Saturday, December 31, 2016

Notes: Peace & Health in 2017 and the Bucco News This Week...

The FO is in a holiday lull, tho a couple of guys have made moves...
  • Apparently, the Bucs haven't been blown away by Cutch suitors, tho his name will pop up from now until the deadline and perhaps beyond. So far Detroit, the Yankees, the Blue Jays and some configuration w/the White Sox and Quintana have been mentioned as interested to varying degrees. But as Willie Sthe Bard once noted, so far it's all "...sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Willy is movin' along - Bowman 2014 Prospects
  • The Pirates DFA'ed Willy Garcia, 24, to create a roster spot for Ivan Nova. Willy, MLB Pipeline's #15 Pirates prospect, slashed just .245/.293/.366 at Indy in 2016 but showed power potential and a rifle arm as a projected corner outfielder. Plate discipline issues (812 K/779 games), a flat line at Indy and a logjam of OF'ers cost him.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball selected his Top 20 Pirates prospects and includes 47 players he considers worth watching.
  • Cup-of-coffee Pirates C Wyatt Toregas is carving out a new career with the Bucs as a minor league skipper. A little of his tale is passed on by Derek Redd of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Ross is goin' way East - 2011 Topps Gold
  • RHP Ross Ohlendorf signed a one-year contract with the Yakult Swallows of the Japanese League for $1.5M plus $400K in incentives. Ohlie tossed for Pittsburgh from 2008-11; he was with the Reds last season.
  • LHP Jonathan Sanchez signed minor league deal with the KC Royals. He hasn't pulled on a MLB uni since the Bucs cut him loose in 2013.
  • The Cubbies added a couple of old Pirates on minor league deals - LHP Daniel Moskos, who was the Buccos first round pick (fourth overall) in 2007 and got his only MLB taste with Pittsburgh in 2011, along with depth C Ali Solis, who toiled at Altoona & Indy in 2013.
Daniel Moskos 2011 Topps Gold
  • The Pirates and their landlord, the Sports & Exhibition Authority, are at it again. The Buccos claim PNC need repairs; the SEA said whoa, you want improvements. Since the ball club pays for upgrades and the SEA for repairs, it's kinda a mess, so cue the lawyers.

12/31: RIP Roberto; Car Crash; Walkie's Last Deal; CBA Blues; HBD Bobby, Jim & Esteban

  • December 31, 1972 - The day that baseball still mourns: Roberto Clemente, 38, was killed when his plane, on a humanitarian trip to Managua, crashed in the Atlantic while on a rescue mission. (Click for the NY Times story.) Clemente had quietly spent much of his time during his off-seasons involved in charity work. When Managua was affected by a massive earthquake, he put together relief flights to aid in its recovery and was aboard on the fourth trip he had personally organized, on an overloaded and mechanically cranky DC-7. In an eerie trivial bit, pitcher Tom Walker, Neil’s dad, helped The Great One load the plane and was going to take the flight with him, but Clemente insisted he stay in San Juan and enjoy New Year’s Eve. Roberto went because he thought the situation called for his presence as some supplies were being hijacked by government officials, but it wasn't to be. The plane crashed into the ocean, and Clemente's body was never recovered. In fact, Manny Sanguillen missed Roberto's memorial service; he was diving in a search for the body. Posthumously, Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame, not only as the first Latino player, but the first to have the five-year wait waived. The Roberto Clemente Award was established to provide a charitable grant to the player who was the most committed to community service. His number was retired by the Pirates and his statue is prominent near the Roberto Clemente bridge leading to PNC Park. So while he's gone, his memory and legacy remain.
The Great One Topps 1973
  • 1884 - 3B Bobby Byrne was born in St. Louis. The pint sized (5-7, 145) scrapper played five seasons for the Pirates (1909-13) and hit .277 with 97 stolen bases in Pittsburgh. He was acquired late in 1909 and helped the Bucs to their World Series title against the Tigers. A leadoff hitter, Bobby had 176 swipes in his career and walked more often than he whiffed. Byrne was also a very good soccer player, making the All-St. Louis team as a youth and playing in the area until Barney Dreyfuss made him stick to one sport.
  • 1954 - The day that caused Roberto Clemente’s legendarily achy back: While in Puerto Rico, Clemente suffered disc damage to his spine when he was broadsided by a drunk driver who ran a red light. The accident caused Clemente to suffer from back pain for the remainder of his life, sometimes leading to unfounded "jake" charges from writers and some teammates.
  • 1955 - MGR Jim Tracy was born in Hamilton, Ohio. Tracy was hired by the Pirates in 2005, taking the spot of interim skipper Pete Mackanin, who finished Lloyd McClendon’s term. Jim logged a 135–189 record in two campaigns and was let go after the 2007 season, replaced by John Russell. Clint Hurdle hired him as a bench coach at Colorado in 2008, and Tracy took over there where Hurdle was fired in May. Did pretty well, too, being named Manager of the Year. Clint also landed on his feet, taking over in 2010 at Pittsburgh.
Jim Tracy 2006 Upper Deck
  • 1971 - RHP Esteban Loaiza was born in Tijuana. He began his 14 year career in Pittsburgh from 1995-98, where he showed maddening promise, but no consistency, going 27-28/4.61 over that span. He did put it together once, in 2003 for the White Sox, going 21-9/2.90 and earning his first of two All-Star berths. He was also considered for the Cy Young that year, finishing second behind Roy Halladay but ahead of Pedro Martínez and Tim Hudson.
  • 1979 - The New Year wasn’t a happy one for baseball or its fans. The Collective Bargaining Agreement expired, not be be hammered out until May after a threatened player’s strike date was set. It still didn’t address the 800 pound elephant in the room, free agent compensation, and kicking that can down the road led to the 1981 strike.
  • 1991 - RHP Bob Walk inked his final contract, signing up for two more years with the Bucs. He earned $4.2M over the two campaigns, cashing in on bonus money included in the package. He went 23-20-2/4.64 over the life of the deal with a solid 1992 (10-6/3.20) but then a rough campaign (13-14/5.68) the following season, his last.

Friday, December 30, 2016

12/30: Babe for Babe; HBP Jim & Sean

  • 1890 - IF Jim Viox was born in Lockland, Ohio. Viox played from 1912-16, starting at second base from 1913-15. His five year career was spent as a Bucco, and he put up a .272 lifetime BA. The Buc infielder had a good eye, drawing 100 more walks during his career than strikeouts. He left during the purge of 1916, when the Bucs, in a downward spiral since 1912, made major changes to the roster (it didn't help - the Pirates weren’t a contending club again until the 1920s). In a 506 game career, Viox had a .361 OBP, countered by *ouch* a minus-114 defensive runs rating per Total Baseball. He never played MLB ball again and became a minor league player/manager, including skippering the 21-year-old Pie Traynor at Portsmouth of the Class B Virginia League.
Jim Viox 1916 Famous & Barr
  • 1943 - The Phillies traded 1B Babe Dahlgren to the Pirates for C Babe Phelps and cash. Dahlgren hit .271 with 176 RBI in his two year stay with the Bucs. “Well traveled” described Dahlgren to a tee as he played for eight teams in his 12-year career, and he was best known as the player who replaced Lou Gehrig in 1939. The deal was a win for Pittsburgh as Phelps, 34, never played again after the trade. He did log a solid career, though, being named to the NL All-Star Team from 1938-40 while his .367 batting average in 1936 for Brooklyn remains the highest for any catcher of the modern era. Babe was a nickname given to oversized (or baby-faced) players. Dahlgren at 190 pounds was just large. But Phelps was a 6’ 2” jumbo who tipped the scales at 235 lbs. with a stance and swing, not to mention physique, that were similar to Babe Ruth’s. He also answered to a second, less kindly moniker later in his career: “Blimp.”
  • 1985 - RHP Sean Gallagher was born in Boston. He came to Pittsburgh in July of 2010 from San Diego and was given every chance to show his stuff during 31 outings, but the impression he left wasn’t the one he wanted as he finished with a 6.03 ERA, 1.748 WHIP, 5.8 walks per nine and the only two balks of his big-league career. He was sent to Indy in 2011, and though he later landed minor league deals with the Reds and Rox, 2010 was the last of his four MLB campaigns.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

