia)
  • 1972 - The Pirates traded RHP Gene Garber to the Royals for RHP Jim Rooker. Rooker pitched eight seasons for the Pirates, winning 82 games with a 3.29 ERA before becoming a Buc announcer. Garber pitched out of various bullpens until 1988, winning 96 games and saving 218 more. Over his 19 year career, he saved 20+ games five times, with a high of 30 in 1982 for Atlanta. 
  • 1978 - OF Jerry “JJ” Davis was born in Glendora, California. A first round draft pick in 1997, Davis made very little noise in the show, playing in just 53 games from 2002-04 for the Pirates and batting .163, mostly as a pinch hitter.
JJ Davis 2001 Bowman series

Pirate News of the Week: Players, Staff Movin' On

The club hasn't settled in front of the TV for the playoffs. There has been a little shakin' and bakin' going on since Jake ended the Bucco season, mostly around the fringes so far:

Player Action:

  • The Bucs traded Colombian righty Richard Mitchell, a 20 year old, to the Marlins for 23 year old RHP Trevor Williams, a 2013 second rounder. Williams is a starter who got a taste of AAA this year. He has a 90-ish heater that he throws with both four and two seams, a decent curve and in progress slider. He's considered to be almost MLB ready as a four guy in the rotation; we'll see how his stuff works at Indy. None of his offerings are considered plus; he's a command type. Mitchell was switched from starting in the DSL to the pen in the GCL. He doesn't have swing-and-miss stuff either, but we're assuming new Fish hire Jim Benedict likes him down the road.
  • The Pirates began paring the 40-man. They outrighted OF Travis Snider, 1B Travis Ishikawa and RHP Deolis Guerra; Lunchbox and Ishy both opted for free agency. Before that, they waived RHP Vance Worley, who was claimed by the Orioles.
  • Elias Diaz was awarded the 2015 Captain's Award by Baseball America as minor league baseball's top defensive catcher. We expect another year at Indy for him to work on his swing before reaching Pittsburgh for good.
  • RHP Wilfredo Boscan and OF Gorkys Hernandez opted for minor league free agency.
  • The Pirate 40-man roster is at 42 players now. AJ & A-Ram are still on it, having not officially retired yet. They also have five players - Jung-Ho Kang, Andrew Lambo, Brandon Cumpton, Casey Sadler & Corey Hart - on the 60-day DL, along with a couple of borderline guys and several free agents, so there's some leg room for the FO. 

Staff Action:

  • The Marlins named Jim Benedict as VP of pitching development. Benedict & Ray Searage were the two-headed tweak monster that put several pitchers back on track, and his loss is bound to cause some at least short term pain to the organization. We're not quite sure if there was a professional, philosophic or financial reason for his departure, but it shouldn't have caught the Bucs without a Plan B; the Phils made a run at him in 2013, and his resume had to be attractive to other orgs. Prior to Benedict's hire, Miami hired away Marc DelPiano, who is their new VP of Player Development. He held that post once before for the Fish, and was in charge of scouting pro players for the Pirates.
  • In his ESPN Insider blog, Buster Olney writes that the Pirates are having "informal discussions" with Ben Cherington about an unspecified front office role. Cherington resigned as the Red Sox GM in August after being named the Major League Baseball Executive of the Year for 2013 by The Sporting News. (EDIT: he opted for a teaching gig at Columbia U.)
  • Third base coach Rick Sofield was one of five interviewees for the Padres' manager job. They plan a second round of interviews; no word yet if Sofield has been invited back. The thinking is that the Friars may be leaning toward a guy with experience like Ron Gardenhire or their AAA skipper Phil Nevin, so we'll see how that pans out.
  • Jay Bell was axed by Cincinnati, where he served as the bench coach.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

10/24:Maz Retires; HBD Bill, Omar, Junior & Raffy

  • 1858 - 3B Bill Kuehne (his surname was an Ellis Island special; in Germany, it was Knelme) was born in Leipzig, Germany. He played every position but pitcher and catcher, hitting .240 in Pittsburgh (Alleghenys 1885-89, Burghers 1890). His best years were with the Alleghenys, hitting .299 in 1887 and leading the NL with 138 games played in 1888.
Bill Kuehne 1887 Old Judge series
  • 1952 - Pirate CF Omar Moreno was born in Puerto Armuelles, Panama. “The Antelope” played eight years in Pittsburgh (1975-82) and led the league in stolen bases twice, swiping 487 sacks as a Buc. He hit .333 against the Orioles in the 1979 World Series. Omar was inducted into the Latino Hall of Fame in 2014. 
  • 1959 - C Adalberto “Junior” Ortiz was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Junior caught for the Bucs from 1982-83, spent a year with the Mets, and came back again between 1985-89. In seven seasons, the reserve hit .264 as a Pirate. 
  • 1961 - SS Rafael Belliard was born in Pueblo Nuevo, Dominican Republic. He played his first nine seasons (1982-90) in Pittsburgh as a good glove shortstop, hitting .218 during that time but ranking first in the NL in fielding percentage in 1988. Belliard went on to play the second half of his career in Atlanta, and was part of the ‘91-92 teams that eliminated the Bucs in the NLCS. 
Raffy 1989 Score series
  • 1972 - Bill Mazeroski retired from the Pirates after 17 seasons. He only played 34 games and hit .188 in his final campaign as a bench infielder (.260 lifetime). The Hall-of-Famer left a legacy of 10 All-Star games, eight Golden Gloves and two World Series championships. His number #9 was retired in 1987 and his statue was erected at PNC Park in 2010

Friday, October 23, 2015

2016 Team By Position: Outfield/Catcher

Part Two of the Peek at Position Players:

Outfield - The starting three are set.  The only question regarding Cutch and Starling Marte is when they'll swap positions, a decision we're pretty sure is up to Andrew to make. He's signed thorugh 2018 and Starling is in the fold until 2021 (assuming their options are picked up) and are long term pieces. Gregory Polanco looked to have turned the corner in the second half of the season, but his tenure as a Pirate may depend on whether or not he is willing to come to terms with the Bucs FO.

The Three Amigos (photo: Getty Images) 
There's no immediacy to shake hands as he won't even be eligible for arbitration until 2018. That amount of team control makes him attractive to the Pirates, certainly, but also to other teams looking for a toolsy outfielder. With Harold Ramirez, Keon Broxton, Brandon Barnes, Willie Garcia and eventually Austin Meadows in the pipeline, the Pirates will be deep in OF'ers. With that logjam, the Pirates would be foolish not to deal one or two pieces from a position of strength, and  El Coffee is the biggest bangle the Bucs have to offer.

Of the returning roster outfielders, Travis Snider, a free agent, and Jaff Decker, who is out of options, may be battling for a fourth OF spot, though there is no guarantee either one will be at camp; the young guys mentioned above may finally be knocking down the door. Andrew Lambo, who has options left, may or may not make the 40-man thanks to talent unrealized because of a constant stream of injuries, the latest costing him the 2015 campaign because of plantar fasciitis. Gloveman and cup-of-joe Bucco Gorkys Hernandez is gone, opting for minor league free agency.

Josh and S-Rod are also OF options in a pinch. Mad scientist Clint would be better served to use them as infielders, but both are competent in the pasture.

Catcher - Fran Cervelli played like he always has, with the exception being that he played all the time. He caught a career-high 128 games; his prior high was 90 games behind the dish in 2010 & only 234 games total cayching in his seven year Yankee stint. He came as advertised defensively; a good framer, strong pitch receiver, knows his pitchers and a so-so guy against the running game (aggravated by the staff in general). Offensively, his season was good, but not far from his usual standards. His 2015 slash was .295/.370/.401; his career line is .284/.357/.415. He's in his last year of arb, and we wouldn't be surprised if the Bucs tried to ink him to a deal to buy out a year or two of free agency before he hits the market in 2017; that way, they can get a read on the young guys coming up.

Fran da Man (Charles LeClaire/USAT)
Chris Stewart had a second nice year as the #2 guy (.289 & 28% CS rate in 2015), with heir-hopeful Elias Diaz getting a September taste. Stew's in his last arb season and looking at $1.5-1.75M or so; he should be back, with Diaz picking up some more Indy time to improve his stroke before his boat docks on the shores of the Allegheny.

Reese McGuire, the 14th selection in the 2013 draft, is the catcher to watch in the system. He hit just .255 at Bradenton, but showed a strong game behind the plate and was named the #11 prospect in the Florida State league by Baseball America. Reese will be 21 next season and should make the move to Altoona. Jacob Stalling, a good glove, no-hit guy, will either hang with the Curve to tutor McGuire or get bumped to Indy as Diaz's caddy.

And that should mark the end of days for Tony Sanchez. He hit .236 at Indy and still has his well-documented throwing issues with an 18% toss-out rate in 2015. Tony is both out of options and eligible to become a free agent, and that looks like what he'll be when the 40-man is set. Ironically, the 27 year old was the fourth pick of the 2009 draft largely on his defense (and signability) and it's been his glovework that's failed him in the organization.

10/23: HBD Jim, Danny MOY; Legendary Lloyd Hired; Glasnow Minor League POY

  • 1931 - RHP Jim Bunning was born in Southgate, Kentucky. The Hall of Famer tossed for the Bucs in 1968 and part of 1969, compiling a 14-23 mark with a 3.84 ERA before being traded to the LA Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers. 
Jim Bunning (photo The Sporting News)
  • 1958 - The Associated Press named Danny Murtaugh as its major league Manager of Year. After his first full season, the team improved by 22 games and finished 14 games over .500. In all, he managed 15 years, won 1,115 games, five pennants and two World Series. 
  • 2000 - The Pirates hired deposed manager Gene Lamont’s batting coach, Lloyd McClendon, as their the new skipper even though he had no prior experience as a manager. McClendon spent his last five MLB seasons as a player with the Buccos. He managed through 2005, spent time with Jim Leyland as a coach at Detroit and was the skipper for Seattle from 2014-15. 
Lyloyd McClendon 1992 Donruss series
  • 2014 - 21 year old RHP Tyler Glasnow was selected as’s Starting Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The 6-7 hurler, selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft and signed to a $600K bonus, went 12-5 with a 1.74 ERA while averaging 11.4 K per nine innings at High Class A Bradenton.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

10/22: HBD Jughandle, Possum, The Hat & Keith; Clint MOY;Clines for Dyer; WS Precursor