12/29: HBD Frank, Clyde, Emil, Jack & Kevin; Streakin'

  • 1882 - OF Frank Delahanty was born in Cleveland. He played two years in Pittsburgh, not as a Pirate but for the Rebels of the Federation League. Frank hit .239 from 1914-15, and that was the end of his pro career. His older brothers Ed, Jim, Joe and Tom also played in the Majors.
  • 1895 - OF Clyde Barnhart was born in Buck Valley, PA. He spent his entire career (1920-28) with the Pirates, starting as a third baseman and moving to the outfield. In 814 games, he hit .295, batting over .300 in five of his nine campaigns. Barnhart played on two World Series teams and hit .273 with nine RBI in 11 Fall Classic matches. Clyde played his college ball at Cumberland Valley State Normal School, today known as Shippensburg University. His son Vic was a Buc infielder from 1944-46.
Clyde Barnhart 1922 American Caramel
  • 1959 - OF Mike Brown was born in San Francisco. After three years with the Angels, he came to Pittsburgh in 1985 as part of the John Candelaria deal, was plugged into right field and delivered with a .332 BA in 57 games. But he fell from grace the following season, hitting just .218. Mike was released and mounted a brief comeback with the Haloes in 1988, but he lasted just 18 more games before his MLB career ended.
  • 1974 - OF Emil Brown was born in Chicago. Brown started his career as a Pirate, playing in Pittsburgh from 1997-2001, but could never hit his way into the lineup, with a .205 BA as a Buc. Brown did breakout with the Royals from 2005-07 with a slash of .279/38/229, but after a so-so season with Oakland, he was released by the Mets in 2009 after just six PA.
  • 1977 - Jack Wilson was born in Westlake Village, California. He played SS for the Bucs from 2001-09, hitting .269. He was named to the All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger in 2004. The slick fielder (he led MLB in PO, assists and DPs 2004-05) collected 201 hits that year, the franchise's first player since Dave Parker (1977) and the first Pirate shortstop since Honus Wagner (1908) to reach the 200-knock mark. After Pittsburgh, he played for Seattle and Atlanta, but a steady stream of nagging injuries led to his retirement after the 2012 season.
Kevin Hart 2010 Topps
  • 1982 - RHP Kevin Hart was born in Cleveland. He came to Pittsburgh in 2009, along with Jos Harrison and Jose Ascanio for Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow. The Pirates threw him into the rotation, where he went 1-8, 6.92. That line was probably due to a bum wing; he had labrum surgery that cost him the 2010-11 seasons, and he never made it back to the show.
  • 2013 - Black & Gold trivia: The Steelers missed playing in the post-season, marking the first year since 1991 that the Pirates made the playoffs but the Steelers didn't. The streak began anew in 2014 and continued the next season.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

12/28: Cannonball, Dee for Klu, Leyland MoY, Hayes Signs, Bradenton Deal, HBD Hammer & Zane

  • 1888 - Responding to rumors he was called “nonessential” to the Alleghenys by skipper Horace Phillips after posting 29 wins the previous season, LHP Ed “Cannonball” Morris told the Pittsburgh Press “...They are not going to break my heart by giving me my release. My present relations with the club are not so cordial that I would long regret such a measure...let baseball rip.” The two sides patched up things enough to bring Cannonball, one of baseball’s elite early southpaws, back into the fold. But at the young age of 26, he was on the downslope in 1889 - his starts dropped from 55 to 21 and his win total nosedived to six while his ERA shot from 2.31 to 4.13. He tossed one more year for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players League before retiring to run his North Side hotel. Cannonball - he had a great heater - was a supernova in his five year Pittsburgh career. In 1886, he claimed 41 victories and even earned a save for good measure. Ed threw 500 innings in 1884 (with Columbus) and again in 1886 (for Pittsburgh) with 300 strikeouts in both seasons. And despite the battle of barbs, he and the team stayed tight. Morris remained a fan who rarely missed a Pirates game, and in 1934 he pitched an inning of the Silver Anniversary of Forbes Field at the age of 72.
Cannonball 1887-90 Goodwin Old Judge
  • 1949 - John Milner was born in Atlanta. “The Hammer” (he was a huge Henry Aaron fan growing up) was a platoon 1B/OF and pinch hitter for five years (1978-82) in Pittsburgh, hitting .263 with a .333 BA in the 1979 World Series. He had perhaps his best season during that championship year, hitting .276 with 16 HR and 60 RBI. His low point came during the coke trials, when he admitted to cocaine and amphetamine use.
  • 1957 - The Pirates swapped first basemen with the Reds. Pittsburgh acquired Ted Kluszewski, known for wearing cut-off sleeves to show off his pipes, and Cincinnati received seven year veteran Dee Fondy in return. Neither got much; Klu’s power days were behind him, and Fondy spent just one more season in MLB. Factoid: Klu’s last year was with the White Sox, and Bill Veeck introduced player names on the back of Chicago’s jerseys for the first time in MLB history. Kluszewski became the first player to appear in a game with his name misspelled (go figure), with a backwards "z" and an "x" instead of the second "k."
  • 1960 - LHP Zane Smith was born in Madison, Wisconsin. Smith came to the Bucs in 1990 in the Moises Alou deal with Montreal. He pitched well down the stretch in ‘90 and won 16 games in ‘91. Zane tossed five years (1990-94, 1996) for the Buccos, with a 47-41/3.35 line. He almost made history in a clutch September 1990 match against the second place Mets, giving up a leadoff single to Keith Miller, then holding NY hitless the rest of the way. The Bucs won his complete game outing 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth to stretch their NL East lead to three games.
Zane Smith 1991 Topps
  • 1993 - Jim Leyland was chosen as MLB’s top manager in a reader’s poll conducted by Baseball America, winning 33% of the total vote. The Pirates won the NL East for the third straight year in 1992 with 96 wins, but once again stumbled in the postseason, losing a seven-game NLCS to the Atlanta Braves. It would be the Bucs last winning season until 2013.
  • 1995 - IF Charlie Hayes was signed as a FA by the Bucs to a deal worth $1.75M, then flipped at the deadline to the New York Yankees for a minor leaguer, P Chris Corn. Hayes had a good September run with the Bronx Bombers, made the playoff roster and earned himself a World Series ring. His son Ke'Bryan, a third baseman, was selected 32nd overall out of high school by the Pirates in the 2015 draft and is a Top-100 prospect, tho he suffered through an injury-plagued 2016 season.
  • 2006 - The Pirates agreed to a 30-year spring-training lease with Bradenton after the City fathers voted to upgrade the ballyard facilities to the tune of $15M in time for the 2008 camp. The Bucs had called Bradenton their spring home since 1969, and the lease extended their presence until 2038.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