  • 1885 - Pittsburgh hosted a world series that it wasn’t even part of. The 1885 World Series was an ad hoc post-season playoff roadshow between the NL champion Chicago White Stockings and American Association champion St. Louis Browns, played in four different cities. The fifth game was played at Recreation Park in Pittsburgh. The weather was cold and fewer than 500 people were present. Chicago won 9-2 in a shortened game that was called after seven innings because of darkness.
  • 1895 - RHP “Jughandle Johnny” Morrison was born in Pellville, Kentucky. He worked eight seasons (1920-27) for the Pirates with an 89-71 record and 3.52 ERA. Johnny made three appearances in the 1925 World Series against Washington, striking out seven in 9-⅓ frames. In 1921, he was part of a Pirate brother act when sib Phil made the roster.
Jughandle Johnny Morrison 1925 (photo from the Morrison estate)
  • 1916 - Announcer Jim Woods was born in Kansas City. He was a sidekick of Bob Prince at KDKA from 1958-69, where he was known as "The Possum." Woods worked for the Yankees, Giants and NBC before coming to Pittsburgh, moving later to the Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox, then finishing his career as an announcer for the USA Network's Thursday Night Baseball games. Woods picked up his nickname of "Possum" while with New York. He had a slight overbite and close-cropped gray hair, and as he walked into the clubhouse fresh from a haircut, Enos Slaughter, or maybe Whitey Ford, looked him over and said, "I've seen better heads on a possum." Bob Prince picked up on the nickname, and the Gunner's wife even called Woods’ spouse “Mrs. Possum.”
  • 1916 - Harry “The Hat” Walker was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Walker was hired in 1965 to replace Danny Murtaugh, who stepped down for health reasons. The Pirates contended for the pennant during the 1965 and 1966 seasons, finishing third behind the champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the runner-up San Francisco Giants both years. But when the 1967 Pirates stumbled to a .500 mark in mid-season, Walker was let go in favor of his predecessor, Murtaugh. He did leave his mark, though, as an offensive mind on the organization. Walker, btw, got his nickname from his habit of continually tugging at his cap between pitches during his playing days.
  • 1968 - C Keith Osik was born in Port Jefferson, NY. Osik played for the Bucs from 1996-2002 as a catcher and all around utility guy, even pitching twice in blowout games while hitting .231. He’s been a successful head baseball coach since 2008 at Farmingdale State College, a Division III school located on Long Island.
Keith Osik 2002 Topps Total series
  • 1974 - The Pirates traded OF Gene Clines to the New York Mets for C Duffy Dyer. Dyer was a Pirate reserve for four years, mostly playing behind Manny Sanguillen. Clines didn’t do much for the Mets, but still had a couple of decent seasons left in him before hanging up the spikes after the 1979 season.
  • 1979 - Phil Garner was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated during SI’s WS coverage. He was a great choice, hitting .500 (12-for-24) in the October Classic, banging out four doubles, scoring four runs and driving home five.
  • 2013 - The Sporting News named Clint Hurdle NL Manager of the Year after he led the Pirates to playoffs after breaking a 20-year string of losing seasons with a 90 win campaign. The Bucs won the NL Wild Card Game against the Reds before dropping a five game series against the NL Central champs St Louis in the 2013 NLDS.
Clint, along with John Farrell - TSN Managers of the Year 2013
  • 2014 - CF Andrew McCutchen was the only Pirate named to The Sporting News NL All-Star team. 3B Josh Harrison & 2B Neil Walker were runner-ups, while C Russ Martin and LHP Tony Watson were also in the running, finishing third at their positions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10/20-21: HBP Jocko, Marc; Dave Giusti Deal; Frankie Named Comeback POY

  • October 20, 1864 - UT John “Jocko” Fields was born in Cork, Ireland. Jocko played everything on the field (mainly OF & C), hitting .265 as a member of the Alleghenys (1887-88), the Burghers of the Players’ League (1889) and the Pirates in 1890.
  • October 21, 1969 - RHP Dave Giusti and C Dave Ricketts came over from from St. Louis for 1B/OF Carl Taylor and OF Frank Vanzin. Giusti spent seven years in the Buc bullpen and earned 133 saves, marking his trade as one of the Buccos shrewder deals.
Dave Giusti 1970 Topps series
  • October 21, 1970 - RHP Marc Wilkins was born in Mansfield, Ohio. He spent his entire six season MLB career (1996-2001) as a Bucco reliever (he started two games as a rookie), putting up a line of 19-14-3/4.28 and appearing in 70 outings during 1997. . 
  • October 21, 2013 - LHP Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02) was named the Sporting News “Comeback Player of the Year” for 2013. Frankie had posted ERA’s north of 5 in three of his four prior seasons but sparkled for the Bucs. The runner up was RHP Mark Melancon, the Bucs set-up/closer arm, and third place went to OF Marlon Byrd, who the Pirates picked up from the NY Mets during the stretch run in late August.
Frankie Liriano 2013 Topps Chrome series

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

2016 Pirates by Position: Infield

2015 may have been it for the Pirate core, at least so far as the infield is concerned. There are scenarios where everyone old is new again, but the combination of cost v. performance makes it look a lot like a couple of old familiars are short-timers.

Corner Infield - First base will be a poser for NH and the gang. Pedro Alvarez was the man last year, and he did hit a team-high 27 homers for a team that is not blessed with many long ball hitters, and he did put up a 114 OPS+. With that said, he had a historically horrendous year with the glove, limiting him in many games to six innings or so, struck out 131 times in 491 PA (27%) and batted .243. And he's estimated to be in the $8M salary range in his final year of arbitration (all arb estimates taken from Matt Schwartz of MLB Trade Rumors), with 2017 being his walk year (and he most certainly will). Soooo...

He should have some value in the AL as a DH, although he didn't seem to draw much interest last winter. The Pirates will be pushed on spending this season, but are just looking for a place holder until Josh Bell makes the move to the show, which could come in June. That leaves them with the decision to carry on with El Toro one more year and lose him to FA, or try to move him while he can bring back some return.

End of the Pirate road for Pedro? (photo Gene Puskar/AP)
If he does go, that leaves Michael Morse as the starting 1B, minus any moves. The big guy is at best an adequate fielder with a -2.0 UZR/150, but he was errorless last season at first tho with not much range. Morse was dismal with the stick as a Marlin to start 2015, but put up a .275 BA and 118 OPS+ as a Pirate. He had a career high 25.5% line drive average last year, but just a 17.4% fly ball ratio, which limits his power potential (he did lose 31 balls in 2011, so he does have a resume). And he'll be cheaper than Pedro by a bit; his $8M contract is almost halved by a $3.83M donation from LA in 2016 per Cot's Baseball Contracts.

The cupboard is pretty bare behind him; the Bucs have to decide on whether or not to tender Travis Ishikawa (who declared for free agency), re-sign Sean Rodriguez, or cross their fingers that Andrew Lambo's achy foot recovers in time for him to enter the bench race. Aramis Ramirez retired and Cory Hart may (should) join him. The Pirate eggs here belong to Bell; the question is whether Pedro or Michael keep the sack warm for him, with a possible reach for a LH-1B for a bench role.

Third base belonged to Jung-Ho Kang, and his recovery will make things iffy this year. The good news is that his knee wasn't torn up; he basically suffered a badly broken leg, but has a good chance of rebounding from that and coming back at 100%. The question, of course, is when he'll be back and works himself back into baseball shape.

The hot corner is Josh Harrison's for the time being. He's proven he can handle the position, and the Bucs are paying him $5M to play regularly this season. His 2014 season looks like an outlier at the dish, but he's still a steady .280 hitter, is as versatile as they come and brings lots of energy to the field.

But with JHK out for an unspecified period and A-Ram gone, like first, there's not much behind Josh aside from S-Rod, who is likely but not guaranteed to return. So both corner spots, a flash mob scene during the last two months of 2015, are awfully thin going into camp. Both may be filled by June if Bell rakes at Indy and Kang gets healthy, so the Bucs may try to ease through a couple of months with a Pedro Floriman/Gift Ngoebe type on the bench, trading in some O for some D while weathering what is hopefully a temporary storm.

Middle Infield - The question mark here is Neil Walker. He can still bang a ball solidly enough for a middle infielder, but in the past couple of seasons, his range has shrunk noticeably. The Pine-Richland Kid is also in his last arb year and looking at $10.7M for 2016. There is some smoke that Walker could take over first, but NH said that wasn't happening, and with Kang's injury, The Kid's replacement, Josh, will be on the other side of the infield, throwing cold water all over that idea, logical as it may be.

JHK's injury may have bought Walker some extra time as a Bucco. His payday isn't out of line for an everyday second baseman who can hit, and the Bucs would be hard pressed to find an equivalent player for much less. But we don't think he's going be wearing the hometown jersey past the season. He and the brass have never come close to a contract to cover his FA years, and at age 30, the question of how his performance holds up does come into play.

Will The Kid bid Pittsburgh goodbye? (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
Our guess is he breaks camp with the team (although a winter deal isn't out of the realm of possibility) until JHK comes back and Josh can slide to second. Alen Hanson is the heir apparent to the position, but was spotty at Indy and doesn't seem a threat to immediately take Walker's spot. But Neil could be deadline bait, as the FO would like to get something back for him.

Jordy has shortstop by default. He's a steady defender and just entering his arb years. But his habit of starting off the season icy cold is one reason the team has started off slowly since he's become the starter. Still, Kang was his only current challenger at the position, and the Florimon - Ngoebe connection is the best AAA has to offer.

Kang's injury has caused a lot of ripples in what was going to be a transitional season for the infield. It may extend Walker's stay and makes it more likely that S-Rod continues in his everyman's role. It also takes a weapon out of Clint's hands as Josh can't be used as a chess piece now that he's anchored to third.

The reason we think the Pirates will try to tough out the first couple of months with an ironman infield rather than deal (altho a rental at first or S-Rod replacement is possible) is because the holes are temporary, at least by blueprint. JHK should be back during the late spring or early summer, and in June both Josh Bell and Alen Hansen are capable of earning a spot in Pittsburgh. Max Moroff had a strong year at Altoona (.293/.374/.409), and if he keeps on, could become the Bucs middle infield spare part in 2017, if not in September.

Of course, hanging your hat on the pups has its risks, not everyone makes the jump successfully. But if the plan reaches fruition, Pittsburgh will have a young and team-controlled infield for years to come.

Monday, October 19, 2015

10/19: HBD Tom, Don & J-Mac; Joey Bats Trade; Harry the Hat Hired

  • 1874 - OF Tom McCreery was born in Beaver. The local kid played from 1898-1900 for the Pirates, batting .303. He later became head baseball coach at Pitt for the 1912 season. Tom became the only player in major league history to hit three inside the park homers in a single game in 1897 for the Louisville Colonels. He lived out his days in his hometown, and stayed in the game by running the semi-pro Rochester Athletics. 
Tom McCreery 1913 (image from the Pitt Owl yearbook)
  • 1931 - C Don Leppert was born in Indianapolis. He had a brief four year MLB career as a reserve catcher, starting with Pittsburgh in 1961-62 and batting .266. But he made the record books by hitting a homerun on the first pitch thrown to him in the show on June 18th, 1961, against Curt Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals in a 5-3 Bucco win. Leppert managed the Pirates’ Class A Gastonia club in 1967 and then served as a MLB coach for Pittsburgh from 1968–1976. 
  • 1964 - Harry “The Hat” Walker was named manager of the Pirates, replacing Danny Murtaugh after an 80-82 season and sixth place finish in the NL. After a couple of competitive seasons, he was let go in 1967 and replaced by...Danny Murtaugh. 
  • 1980 - 3B/OF Jose Bautista was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He played for the Bucs from 2004-08, and hit .241 with 43 HR during that time before being traded to Toronto in 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. Joey Bats blossomed after becoming a Blue Jay, leading the AL in homers & RBI twice. 
Joey Bats 2002 Topps Prospects series
  • 1984 - James McDonald was born in Long Beach, California. The righty came to Pittsburgh in 2010 as part of the Octavio Dotel deal, and was an up-and-down member of the rotation until 2013, going 27-24/4.21 in his Pirate years. J-Mac had a breakout campaign in 2012 until after the All-Star break when the wheels fell off, and he never recovered.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

10/18: Superbas Win Cup; Cash Dealt to Phils; HBD Phil Morrison

  • 1894 - RHP Phil Morrison was born in Rockport, Indiana. His MLB career consisted of ⅔ IP for the Pirates in 1921, but he became one of the early Pirate brother family acts with that appearance, joining his brother, pitcher “Jughead” Johnny Morrison, on that season’s stat sheet. 
  • 1900 - The Brooklyn Superbas won the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup three games to one with a 4-1 win at Exposition Park as Joe McGinnity outpitched Sam Leever. The series was a challenge match sponsored by the Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph (bought by the Pittsburgh Press in 1924) between the top two NL teams in an era before post-season games. It was a fruitful learning experience for the runner-up Pirates, which went on to win the next three NL pennants and played in the first World Series in 1903. The Brooklyn club didn’t win another postseason set until 1955, when they claimed the World Series title as the Dodgers. 
Dave Cash 1973 Topps series
  • 1973 - The Pirates shipped 2B Dave Cash to Philadelphia in exchange for LHP Ken Brett. Cash was being phased out for Rennie Stennett, but still had seven years and three All-Star games left in him. Brett went 22-14 with a 3.32 ERA for Pittsburgh in two seasons and made an All-Star team before an elbow injury slowed him down, and like Cash still had a long shelf life. He pitched seven more years after leaving the Pirates, although he wasn’t really effective again after 1976.
Ken Brett 1974 Topps series