12/27: Tiger Ties Knot; Brown Honored; HBD Bill, Jim, Craig & Jeff

  • 1864 (1869) - RHP Bill Bishop was born in Adamsburg, part of nearby Westmoreland County near Jeanette. He pitched two seasons (1886-87) for the Alleghenys, going 0-4 in five starts with a 9.21 ERA. There are two different years given for his birthday. We went with 1864 as he would have been a 16-year-old rookie if he was actually born in 1869, although that age would provide some cover for his pedestrian pitching results.
  • 1912 - RHP Jim Tobin was born in Oakland, California. Tobin spent his first three seasons (1937-39) as a Pirate, going 29-24 with a 3.71 ERA, before being traded to Boston, where he would spend the majority of his nine-year career. He was OK with a stick, too; Tobin pinch-hit over 100 times in his major league career with a batting line of .230/.303/.345 in the majors. He totaled 35 doubles, 17 homers and 102 RBI in 796 at-bats in the show. Tobin is the only pitcher in the modern era to hit three home runs in the same game, batting against the Cubs when he pitched for the Braves in 1942.
Jim Tobin 1994 Conlon/The Sporting News
  • 1952 - SS Craig Reynolds was born in Houston. The Bucs selected him in the first round (22nd overall) of the 1971 draft, signing the Houston HS Player-of-the-Year to a $2M bonus. He played sparingly for the Pirates, hitting .225 in 38 games over 1975-76 and was traded to Seattle for Grant Jackson after Craig was unable to oust Frankie Tavaras from the SS job. He went on to have a pretty solid career, playing 15 seasons with a .256 BA (11 with his hometown Astros) and earning a pair of All-Star berths while fielding league average at short.
  • 1958 - In his third year on the job, Buc GM Joe L Brown was named The Sporting News’ “Executive of the Year.” Under his hand, the Pirates finished second in the NL after a long run of second division play and drew 1,311,000 fans in 1958.
  • 1961 - 3B Don Hoak married Avonmore’s Norma Jean Speranza, better known as pop singer and TV starlet Jill Corey, in a civil ceremony in Common Plea judge Frederick Weir’s chambers, with Mayor Joe Barr as a guest. The Tiger met the singer at a promotional event at Forbes Field and the pair exchanged vows 16 months later.
Don & Jill (photo Associated Press)
  • 1975 - RHP Jeff D’Amico was born in St. Petersburg, Florida. D’Amico was a 1993 first rounder of the Brewers, but after 40 MLB starts missed 1998-99 following shoulder surgery. The Pirates plugged him into the rotation in 2003; he went 9-16. 4.77, and his 16 defeats were the most in the majors. His career ended the next season when the Indians released him in June.

Monday, December 26, 2016

12/26: O'Connell, Hanny Deals; Trader Jack; HBD Lee, Mario, & Jeff

  • 1892 - OF Lee King was born in Hundred, West Virginia, just across the PA state line. After being picked up from the Central League’s Wheeling Stogies, he played for Pittsburgh from 1916-18, with a .241 BA. King’s Bucco career ended when he enlisted during the war; when he returned in 1919, his contract was purchased by the New York Giants. He played through 1922, mostly in NY, spent a few seasons in the minors and retired to his native West Virginia, where he would relive the old days with an occasional trip to watch the Pirates at Forbes Field.
Mario Mendoza 1977 Topps
  • 1950 - IF Mario Mendoza was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. In five seasons (1974-78) with the Pirates, the infielder put up a .204 BA. About the Mendoza line: "My (Seattle Mariner) teammates Tom Paciorek and Bruce Bochte used it to make fun of me," Mendoza told Dave Seminara of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 2010. "Then they were giving George Brett a hard time because he had a slow start that year, so they told him, 'Hey, man, you're going to sink down below the Mendoza Line if you're not careful.' And then Brett mentioned it to Chris Berman from ESPN, and eventually it spread and became a part of the game."
  • 1953 - The Pirates sent 2B Danny O'Connell to the Milwaukee Braves for 3B Sid Gordon, P Max Surkont, OF Sam Jethroe, and minor league hurlers Curt Raydon, Fred Waters, and Larry LaSalle. The Braves threw in $100,000 to sweeten the deal. It was the only 6-for-1 deal in MLB history, outgunned only by Vida Blue’s 7-for-1 swap in 1978. Danny was sold at his high point; after hitting .294 for Pittsburgh, he never had a BA over .266 in the remaining eight years of his career. It evened out; none of return for Pittsburgh had much impact, either.
  • 1964 - 3B Jeff King was born in Marion, Indiana. The first pick overall in the 1986 draft, King reached Pittsburgh in 1989 and stayed until 1996, hitting .258 with 493 RBI during that span and was part of two division titlist teams in 1990 and 1992. King is one of three players, along with Willie McCovey and Andre Dawson, to hit two home runs in the same inning twice during his career. On August 8th, 1995, he hit two home runs in the second inning of the Pirates' 9-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. On April 30th, 1996, he repeated the feat in the fourth inning of the Pirates' 10-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Cinergy Field.
Jeff King 1994 Fleer Extra Bases
  • 1990 - Jack Zduriencik was named the Pirates chief scout. The New Castle native played at California U of PA, coached at Clairton HS and was a Mets scout before joining the Bucco staff. He held the position through 1993. Zduriencik followed with a successful decade-long front office run with the Brewers, becoming the first non-GM to win Baseball America’s “Executive of the Year” award. He became Seattle’s GM in 2008, a job “Trader Jack” held until 2015. Now he’s an occasional media commentator, having served on Root Sports and other outlets.
  • 2012 - RH closer Joel Hanrahan and IF Brock Holt were traded to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Stolmy Pimentel, IF Ivan De Jesus, RHP Mark Melancon and 1B/OF Jerry Sands. Hanny, 31, was the key player for Boston, with 76 saves in 2011-12, but ended up with TJ surgery and is now a free agent, tho Holt blossomed as a utility guy. The Bucs got some prospects that never emerged as more than fringe roster players, but did land a sterling back end reliever in Melancon who thrived as both a set-up man & closer awhile earning a pair of NL All-Star berths as a Pirate. He went to the Nats at the 2016 deadline and then inked a juicy four year deal with the Giants as a free agent.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

12/25: Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! Bucco B-Days: Pud, Al, Gene & Rick

  • 1856 - RHP James Galvin was born in St. Louis. The Hall of Famer was MLB’s first 300 game winner and may have had the most nicknames of any player ever, going by "Pud," "Gentle Jeems," “Gentleman James” and "The Little Steam Engine." He threw 6,003 IP and 646 complete games, both of which are second only to Cy Young. Pud tossed seven years (1885-89, ‘91-92) for the Pirates, with the 1890 campaign lost when he jumped to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the rogue Player’s League. He was 126-110 with an ERA of 3.10 during his Buc career. As for his litany of nicknames, Charles Hausberg in Galvin’s SABR bio wrote “He may have been called Pud because of his ability to turn batters into pudding, or from his pudgy physique. He was presumably called “The Little Steam Engine” because he was small but powerful, and he was called “Gentle James” or “Gentle(man) Jeems” for his kind demeanor.”
  • 1935 - LHP Al Jackson was born in Waco, Texas. He was a Bucco product and worked his first two pro campaigns, 1960-61, as a Pirate, getting into 11 games and going 1-0, 4.75. He was then lost to the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. Al started there, and while he suffered through a couple of 20-loss seasons, he also won 40 games in four years for the sad sack Mets. He ended up with 10 campaigns in the show and then coached 20 more seasons with the Mets, Orioles and Red Sox.
Gene Lamont 2001 Topps
  • 1946 - Gene Lamont was born in Rockford, Illinois. After serving stints as Jim Leyland’s 3B coach, he took over the team reins in 1997. In his first year, Lamont finished second with a young, inexperienced team (“The Freak Show”) that was widely predicted to finish last, and he was runner up behind Dusty Baker for the Manager of the Year. That was the highlight; after the 2000 season, Lamont was fired after compiling a record of 295–352 and replaced by Lloyd McClendon. After coaching stops at Boston and Houston, Lamont has been the Detroit Tigers’ third base and now bench coach since 2006.
  • 1961 - Rick Renteria was born in Harbor City, California. The Pirates selected him 20th in the 1980 draft, and he was rewarded with a cup of coffee with the team in 1986. He went on to play parts of four more seasons in the show before taking coaching jobs with the Marlins and Padres. His latest gig was a one-year stint as manager of the Cubs, but despite doing a generally fine job with a rebuilding team, he was shown the door when Joe Maddon became available and RR became the White Sox’s bench coach.
Merry Christmas, Chag Sameach & Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Notes: Merry Christmas! Nova Back, Hudson In, More Moves in the Offing, MiLB News, Ex-Bucs, Dates

Twas the night before Christmas, and the FO was stirring a bit...
  • Ivan Nova, 29, re-upped with the Pirates. The deal is reported to be for three years/$26M (including a $2M signing bonus) with another $2M in performance bonus money available annually. Nova slashed 5-2/3.06 ERA in 11 starts as a Bucco.
He's back... (photo/Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Free agent RHP Daniel Hudson, 29, signed a two-year/$11M deal w/$3M more possible over that span in annual bonuses based on games finished with the Pirates. The flamethrower (96 MPH fastball) came from Arizona, where his days as a starter ended after a pair of TJ surgeries. Pittsburgh plans to plug him into the back end of the bullpen, which was in need of a righty arm. Poor Brady Dragmire was DFA'ed by the Bucs (again) to clear a 40-man roster spot for Hudson, and was reclaimed by the Rangers.
  • The Pirates claimed RHP Nefi Ogando off waivers from the Marlins and DFA'ed Jason Rogers. Ogando, 27, has been solid in the minors and has a live arm w/a mid-90s heater, but doesn't miss bats the way one would expect and is a wild child with control issues. Rogers never worked out, and David Freese's signing made him redundant.
  • Pittsburgh is interested in the White Sox Jose Quintana - who wouldn't be? - and are apparently trying to make the pieces fit for a deal. He's another guy who is widely coveted around the league, although his asking price is sky-high.
  • Jon Heyman tweeted that the Bucs are sniffing around RHP Tyson Ross, with the caveat that they're just one of 20-or-so clubs kicking his tires.
Charlie Morton 2011 Topps
  • If you had any doubt that Charlie Morton's 2015 trade was a straight salary dump, doubt no more. The Pirates released RHP David Whitehead, 24, the return for Ground Chuck, after a year in the system. He slashed 5-8/7.52 between AA Altoona and short-season Bristol in 2016.
  • Dean Treanor, the skipper at Indy since 2011, is returning to Miami as the big league bullpen coach. He managed in their minor league system prior to joining the Bucs and shares the Jim Benedict connection with the Fish.
  • In related news, the Bucs minor league coaching staffs have been shaken, not stirred, this year. Justin Frazee of Pirates Breakdown has the moves.
  • Alex Presley, 30, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers that included a big league invite. He played in 50 games for Milwaukee/Detroit (.198 combined) last year, spending the rest of the year in AAA.
Michael Morse 2016 Topps
  • The Giants inked 1B Michael Morse to a minor league deal.
  • The Padres re-signed LHP Clayton Richard, 33, to a one-year/$1.75M deal. His career was rejuvenated in 2015 by the Bucs, who gave him a shot at Indy after Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery and then sold him to the Cubs.
  • 1B/3B Matt "The Hit Man" Hague, 31, signed a minor league deal with the Twins. Matt made brief MLB stops in Pittsburgh & Toronto before playing in Japan last season.
  • The Pirates will hold a voluntary minicamp from January 9-13th in Bradenton. It'll be interesting to see who shows up.
  • ESPN picked the Pirates Sunday, May 28th game vs the Mets at PNC for "Sunday Night Baseball" w/first pitch at 8:08 PM.

12/24: Pittsburgh SI, Bucco Logo, FF Fire, HBD Del, Frank & Victor

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk...
...I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

  • 1877 - OF Del Howard was born in Kenney, Illinois. Del (short for his middle name, Elmer) spent his 1905 rookie season as a Pirate and had his best campaign, hitting .292 while playing 3B, OF and even pitching once. He spent four more years in the majors, twice appearing with the powerhouse Cub clubs that won the World Series of 1907-08.
  • 1939 - The Pirates President Bill Benswanger announced a uniform change. They eliminated the script “Pirates” across the chest and replaced it with a Buccaneer logo on the left breast, the first time the team emblem was worn on a Pirates jersey.
Frank Taveras 1979 Topps
  • 1949 - Frank Taveras was born in Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic. The SS spent eight years (1971-72, 1974-79) with the Pirates as a top-of-the order guy, swiping 206 bases with a streak of four seasons with 44+ steals, including an NL-leading 70 in 1977. But his bat (.253), OBP (.306) and not-so-steady glove work made him expendable and he was sent to the Mets in April of 1979 for Tim Foli, a dependable fielder and contact hitter that helped jell the World Series infield. Taveras played three seasons in NY, then spent his final year (1982) with Montreal.
  • 1957 - RHP Victor Cruz was born in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. Cruz came to Pittsburgh as part of the Bert Blyleven deal. He lasted one season here, and tossed pretty well in 22 games going 1-1, 2.65 as a bridge man. Then he was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1982 for Nelson Norman. As it ended up, Cruz became the most useful return of a trade that sent away Blyleven, a Hall-of-Fame pitcher with 11 big-league seasons left in the tank, demonstrating that GM Harding Peterson could blow a deal as well as any Bucco exec.
  • 1970 - There was a fire in the right field stands of the vacated Forbes Field. The damage this blaze caused, followed by a July 1971 fire, hastened the old ballyard’s demolition. The Christmas Eve blaze became a five-alarm fire when Pitt security guards couldn’t find the keys to the center-field gate, delaying the firefighter’s entry to the ballpark.
  • 1979 - The famous Willie Stargell/Terry Bradshaw cover issue of Sports Illustrated hit the stands when the pair were named co-Sportsmen of the Year. Willie led his team to the World Series title and Terry & the Steelers won the Super Bowl, with both being named MVP.

Friday, December 23, 2016

12/23: JJ Signs, Payroll Blues, HBD Goshen Schoolmaster, Sam, Rick & Shawn

  • 1871 - RHP Sam "The Goshen Schoolmaster" Leever was born in Goshen, Ohio. He was a Pirate mainstay on the hill from 1898-1910, compiling a record of 191-100 with a 2.47 ERA, spending his entire career with Pittsburgh. Leever won 20 games or more four times and led the league with seven shutouts in 1903. Sadly for Sam, he went 0-2 in the 1903 World Series, trying to pitch through a shoulder injury, and didn’t appear in the 1909 World Series. Sam got his nickname not only because he did indeed teach for several years before he made it as a ballplayer, but also because of his serious, schoolmarmish disposition.
  • 1882 - RHP Sam Frock was born in Baltimore. Sam spent five years in the majors, with 1909-10 as a Bucco. He went 2-1, 2.58 before being traded to Boston for Kirby White in April of 1910. He won a dozen games for the Doves that year, then tossed 16 IP in 1911 to mark the end of his MLB road.
Rick White 1995 Fleer Ultra
  • 1968 - RHP Rick White was born in Springfield, Ohio. White, a 15th round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1990, began his 12-year MLB career as a Buc in 1994-95, and made another Steel City stop in 2005. He went 10-15-8 with a 4.03 ERA as a Pirate, who used him as a swing man. He was converted full-time to the bullpen by Tampa Bay in 1998, and worked 12 years in the league.
  • December 23, 1977 - RHP Shawn Chacon was born in Anchorage, Alaska. Shawn worked in Pittsburgh toward the end of his eight year career in 2006-07, coming over after a trade with the Yankees for Craig Wilson. Chacon went 7-7-1, 4.44 as a reliever and starter in the Steel City. His MLB days ended on a nasty note when he was accused of a smack-down of Astro’s GM Ed Wade and waived in 2008, never to return to the show.
  • 1997 - In the first year of the luxury tax, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the lowest payroll of any MLB club at $16.6M. The next lowest club was Detroit at $23.5M. Each payroll had $5.1M in benefits included, so the Pirates paid out $11.5M in straight salary for luxury tax purposes. That sounds about right; the Associated Press had the Bucs Opening Day payroll pegged at $9,071,667.
John Jaso 2016 Topps Update
  • 2015 - The Bucs signed 1B/OF John Jaso, 32, to a two year, $8M deal after Jaso hit .286 and produced a .380 OBP/.839 OPS in 70 games with the Tampa Bay Rays. JJ was primarily a catcher and DH in the show until the 2015 campaign, when concussion woes necessitated a switch of positions. He was converted to first base by the Pirates to replace Pedro Alvarez after he was non-tendered after the season. Hot and cold at the plate, JJ still came up with a career-average 2016 slash of .268/.353/.413 in a platoon role and is working on adding 3B to his toolkit.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