Saturday, October 17, 2015

10/17: Bye-Bye Birds - Bucs Win '71, '79 WS; Bravos Take '91 NLCS; HBD Pete

  • 1900 - Pittsburgh avoided being swept in the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup series by nickle-and-diming Harry Howell for 13 singles and 10 runs. Tommy Leach reached base five times and scored four runs. Ginger Beaumont had three hits, and Claude Ritchey, Honus Wagner and Bones Ely added a pair. Deacon Phillippe threw a six-hit shutout for the win at Exposition Park, although the Pirates still trailed the best-of-five series two games to one. 
  • 1929 - Pirate catcher and GM Harding “Pete” Peterson was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He appeared in 65 games over four seasons (1955; 1957–59) for Pittsburgh and batted .273 in limited service, due to a two-year stint in Korea. His playing career was effectively ended as the result of a broken arm suffered in a home plate collision at Wrigley Field in early 1959. Pete coached and headed the scouting department for the Bucs afterward, and took Joe L. Brown’s spot as GM in 1976. He fielded strong teams in the late seventies with a championship club in 1979. Peterson lasted until 1985, dragged down by the cocaine trails and the soap opera over team ownership. 
  • 1967 - 1B Mark Johnson was born in Worcester, MA. Mark was a good glove, power-hitting guy who made his MLB debut at the advanced age of 27. His .239 BA in three years (1995-97) with the Pirates didn’t cut it as he lost his job to Kevin Young. Johnson was a good pinch hitter and closed out his career with the NY Mets, playing until 2002.
Steve & Manny celebrate in '71 (image from Pgh Tribune)
  • 1971 - Steve Blass hurled a four-hitter and Roberto Clemente homered as the Pirates won Game Seven of the World Series, 2-1, at Baltimore, earning Pittsburgh its fourth World Championship. The winning run scored in the eighth, when Jose Pagan doubled home Willie Stargell. Clemente hit safely in all seven games of the series, a feat he also accomplished in 1960 against the Yankees, extending his consecutive Fall Classic hitting streak to 14 contests. He also became the first Latino player to earn World Series MVP honors after batting .414. Bruce Kison and his best man Bob Moose were taken from Memorial Stadium by helicopter to a waiting Lear Jet to attend his wedding in Pittsburgh; the groom arrived just 33 minutes late. And though it was a bright moment for the club, it wasn’t for some fans. After the game‚ 40‚000 people ran wild downtown; many were arrested and at least 100 were injured.
  • 1979 - In Game Seven at Baltimore, President Jimmy Carter opened the game with a ceremonial pitch and Willie Stargell finished it by going 4-for-5 with his third World Series homer, lifting the Pirates to a 4-1 win and their fifth World Championship. Captain Willie gave the Bucs a 2-1 lead in the sixth with his blast. Kent Tekulve worked out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth and Pittsburgh tacked on a pair of ninth inning insurance runs to take a 4-1 victory, with Grant Jackson earning the W. Pops was named Series MVP after the Pirates erased a three-games-to-one deficit to rally past the Orioles. 60,000 fans greeted the team at the airport when they arrived home at 3AM, with thousands more lining the parkway. Baltimore, which planned a victory parade two games prior, still held one the next day and drew 125,000 for their beloved and bedraggled Birds. The game was big - an estimated 80 million people, then the largest TV audience in the history of the World Series, watched the showdown. 
Pops goes long in 1979's game seven (photo: Associated Press)
  • 1991 - In Game Seven of the NLCS, Brian Hunter's two-run shot in the first inning off John Smiley was all John Smoltz needed as he tossed a 4-0, six hit whitewash against the Bucs at TRS. Atlanta won their first NL pennant since their move from Milwaukee as the Pirates failed to score in the last 22 innings of the series. The Braves lost the World Series to the Minnesota Twins four games to three in one of the most dramatic championships in the MLB annals. 
  • 2014 - After a 29-year affiliation with the Pirates, starting as a player and spending the last five as the Bucs bench coach, Jeff “Banny” Banister left the organization to become the 18th manager of the Texas Rangers. It was, in its own way, a delayed PTBNL deal involving coaches turned skippers; the Pirates took their manager, Clint Hurdle, from Texas in 2011.

Friday, October 16, 2015

10/16: Pirates Take '09 Crown; Bucs, O's Even '71 & '79 WS; Cutch BA-ROY; HBD Lenny

  • 1898 - According to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, Honus Wagner hurled a baseball 403 feet 8 inches in a throwing contest at Louisville's League Park (teams often featured races and long-toss exhibitions back in the day) to beat the record of 400' 7 1/2" set by the Brooklyn Mutuals' John Hatfield in 1872. Wagner's distance throw was‚ in some histories‚ topped by Larry LeJeune’s toss 435 feet on October 3rd‚ 1907, although that’s not universally accepted. 
  • 1900 - The Bucs committed six errors against the Brooklyn Superbas at Exposition Park during the Chronicle-Telegraph Challenge series and lost 4-2 as Fred Kitson got the better of Sam Leever. Pittsburgh was held to four hits, with Honus Wagner’s double leading to one run and Jack O’Connor driving in Tom O’Brien for the other tally. 
  • 1909 - In a World Series showdown between two of baseball's premier players, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb, the Pirates downed the hometown Detroit Tigers, 8-0, in game seven to become World Champions for the first time. The real star of the Series, though, was rookie pitcher Babe Adams, who notched three victories, including the decisive seventh game six-hit shutout. The Pirates were helped by Tiger wildness; the Bucs banged out just seven hits, but the 10 walks were the killers for Motown (Fred Clarke got zero official at bats; he walked four times and scored twice). Honus Wagner and Dots Miller had a pair of RBI, while Clarke and Tommy Leach scored twice. It was the first World Series to go seven games. The Flying Dutchman, battling injuries in his first World Series in 1903, bounced back this time around. Hans hit .333, with seven RBIs and six stolen bases to outshine Ty Cobb, who hit .231 with six runs driven home and two steals. 
Babe Adams 1912 (image from Dan Austin Virtual Collection)
  • 1928 - P and scout Lenny Yochim was born in New Orleans. He had a brief career with the Pirates (1951, 1954, 1-2, 7.62 ERA), but a long and fairly shiny one in the minors, where he once tossed a no hitter. After his playing days, Yochim rejoined the Pirates in 1966 as part of their baseball operations department. He served in various scouting positions before moving into the front office in 1994, where he worked as a senior adviser for player personnel through 2004. 
  • 1971 - The Baltimore Orioles came back from a 2-0 hole to take a 3-2, 10 inning win from the Bucs at Memorial Stadium and forcing the World Series to a seventh game. The Pirates left the bases loaded in the 10th. Baltimore didn’t. Brooks Robinson’s short sac fly to center off Bob Miller barely brought in Frank Robinson; Al Oliver had been removed in a double switch just that inning, putting the weak-armed vic Davalillo in center. Robinson paid a price; he injured his hamstring and reaggravated an Achilles injury, limiting him severely in the decisive game. Roberto Clemente had a homer for Pittsburgh and also had a highlight throw in the bottom of the ninth, a one hop strike to home that froze Mark Belanger, who represented the winning run, at third after Don Buford’s two-out double. Bob Moose became the Bucs sixth different starter when he took the hill in the first, as the scheduled pitcher, Dock Ellis, was scratched with an injury. 
  • 1979 - With Baltimore papers filled with stories of the Orioles’ World Series victory parade, the Bucs rode John Candelaria and Kent Tekulve to a 4-0 win at Memorial Stadium to square the series at three games each. The top of the order (Omar Moreno & Tim Foli) and the bottom (Ed Ott & Phil Garner) combined for nine hits and scored all four runs. 
Tim Foli 1979 Topps series
  • 1991 - For the second time in the series, the Bucs were 1-0 losers to the Atlanta Braves to send the NLCS to a seventh game. The Pirates were held to four hits by Steve Avery and Alejandro Pena at TRS. The game’s only tally came with two outs in the ninth when Greg Olsen doubled home Ron Gant to hand Doug Drabek the defeat. 
  • 2009 - Andrew McCutchen was named the Baseball America Rookie of the Year for 2009, and finished fourth in the NL ROY balloting. He joined the team in June, replacing Nate McLouth, and finished his rookie season with a .286 BA, 12 HR, 54 RBI, and 22 stolen bases in 108 games. Cutch singled off the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey in his first MLB at-bat to get his career off to a flying start.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hot Stove League: Pirate Contract Status Going Into the Off Season

The Pirate roster and their contract status; they'll be some decisions to make:

  • AJ
  • A-Ram.
The Bucs are losing 35 years of pretty good baseball between the pair and in AJ's case, a pretty fiery leader.

Under contract: (2016 salary, FA date):
  • Frankie Liriano ($13M - FA 2018)
  • Cutch ($10M - FA 2018/club option)
  • Charlie Morton ($8M - FA 2017/club option
  • Michael Morse ($4.167M - FA 2017, $8M minus $3.833M from LA))
  • Josh Harrison ($5M - FA 2019-20/club options)
  • Starling Marte ($3M - FA 2020-21/club options)
  • Jung-Ho Kang ($2.5M - FA 2019/club option).
They'll all be back. The questions are how soon JHK will be baseball ready again and if Charlie rebounds or is replaced by All-Star time when the young guns are ready to join the show. Just these seven guys will collect $$45.667M in 2016.

Free Agents: (2015 salary):
  • Joakim Soria ($7M) 
  • JA Happ ($6.7M) 
  • Antonio Bastardo ($3.1M) 
  • Corey Hart ($2.5M) 
  • Sean Rodriguez ($1.9M)
  • Joe Blanton ($1M).
Hart may be ready to hang 'em up; his bum knee has never recovered. Soria has stated a desire to close, and is expensive for his role. The Bucs will try to re-up the rest; we'll see if Happ & Bastardo have priced themselves out of the Bucco comfort zone. We'd assume all will declare for FA five days after the World Series, the starting date.
Under Team Control - Arb (Current Salary; 2016 Salary Estimate by Matt Schwartz of MLB Trade Rumors):
  • Neil Walker ($8M) – $10.7M
  • Mark Melancon ($5.4M) – $10.0M
  • Pedro Alvarez ($5.75M) – $8.1M
  • Tony Watson ($1.75M) – $4.6M
  • Jeff Locke ($531K) – $3.5M
  • Vance Worley ($2.45M) – $2.7M
  • Francisco Cervelli ($987.5K) – $2.5M
  • Travis Snider ($2.1M) – $2.4M
  • Jared Hughes ($1.075M) – $2.2M
  • Jordy Mercer ($538K) – $1.8M
  • Chris Stewart ($1.225M) – $1.6M
  • Travis Ishikawa ($1.1M) – $1.2M.
This is an interesting gang. With Kang on ice, the Pirates have a need for The Kid or risk being caught short of infielders. Pedro - and maybe Mark the Shark - may be tendered offers and then shopped. Pedro is a tricky option. He and Michael Morse would be a nice pair of bats at first, but neither guy flashes any leather. We'll see if the FO values D or milks another year from El Toro, even with his value on the rebound, especially to an AL club. He'd leave a hole; Josh Bell isn't ready to take over yet. The Shark may be at his highest value (and closers are often overvalued , and the Bucs have discussed Watson as his heir apparent. Cervelli, Mercer, Watson & Hughes are locks and Stew is likely, too. Locke will get an offer, tho Vanimal is a bit more iffy. The two Travis are maybes. December 2nd is the tender deadline.