12/22 Birthdays: HBD Connie, Bob, Matty, Lonnie & Glenn

  • 1862 - Cornelius “Connie” Mack was born in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Mack was a reserve catcher for the Pirates from 1891-96, hitting a modest .242. Mack's last three seasons in the NL were as a player-manager with Pittsburgh from 1894 to 1896, eventually leading to a 50-year gig as the field general of the Philadelphia Athletics (1901–1950), where he won five World Series and became a Hall-of-Fame skipper.
Bob Hall 1955 Bowman
  • 1923 - RHP Bob Hall was born in Swissvale. The local kid only had a three-year career, spending his early 20’s serving with the Coast Guard during the Second World War. After two years with the Braves and two more seasons on the farm, he was part of Pittsburgh’s 1953 staff, going 3-12-1, 5.39, in what would be his final MLB campaign.
  • 1938 - CF Matty Alou was born in Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic. Obtained from the Giants for the 1966 season, he became a hitting machine under Harry “The Hat” Walker’s tutelage. In his time in Pittsburgh, he won a batting title and hit .300+ for four straight years. Mateo was traded to the Cards for the 1971 campaign after hitting .327 as a Pirate. Alou is part of the Dominican Republic’s first family of baseball, along with his MLB brothers Felipe (who is Moise’s dad) and Jesus.
  • 1955 - OF Lonnie Smith was born in Chicago. Lonnie spent 15 years in the majors, making a 1993 stop in Pittsburgh, an awkward destination considering he was one of the players granted immunity in the infamous 1986 Pittsburgh coke trials. The 37-year-old was signed to a $1M FA deal by the Bucs, hit .286 and then was sent to Baltimore in September for a pair of minor leaguers. He closed out his career there after the 1994 season.
Glenn Wilson 1989 Topps Big
  • 1958 - OF Glenn Wilson was born in Baytown, Texas. He came to the Pirates in 1988 from the Mariners for Darnell Coles and a year later was flipped to the Astros for Billy Hatcher, returning to the Pirates as a FA in 1993, his last season. He played 147 games over those three campaigns with a .274 BA as part of a 10-year MLB tour of duty.

12/22 Happenings: Teke, Todd, Dewey, GI Jones & JHK Sign; Mazzilli Deal; Tiger Growls; Fed Folds

  • 1915 - The Federal League and Pittsburgh Rebels came to an end, agreeing to drop its antitrust suit and disband after the NL and AL made the following concessions: the reinstatement of all players who had been blacklisted during the bidding wars, the sale of Fed players to the highest bidder rather than a forced return to their old club, $600K to be distributed among the Federal League owners, and the Fed clubs in Chicago and St Louis combining with the existing Cub and Brown teams after being sold to Federal League owners.
The Tiger 1962 (photo Jay Publishing)
  • 1961 - Ex-marine and Bucco third sacker Don Hoak lived up to his “Tiger” nickname on this night. Three young big-talkers cornered him in town and taunted him regarding the Pirates, leading to words. One of the hoodlums waved a knife as the other pair began to shove Hoak. They picked the wrong guy to bully; the Post-Gazette wrote that “After a short tussle, the trio broke and ran...He (Hoak) tracked two of them down…” and turned them over to the police after making what he termed a “citizen’s arrest.” They were charged with disorderly conduct, as “stupidity,” per the article, wasn’t a criminal offense.
  • 1982 - OF Lee Mazzilli was traded by the New York Yankees to the Pirates for minor leaguers Don Aubin, John Holland, Jose Rivera and RHP Tim Burke. The key figures were Burke, who had an eight year career as a reliever with 100+ saves, and Mazzilli, who played 3-½ years (1982-85) for Pittsburgh, playing outfield and first base while putting up a .244 Bucco BA.
  • 1983 - Free agent RHP Kent Tekulve re-signed with the Pirates for three years/$900K per season. In 1983, Teke had 18 saves and a 1.64 ERA for Pittsburgh. The inking was a big deal for the Bucs; Telkulve had been a bullpen fixture since 1975 in Pittsburgh, and the Pirates had to fend off the deep pockets of California Angel owner Gene Autry to seal the deal. Teke picked a good year to hit the market; after the Yankee’s Goose Gossage, he was the top reliever available.
Todd Ritchie 2002 Upper Deck Victory
  • 1998 - RHP Todd Ritchie signed as a free agent with the Pirates. Ritchie won a career-high 15 games in 1999, and was the Pirates’ Opening Day starter in 2001. In his three Pirate seasons, he went 35-32/4.29 for the Bucs before he was dealt to the White Sox for Kip Wells, Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe after the 2001 campaign.
  • 2008 - C Ryan Doumit signed a three year, $11.5M extension that bought out his arbitration years, with a team option for 2012/13 worth $15.5M. Doumit hit .271 during his time as a Pirate, but he was often injured and not very strong defensively. The Pirates didn’t pick up the option seasons, and Dewey signed with Minnesota in 2012.
  • 2008 - The Bucs signed FA 1B/OF Garrett Jones to a minor-league deal. He was on the big club by mid-year and never looked back. He sprinted from the gates, becoming the first Buc to hit seven home runs in his first twelve games since Dino Restelli in 1949 and finished with flair when in 2013 he became the second player and first Pirate to hit a homer out of PNC Park and into the Allegheny River on the fly. The big lefty hit .256 with 100 HR/325 RBI in his five Pittsburgh seasons before signing with the Marlins in 2014.
    Jung Ho Kang 2015 Bowman Chrome
  • 2014 - The Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization accepted the Pirates’ posting offer of $5,002,015 in exchange for negotiating rights for SS Jung-Ho Kang, a five-time KBO All-Star and the league’s 2014 MVP after a .356/40/117 slash. The Bucs had a 30-day window to sign him. Asian free-agency was a new market for Pittsburgh; it was the first time the Pirates had ever won a bid for an international player thru the posting system. He was officially inked to a deal three weeks later.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

12/21: HBD Josh, Steady Freddy, AVS, Bill, Danny & John; '05 Arb; Frankie Joins Up; Dealin'