Under Team Control (Pre-Arb):
  • Gerrit Cole
  • Gregory Polanco 
  • Arquimedes Caminero
  • Pedro Florimon
  • Jaff Decker
  • Bobby LaFromboise 
  • Andrew Lambo 
  • Rob Scahill
  • Brandon Cumpton
  • Casey Sadler.
Cole, Polanco, and Caminero are of course roster shoo-ins. LaFromboise may earn a look if the Bucs lose Bastardo and the Bucs may elect to keep Decker, who is out of options, as a cheaper alternative to Travis Snider. Maybe they'll still have some love for Florimon, too, as a depth piece. Cumpton will travel a tough road to overcome his injuries, and the other guys, if they hang on, are just depth right now. 

Potential Minor League Jumpers:
  • Jameson Taillon 
  • Nick Kingham 
  • Elias Diaz 
  • Alen Hansen
  • Tyler Glasnow
  • Josh Bell
  • Keon Broxton 
  • Harold Ramirez,
  • Tony Sanchez, 
  • Gift Ngoebe 
  • John Koldzkum 
  • Willie Garcia.
Bell was the only Indy player to make the Baseball America Top Twenty Prospect List, but we'd expect the first half dozen players on the bullet list to arrive on a mid-2016-to-mid-2017 timetable.

10/15: Bucs Beat Big Train for '25 Title; HBD Bob & Carlos; Alleghenys Reborn; 1900 Silver Cup Game

  • 1881 - H. D. McKnight resurrected the Allegheny Baseball Club of Pittsburgh (it had disbanded after the 1877 season) to join the newly formed American Association. In 1887 they joined the NL, and in 1890 morphed into the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
  • 1887 - RHP Bob Harmon was born in Liberal, Missouri. He tossed for four seasons for the Pirates (1914-16, 1918), going 39-52 with an ERA of 2.60, splitting his time between starting and the pen. 
Bob Harmon 1916 Herpolscheimer series
  • 1892 - On the last day the season, Cincinnati pitcher Charles “Bumpus” Jones no-hit Pittsburgh at League Park in his first major league start. Bumpus won 7-1, fanning three and issuing four walks. His MLB career lasted eight games and he won just one other decision. Still, he remains the only player to pitch a no-hitter in his first MLB appearance. Bill James, per Wikipedia, gave him the distinction of being the “mathematically least likely pitcher ever to have thrown a no-hitter in the major leagues.” 
  • 1900 - The Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph offered a silver cup to the winner of a best-of-five series at Exposition Park between the NL’s top two teams, the Pirates and the Brooklyn Superbas; Brooklyn won the 1900 title by 4-½ games over the Bucs during the regular season. Two future Hall of Famers faced off in the opener as NL ERA leader Rube Waddell (2.37) went against “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity, who topped the league with 28 wins. McGinnity shut out the Pirates for eight innings before two unearned runs in the top of the ninth cost him the shutout. Not only was he hurt by shoddy fielding, but he had been knocked out briefly the inning before during a rundown when he was accidentally kneed. He refused to come out after he came to, and went the distance for a five-hit, 5-2 victory, with Claude Ritchey banging a pair of knocks in a losing cause. 
  • 1925 - In Game Seven of the World Series at Forbes Field, played on a muddy track soaked by a two day rainstorm, Kiki Cuyler laced an eighth-inning, two out, bases loaded double off Washington's Walter “Big Train” Johnson to lead the Pirates to a 9-7 comeback victory and their second World Championship, made all the sweeter by rallying from an early 4-0 deficit. Ray Kremer got the win, his second of the Series, with four innings of relief after pitching a complete game win two days before. Errors by SS Roger Peckinpaugh, the AL MVP, in both the seventh and eighth innings led to four unearned runs. He had a tough Series in the field, committing a record eight errors. The Bucs became the first team to win a World Series after being down three games to one. The Series also was a financial hit‚ grossing a record-setting $1.2M. Winning shares were $5‚332.72 while the losers pocketed $3‚734.60. 
Kiki Cuyler 2003 Fleer Fall Classic series
  •  1967 - IF Carlos Garcia was born in Tachira, Venezuela. In seven (1990-96) Bucco seasons, he hit .278 and was an All-Star in 1994. García was the first base coach and infield instructor for Pittsburgh in 2010. He was named the manager of the Bradenton Marauders in December 2010, and in 2013-14, Garcia managed the Altoona Curve.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

10/14: Sid's Slide; Rook & Bert Tame O's; HBD Oscar, Scoops, Jimmy, Kenny & Midre; Gus Bell Trade;

  • 1886 - CF Oscar Charleston was born in Indianapolis. The Hall of Famer played for the Homestead Grays from 1930-31, and from 1932-37 was the player/manager for the Pittsburgh Crawfords during their heyday years. He consistently hit .340+ for the Crawfords, with a .363 BA in 1932. That club, with brother Hall of Famers Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Judy Johnson on the roster, is considered among the best Negro League teams ever fielded.
Oscar Charleston undated via Encyclopedia Brittanica
  • 1909 - The Pirates scored three times in the first inning,  keyed by a Hans Wagner double, but the Detroit Tigers came back to take a 5-4 win at Bennett Park to force a seventh game in the World Series. The Cats used a balanced attack, banging out 10 hits, five of which were doubles, to give George Mullin the win and send Vic Willis to defeat. The Pirates almost pulled it out in the ninth. Leadoff singles and a misplayed bunt brought the Bucs within a run with Pirates on the corners and no outs, but Pittsburgh couldn’t cash in. Bill Abstein was tossed out at home on George Gibson’s bouncer to first and Ed Abbatichio banged into a game-ending DP and killing the golden goose.
  • 1909 - OF Jimmy Ripple was born in Export, a coal patch in Westmoreland County. Although he never played for the Pirates except for one minor league season, Ripple was a very solid man with the stick, compiling a .280 lifetime BA over seven campaigns and appearing in three World Series. He also spent a dozen years in the minors (his first stop was with the Jeanette Jays), mostly in the AAA International League, and in 1956 was elected to the IL Hall of Fame. He was noted for his confrontation with Dizzy Dean when Ripple was a Giant. Dean threw at his head, and Jimmy bunted the next pitch down the first base line to exact some vengeance on Dizzy. The ball, Ripple, Dean and first baseman Johnny Mize all arrived at the sack at the same time, with bodies flying and eventually fists, too. Oddly, neither Ripple nor Dean were reprimanded for the melee.
  • 1915 - LHP Ken Heintzelman was born in Peruque, Missouri. He pitched for Pittsburgh from 1937-42, was off during the war years, and then returned for 1946-47. In eight years, the southpaw made 154 appearances with 86 starts and went 37-43 with a 4.14 ERA. His son Tom, went on to play MLB ball with the Cardinals and Giants as an infielder between 1973 and 1978.
Ken Heintzelman 1947 Bowman series
  • 1946 - OF/1B Al “Scoops” Oliver was born in Portsmouth, Ohio. He played 10 of his 18 big league years in Pittsburgh with a line of .296/135/717 and three All-Star berths. Scoops was a key member of the early seventy clubs that won a World Series and five pennants in six seasons. He hit the last home run at Forbes Field off Cubbie Milt Pappas and also drove in the first run ever scored at Three Rivers Stadium, doubling in Richie Hebner against the Reds’ Gary Nolan.
  • 1952 - 22 year old Pirate OF Gus Bell was traded to the Giants for outfielders Gail Henley and Cal Abrams, along with C Joe Rossi. Bell spent the next 13 years in the show, nine with the Reds and four as an All-Star, and belted double figure homers for the next eight seasons with a high of 30 in 1953.
  • 1968 - The Pirates lost OF Manny Mota, 1B Donn Clendenon and 3B Maury Wills to the Montreal Expos along with pitchers Dave Roberts, Al McBean and Ron Slocum to the San Diego Padres during the expansion draft. 1971 - Nellie Briles tossed a two hit shutout at the Baltimore Orioles, and the 4-0 win put the Pirates up three games to two in the World Series. Every Pirate batter reached base during the game, with Bob Robertson hitting a solo shot at TRS in front of 51,377 Pittsburgh fans.
  • 1971 - OF Midre Cummings was born in Christiansted, St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands. A first round pick of the Twins in the 1990 draft, he came to Pittsburgh as part of the John Smiley deal. Between 1993-97, he barely got over 500 AB for the Bucs, hitting .217. After the Pirates let him go, he played until 2005, having just one season hitting under .275, although in reserve roles.
Midre Cummings 1994 Triple Play series
  • 1979 - Staring at elimination, Jim Rooker and Bert Blyleven tossed a combo six hitter against the Orioles at TRS as the Bucs stayed alive with a 7-1 victory. Tim Foli tripled and had three RBI while Bill Madlock went 4-for-4, with Baltimore still ahead in the WS three games to two.
  • 1991 - The Pirates Zane Smith was the victor as the Bucs took a 1-0 win over the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. Tom Glavine was the loser, touched up only in the fifth when Chico Lind singled home Steve Buechele. The Braves lost a run when David Justice missed 3B while heading home on a two-out, fourth inning single in a call that was controversial and replay inconclusive.
  • 1992 - Pittsburgh lost the seventh game of the NLCS to the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium 3-2 when Sid Bream scored in the ninth, barely beating Barry Bond's off-line throw and Spanky LaValliere’s lunging tag to begin a two-decade long Bucco Dark Age. Pittsburgh carried a two run lead into the last frame when a Chico Lind error and two walks proved fatal. The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Bravos four games to two in the World Series, taking all four of their victories by one run and three of those wins came in their last at bat.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October 13, 1960; The Game Seven Story

The Pirates had a chance to put the series to bed in Game Six at Pittsburgh, but a 12-0 thumpin' pushed the set to a do-or-die game seven at Forbes Field. And it was one that'll go down in baseball history; some called it "the greatest game ever played."

Bob Turley and Vern Law got the starting nods. The Bucs ran away to a quick 4-0 lead thanks to a two-run homer in the first by Rocky Nelson and a single by The Quail, Bill Virdon, that drove in two more in the second.

It sat that way until the fifth when the Yanks got a run back on Moose Skowron's long ball and then exploded for four more tallies in the sixth, keyed by Yogi Berra's three run homer, to go up 5-4.

The seventh inning went quietly, but the eighth was to prove a memorable frame of playoff baseball

The Yankees added a pair off Roy Face thanks to back-to-back knocks by Johnny Blanchard & Clete Boyer to make the score 7-4, setting the 36,683 fans squirming. But the Bucs had an answer. Gino Cimoli singled, and Virdon's DP ball took a Bucco bounce and smacked Tony Kubek in the throat.

Kubek went down, and the Bucs went up (photo Sports Illustrated)
Dick Groat's rap plated Cimoli. A bunt moved the runners up, but a short fly froze the pair. Then Roberto Clemente bled one on the right side; Yankee hurler Jim Coates ran the ball down but couldn't run down the Great One, who legged out an RBI single. It proved huge when Hal Smith, in the game because starting catcher Smoky Burgess had been pulled for a pinch-runner, drilled a homer to left, turning a 7-6 deficit into a 9-7 lead, putting Pittsburgh  just three outs away from the title.

Dick Groat & Roberto Clemente greet Hal Smith (photo Associated Press)
But the Yankees were a great club, and they weren't done yet. Bob Friend came on for the save, but was chased after giving up consecutive singles to open the ninth. Harvey Haddix took the ball and after an out, Mickey Mantle lined a knock to bring the Bronx Bombers within a run. It looked like The Kitten had the game wrapped up when Berra hit a hard shot to Nelson, who stepped on first and turned to second to catch the Mickster for the game-ending out. But it wasn't to be; a heads-up Mantle put on the brakes after Rocky touched first, and with the force off, dove back in under a lunging tag, allowing the tying run to score.

But we know how it ends. Ralph Terry's second pitch to Bill Mazeroski - Maz thought it was a high fastball - was launched into Schenley Plaza over the giant green scoreboard as Berra watched, and the most dramatic finish to a world series had its boffo finish with the Bucs on top 10-9.

Touch 'em all, Maz (photo by Jimmy Klingensmith/Pgh Post Gazette)
This is how Pittsburgh felt about Maz after the game, and still do today:

Been worse choices...(photo Life Magazine)