  • 1911 - Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia. Considered the top HR hitter (the “Black Babe Ruth”) of the Negro Leagues, he played for the Grays and Crawfords. Gibson was the second ballplayer, behind Satchel Paige, to be elected to the Hall of Fame because of their exceptional Negro League careers.
  • 1920 - LHP Bill Werle was born in Oakland, California. Werle earned the nickname “Bugs” honestly as he was an amateur entomologist (a bug collector). He spent from 1949-1952 with the Bucs, going 29-39-15 and working everything from starts to closing. Bugs got into some hot water with the Bucco suits in 1952 after coming in late one night. He was fined, suspended, and traded soon thereafter.
Bill "Bugs" Werle 1952 Topps
  • 1930 - C Danny Kravitz was born in Lopez, near Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The reserve catcher played five years (1956-60) for Pittsburgh, hitting .236, but missed out on the ‘60 Series when he was traded in June to KC for Hank Foiles. His first homer was memorable: it happened on May 11th, 1956 in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the Pirates trailing the Phillies 5-2 to give the Pirates a 6-5 win.
  • 1959 - Deals made and not made: After Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh rejected the A's offer to deal Roger Maris for SS Dick Groat earlier in the month, Pittsburgh obtained OF Gino Cimoli along with RHP Tom Cheney from the Cardinals for RHP Ron Kline. Maris, who was then dealt to the Yankees, had the first of his two consecutive MVP years in New York, while Groat played a key role for the World Champion Bucs the next season and was named the NL MVP. As for the deal that did happen, Kline pitched 11 more seasons in the show (including a 1968-69 return to the Bucs). Cheney worked 22 games for the Pirates before being traded and Cimoli hit .272 in a pair of Pirate seasons before being shipped to Milwaukee.
  • 1960 - OF Andy Van Slyke was born in Utica, NY. AVS played eight years (1987-94) for the Bucs, hitting .283, earning three All-Star spots while winning five Golden Gloves and two Silver Sluggers during his stay. He was a mainstay of the Jimmy Leyland teams of the early nineties after coming over from the Cards in the Tony Pena deal.
Andy Van Slyke 1991 Topps Stadium Club
  • 1970 - RHP John Hope was born in Fort Lauderdale. The high schooler was a second round draft pick in 1989, signing for an $85K bonus, but never panned out. He went through elbow and shoulder surgery, and in part of four seasons (1993-96) with the Pirates, the righty went 1-5 with a 5.99 ERA.
  • 1977 - 2B Freddy Sanchez was born in Hollywood. In six years (2004-09) as a Pirate, he hit .301, winning the batting crown in 2006 with a .344 BA and appearing in three All-Star games. It was a dark day in the City when fan favorite Steady Freddy was traded to the Giants, where injuries derailed his career. He hit .292 for the G-Men in the 2010 World Series season, but shoulder and back surgeries followed in 2011-12.
  • 2005 - The Pirates extended tenders to arb-eligible LHP Ollie Perez, RHPs Kip Wells & Ryan Vogelsong, OF Jody Gerut and SS Jack Wilson while passing on RHP Josh Fogg. He signed with the Rockies; GM Dave Littlefield said his spot in the rotation would be taken by one of Ian Snell, Sean Burnett or Victor Santos as the Bucs were going young to retool their staff. Earlier in the offseason, they traded away hurlers Dave Williams and Mark Redman.
Ollie Perez 2005 Topps Cracker Jacks
  • 2012 - LHP Francisco Liriano reached an agreement to sign with the Bucs, pending his physical. He broke his right arm over the holidays, but he and the Pirates worked out an alternate deal that was worth $7M over two years. The Cisco Kid won 16 games in 2013 and was the “Comeback Player of the Year.” After the 2014 season, he returned after testing the free agent market, inking a three-year contract worth $39M. He didn’t get to finish out the contract in Pittsburgh, being shipped to Toronto at the 2016 deadline.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

12/20 TRS-PNC Era: Bucs Deal Berra & Buhner, Young for Herges, Sluggo Signs, Ka-Ching & More...

  • 1984 - SS Tim Foli, OF Steve Kemp and cash were sent to the Pirates by the NY Yankees in exchange for SS Dale Berra, OF Jay Buhner and LHP Alfonso Pulido. Buhner went on to have a 15-year career with 310 homers, mostly with Seattle, while not much else was gotten out of the other guys involved in the deal.
Steve Kemp 1985 Topps Traded

  • 1988 - Big day for the Bucco bank account - the team announced that the Pirates posted an operating profit of $2,850,660 during the 1988 season, the first time since 1971 the Bucs ended the year in the black. The team set a club home attendance record of 1,866,713, an increase of more than 700,000 over the previous year. Pittsburgh had an operating loss of $1,756,838 in 1987.
  • 1990 - C Don Slaught avoided arbitration and signed a three year/$3M deal with the Pirates. Slaught would remain with the Pirates through the 1995 season and put together a .305 BA in that time, used mostly as a platoon catcher.
  • 2001 - In a minor deal, the Bucs sent RHP Jose Silva (one day after his birthday) to the Reds for minor league RHP Ben Shaffar. Silva pitched one more year in the big leagues while Shaffar never made it to the show.
Chris Young didn't leave much behind...
  • 2002 - RHP Chris Young and minor leaguer Jon Searles were traded to the Montreal Expos for RHP Matt Herges. The 6’10” Young, a third round pick of the Bucs in 2000, went on to win 32 games between 2005-07 and landed an All-Star berth before injuries threw a series of speedbumps at his career, while the Pirates cut Herges in spring training. He went on to make over 350 more appearances in the next six years as a journeyman middle reliever.
  • 2004 - The Pirates tendered all seven of their arb-eligible players: SS Jack Wilson, OF/1B Craig Wilson, 1B Daryle Ward, UT Rob Mackowiak, and P’s Josh Fogg, Kip Wells and Brian Meadows. All seven played for the Bucs throughout 2005.

12/20 Expo Park-Forbes Field Era: Kitty for Del Deal; HBD Jimmy, Branch, Spud & Jose

  • 1876 - 2B Jimmy Williams was born. He only played two years in Pittsburgh, but made quite a splash. In his first year, 1899, Williams hit in 27 straight games, setting an MLB rookie record that wasn’t broken until 1987, and his mark is still a Pirates team standard. His 27 triples are also an MLB rookie record, and he ended the campaign with a .354 BA. But the next year he returned to reality, hitting .264, and then jumped leagues in 1901, joining the AL Baltimore Orioles and opening the door for Tommy Leach to take control of the hot corner.
Jimmy Williams 1902 (photo via The Sporting Life)
  • 1881 - Branch Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio. An innovator of things as diverse as the breaking the color line, a feeder minor league system, and batting helmets, Rickey was the Pirate GM from 1950-55. His Pittsburgh teams were notoriously poor (“The Rickey-Dinks”), but his player development pipeline helped to form the core of the 1960 World Championship club.
  • 1904 - The Pirates traded 1B Kitty Bransfield, IF Otto Krueger and OF Moose McCormick to the Phillies for 1B Del Howard. In his first MLB season, Howard hit .292 for the Pirates and was then part of the deal for P Vic Willis the following year. Kitty, a member of the Pirates first World Series club, stayed on for seven campaigns in Philadelphia, with a .269 BA. Moose, one of baseball’s earliest players to fill a pinch-hitter’s role, didn’t play again until 1908 after leaving the game to become, of all things, a salesman. Krueger hung around for one more year before leaving baseball.
Spud Davis 1949 Play Ball
  • 1904 - C Virgil “Spud” Davis (his uncle gave him the nickname as a youth because Virgil loved potatoes) was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He spent his last four seasons (1940-41, 1944-45) as a back-up catcher who hit .301 as a Bucco. From 1943-44 he coached before returning for a couple of seasons during the war years. He continued as a coach and a scout for the Pirates and briefly managed the team when manager Frankie Frisch resigned in September of 1946. Spud left baseball for good in 1950. Davis hit over .300 ten times in sixteen MLB seasons, and as of his retirement, his .308 career BA was second only to Mickey Cochrane all-time among major league catchers. At last look, it’s still in the Top Five.
  • 1960 - RHP Jose DeLeon was born in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. After being taken in the third round of the 1979 draft, he reached Pittsburgh in 1983. He went 17-38 with a 4.02 ERA as a Buc before being traded to the White Sox in 1986. DeLeon lasted 13 seasons in the MLB, but never matched his promise with his performance.

Monday, December 19, 2016

12/19 Birthdays: HBD Artie, Lou, Tommy, Mike & Jose

  • 1887 - IF Artie Butler (Bouthillier) was born in Fall River, Massachusetts. Art hit .277 in two Bucco seasons (1912-13) before moving along to the Cards. His claim to fame is a bit on the macabre side - he was the last living teammate of legendary pitcher Cy Young before passing on in 1984.
  • 1898 - RHP Lou Koupal was born in San Gabriel, California. He began his MLB odyssey with the Pirates in 1925-26 and slashed 0-2, 5.02. He was shipped back to the farm, came back and worked three more years in the league, then took a seven-year hiatus before closing out his career in 1937. Fun fact from Baseball Junk Drawer: He was one of six 1929 Brooklyn Robins who had been members of the championship 1925 Pirates team, along with Max Carey, Johnny Gooch, Eddie Moore, Johnny Morrison and Glenn Wright.
Tommy O'Brien 1943 (photo via Out of the Park Developments)
  • 1918 - OF/3B Tommy "Obie" O’Brien was born in Anniston, Alabama. O’Brien was a three-time All-State football player and enrolled at the University of Tennessee, but opted for baseball. He started his MLB career as a Pirate, hitting .301 between 1942-45, toiled in the minors from 1946-48 and returned to the show in 1949-50 with Boston and Washington. His shining moment came in 1943 when he had seven consecutive hits in a doubleheader against the NY Giants.
  • 1964 - RHP Mike Fetters was born in Van Nuys, California. The veteran reliever tossed 16 major league seasons for eight clubs, spending 2001-02 with the Pirates and slashing 2-1-8, 3.75. He’s often remembered for his odd motion; before he delivered the ball, he took a deep breath and turned his head 90 degrees, a move he came up with to counter the stress of pitching.
Jose Silva 1998 Donruss Rookie
  • 1973 - RHP Jose Silva was born in Tijuana, Mexico. Jose worked five years (1997-2001) for the Bucs, starting 53 of his 140 Pirate games. He finished 25-28-4 with a 5.41 ERA in his Pittsburgh years. He worked one more MLB campaign, and moved on to the Mexican League.

12/19 Happenings: Amos, Brian & Corey Sign Up; Bummer Year; Tube City Ump

  • 1938 - In a poll of writers by the Associated Press, the Pirates were selected as the biggest disappointment in sports for the year, edging out the Rice Owls football team. The Pirates had a seven game edge on September 1 and were up 3-½ games after September 22nd, but dropped six of their final seven games to finish the season two games behind the Cubs after losing the famous “homer in the gloaming” game. The Bucs went 28-26 in the final two months of the season while the Cubs rampaged through September, winning 21 of their last 26 games.
  • 1967 - Russ Goetz got his call to the bigs. The McKeesport native’s dream wasn’t to play but ump MLB games, and at age 37, he finally got his chance. He took full advantage, too - he wore the blue for the AL from 1968 to 1983, umping 2,384 games in a 16-year career. Russ worked two World Series (1973, 1979), two All-Star Games (1970, 1975) and four ALCS (1970, 1974, 1977, 1981). He was one of the last handful of umps still using the outside chest protector when he retired.
Amos Otis 1984 Topps
  • 1983 - The Pirates signed 37 year old OF Amos Otis. A five-time All-Star with the Kansas City Royals, Otis hit .165 in 40 games for the Bucs. He was released in August and never played in the majors again. Ironically, the Royals had agreed to a deal sending him and Cookie Rojas to the Pirates for Al Oliver after the 1976 season, but Rojas voided the transaction by exercising his 10-and-5 year veto rights; Pittsburgh was that close to landing Otis in his heyday.
  • 2002 - RHP Brian Meadows avoided arbitration by signing a one year/$800K deal, with a split time provision paying him $150K if he was in the minors. And that’s where he started, but after going 7-0 at Nashville, he was called up to collect his big league fee and stayed on the active roster through 2005.
Corey Hart (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • 2014 - The Pirates signed free agent 1B/OF Corey Hart to a one year, $2.5M contract with another $2.5M available in bonuses based on at-bats. Hart had microfracture knee surgery in 2013, missing that year, and hit just .203 with Seattle in 2014, but prior to that was a career .271 hitter and two-time All-Star playing for Milwaukee, swatting 30 homers twice. Hart got just 57 at bats with the Bucs before his knees gave out again, and he retired after the 2015 campaign.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Notes - On the Mend, Bubble Signings, Ex-Bucs in the News, New Scouts, Comp Pick

Some depth signings, some old Bucs on the move, and all seems well on the injury front heading into Christmas.

  • Good news on the injury front: John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reported that C Elias Diaz's muscle pull was just a tweak. He sat down for a couple of games as a precautionary move and he's back behind the dish. Gerrit Cole and Stew are also conditioning now and should be 100% by camp. Pitchers and catchers should report around Valentine's Day, altho the Bucs haven't announced a firm date yet.
  • Baseball America released its Top Ten Pirates prospects list. Four of the guys got their feet wet last year, and the new #1 guy is Austin Meadows. Nick Caporoso of Fox Sports has a thought or two on the list.
BA's Top Ten
  • Scratch one more off the list. LHP Derek Holland, 30, has signed with the Chicago White Sox on a one-year, $6M contract and can earn another $1M in bonuses. The Pirates were reported to have made an offer for his services, but the often injured Holland hasn't had a strong campaign since 2013 so he profiled as a back-end grab bag.
  • The Pirates signed two minor league free agents, starting RHP Josh Lindblom & OF Eury Perez, as NRIs. Lots of sidebars with Lindblom. The Bucs signed him in the 2014 off season; a week later, he signed with the Lotte Giants. He was also traded once with Lisalverto Bonilla, who the Pirates just brought aboard, and was once traded for Chris Bostick, also a Bucco newcomer. Josh was a reliever in the states and a starter in Korea. Eury was a 2010 World Future game player, and in his last MLB gig hit .269 for Atlanta in 2015 with 133 PAs.
  • Pittsburgh also signed LHP Greg Williams, soon to turn 27, to a minor league contract. He's pitched 18-2/3 IP since 2012 after going through a pair of TJ surgeries. When he was healthy he threw in the low 90’s and touched 97 MPH at one point, so he's worth a peek.
Brady Dragmire - did ya miss him? (photo via
  • The life of a fringe guy: RHP Brady Dragmire was sold to the Bucs in October by Toronto after being placed on the wire. The Pirates tried to sneak the reliever through waivers, but the Rangers took him. Now Texas has DFA'ed him. And guess what? The Pirates claimed him again.
  • C Eric Fryer, who the Bucs originally got from the Cards off waivers, returned to St Louis by signing a minor league deal with an invite to camp.
  • RHP Arquimedes Caminero is reportedly leaving Seattle to join the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. OF Garrett Jones is a member of that club, along with RHP Miles Mikolas, who was a Bucco farmhand for a minute during the 2013 off season.
  • LHP Sean Burnett, 34, signed a minor league deal with the Phils, as did IF Pedro Florimon, who just turned 30. Both also got non-roster invites to the spring camp.
Sean Burnett is still a thing (2006 Upper Deck)
  • IF Ivan DeJesus Jr, who spent a season at Indy after coming over as part of the Joel Hanrahan deal, signed a minor league deal with the Brewers.
  • Andrew Lorraine and Gary Varsho have been hired as scouts. Lorraine is a former MLB hurler who was a scout and MiLB pitching coach for Seattle while Varsho is a familiar face, having played and coached for the Pirates.
  • The Pirate get the #72 "competitive balance" pick in the draft this year, between the second and third rounds. The selection slot flops from year-to-year and they'll pick after the first round in 2018.

12/18: HBD Jack, Gino & Joker; P's Schourek, Herrera, Kawata & Lopez Sign; Tim Neverett Hired

  • 1915 - OF Jack Barrett was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He played from 1942-46 and hit .251. His best seasons were 1944-45, when he stole 53 bases (he led the NL in steals in 1944 with 28) and scored 196 runs. But when WW2 ended and the players returned, Barrett’s career came to an end; he hit .193 in 1946, his last big league campaign.
  • 1929 - OF Gino Cimoli was born in San Francisco. He only played a season and some change (1960-61) for the Bucs, but was their fourth outfielder for the 1960 Series champs, hitting .267 as a Pirate and .250 in the series. He scored the first tally in Pittsburgh’s five-run eighth inning in the deciding game seven and started several games in place of the injured Bob Skinner. He was one of Bob Prince’s favorites - everytime Cimoli came through on the field, The Gunner would gush Romano with “Thatsa my boy, Gino!”
Gino Cimoli 2002 Topps Retrofractors
  • 1969 - IF Joe “Joker” Randa was born in Milwaukee. Joe played early and late with the Pirates - he spent his third big league season, 1997, and his MLB finale in 2006 in Pittsburgh, hitting a solid .291. Tony Muser, Joe’s skipper in KC, gave him his nickname because he reminded him of “The Joker” character, always with a smile on his face.
  • 1998 - LHP Pete Schourek signed a two-year/$4M FA contract with the Pirates. After going 4-7 with a 5.34 ERA, he was released after a season, with the Pirates eating the second year of his contract. He was the Cy Young runner-up to Greg Maddux in 1995 after going 18-7 for the Reds, but various injuries limited his effectiveness. He pitched through 2001, but he never won more than eight games after that breakout ‘95 season.
  • 2006 - Cuban RHP Yoslan Herrera, 25, agreed to a $1.92M, three-year contract with the Pirates. He defected in July of 2005 and was signed by scouts Rene Gayo and Louie Eljaua after posting a combined record of 18-7 with a 3.27 ERA during his Island career as a member of the Youth Cuban National Team for two years (1999-2000) and four seasons with the big boy Cuban National Team (2001-2004). His numbers didn’t translate in the US, and he won just one game for the Bucs. In a nice bounce-back tale, Herrera was signed to a minor league deal by the LA Angels in 2013 after last pitching in the majors in 2008, put together a nice run at the end of 2014 (1-1, 2.70 -16IP), then moved across the Pacific to toss in the Nippon League in 2015.
Yoslan Herrera (photo Doug Pensinger/Getty)
  • 2006 - On the same day they signed Herrera, the Bucs announced another dip into the international market by inking 38-year-old Japanese RHP Masumi Kawata to a one year/$500K minor-league contract. He chose the Pirates over the Red Sox and Dodgers because he thought he had a better shot at making the club, but an ankle injury in the spring delayed his MLB call until June. He was 39 then, the oldest rookie to appear since Diomedes Olivo and Satchel Paige. After 19 games, his ERA was 9.43. He was sent down, signed again for camp in 2008 and returned to Japan after failing to make the cut.
  • 2008 - Tim Neverett was hired as the Pirate play-by-play man. Prior to joining the Pirates, Neverett spent four years working for FSN Rocky Mountain, where he spent the 2008 campaign serving as both the pre and post-game studio host for Colorado Rockies games along with calling many other sports. Neverett began his baseball on-air career in 1985 at the age of 19 with Pittsburgh's Class AA affiliate in the Eastern League, the Nashua Pirates. The New England native left to man the booth in Boston after the 2015 campaign.
Javier Lopez (photo USAToday Sports Images)
  • 2009 - The Pirates signed LHP Javier Lopez to a one year, $775K contract. The LOOGY reestablished his credentials in Pittsburgh and then was traded to the Giants at the deadline. The southpaw is the only active player to have played on four or more World Series championship teams, winning three times with the G-Men and once with Boston.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

12/17 Birthdays: HBD Cy, Rebel, Jim, Charlie, Marvell & Steve

  • 1879 - RHP Fred “Cy” Falkenberg was born in Chicago. He worked his 1903 rookie campaign for the Pirates, going 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA. It would be the fewest wins and highest ERA compiled in a single season for ol’ Cy, who tossed 12 big league years, winning 130 games (20+ victories twice) with a 2.68 lifetime ERA. Those 20-win tallies in 1913-14 were sparked by a new pitch that he came up with - a scuffed “emery” ball. The delivery was declared illegal after the 1914 season, and Cy was out of MLB two years later (in justice, hitting the age of 38 probably had as much with his descent as did the rulebook). So far as the Cy moniker, SABR’s Eric Enders speculates that it was another Cy Young knock-off, the old-timey ace whom many promising youngsters were likened to.
Rebel Oakes 1915 Cracker Jack
  • 1883 - CF Ennis “Rebel” Oakes was born in Lisbon, Louisiana. He played five years for the Reds and Cards, then jumped to the Federal League when it was established in 1914. After two seasons as the player-manager for the Pittsburgh Rebels, perhaps named in his honor, the league folded and Oakes never returned to MLB despite his .295 BA. SABR writer Phil Williams believes “Rebel Oakes was effectively blacklisted” after the Federal League’s demise. Btw, he didn’t earn his nickname by being particularly iconoclastic. When he was in the minors, an Iowa sportswriter dubbed him Rebel because of his Deep South birthplace.
  • 1896 - C Jim Mattox was born in Leesville, Virginia. Jim was a back-up in 1922-23 for the Pirates, hitting .253 off the bench. He was released after the year and retired rather than report to the minors again. Jim may have missed his true calling - in 1919, he was an All-Conference quarterback at Washington and Lee.
  • 1947 - C/PH Charlie Sands was born in Newport News, Virginia. Charlie played for the Bucs in 1971-72, going 5-for-33 (.192). He hung around the league for three more seasons, but only got into 63 more games.
Charlie Sands 1972 Topps
  • 1959 - CF Marvell Wynne was born in Chicago. He started his career with the Pirates, playing from 1983-85. Projected as a leadoff hitter, he stole 46 sacks but batted just .245 with an OBP of .297 before being traded to San Diego for Bob Patterson. Marvell’s last season was 1991, played in Japan. His son, also named Marvell, became a pro jock, too, but as a MSL soccer player.
  • 1967 - RHP Steve Parris was born in Joliet, Illinois. Steve started his eight-year MLB run in Pittsburgh between 1995-96 with a 6-9/5.82 slash as a starter. After a year in the minors, he tossed three solid seasons with the Reds and three not-so-solid seasons with Toronto and Tampa Bay.

12/17 Moves: King, Ward & Correia Sign; Broxton to Milwaukee; New Orleans Joins the Flock

  • 1947 - The Pirates bought the AA New Orleans Pelicans, including 37 players (none of which ever made the Bucco roster), for an estimated $200K. In an era when farm systems were deep, The Big Easy became the Pirates 19th farm club in 1948. Oddly, in 1947, the club didn't field a Class AA team and only had one Class A squad, so it was a needed upper-level addition.
Jeff King 1994 Studio
  • 1993 - 3B Jeff King avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $2.4M contract. He lost an arbitration hearing the previous year, asking for $2M but being awarded $675K. He hit cleanup during the season, batting .295 with 9 HR and 98 RBI to earn the pay bump.
  • 1997 - OF Turner Ward was signed to a two-year, $1.6M contract after hitting .353 off the bench during the season. Ward earned the money when he turned in a highlight-reel play in the ‘98 campaign when he crashed through the wall at TRS. He batted .262 in 1998 and was released in August of 1999 after posting a .209 BA. He rebounded to have a great season with Arizona to help them win the NL West, then played two more years before retiring after 2001. In all, he had 12 big league years with a .251 career BA.
  • 2010 - RHP Kevin Correia signed as a FA with Pittsburgh, agreeing to a two-year, $8M deal. In those two seasons, he would post a line of 24-22/4.49 before joining the Twins after losing his spot in the rotation to Wandy Rodriguez. He started 54 games, appeared 59 times, represented the Pirates at the 2011 All-Star Game and was their Opening Day pitcher that same season. KC worked for three more teams afterward, retiring after the 2015 season.
Jason Rogers 2016 (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • 2015 - The Pirates sent CF Keon Broxton and RHP Trey Supak to the Milwaukee Brewers for 1B Jason Rogers. The speedy Broxton hit .242/.354 OBP and swiped 23 sacks for the Brewers in 244 PA while Roger’s 2016 MLB chance was effectively blocked when the Bucs later signed David Freese. Jason got just 33 PAs and hit .080.