Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Notes: Bucs v Bosox; More Sis-Smooching; Ouch! & Roster Projections/Breakout Candidate

Today: The Pirates visit Fort Myers & Boston at JetBlue Park for a 1:05 match. Chad Kuhl starts with Trevor Williams, Kyle Crick, Josh Smoker, Edgar Santana and Casey Sadler also on the dance card.

Yesterday: Steven Brault pitched two strong frames, Eric Wood doubled and chased home a pair of runs while Jose Osuna went 2-for-2 with a double and RBI, but it ended up a 3-3 draw with the Bravos after the smoke cleared. The Pirates had eight hits with five two-baggers and worked five walks but stranded nine runners, going 2-for-15 w/RISP.

  • OF Daniel Nava had back surgery yesterday for a herniated disc and will be out of action for 10-12 weeks. No surprise there as he's had recent back woes. His absence helps cull out the bench herd; still a handful of players left to vie for the last seat on the pine.
  • Altoona C Jin-de Jhang has been shut down with an elbow issue; he's Altoona's guy and fifth on the depth chart. 
  • Joe Musgrove's first bullpen went well as he works his way toward tossing PT. AJ Schugel will be shut down briefly to rest his wing after he was pulled with soreness during Monday's game.
  • Bo Schultz and Nick Burdi, both recovering from TJ surgery, are progressing. Bo is ready to throw BP - he may ready by camp's end - and Nik is working off flat ground; he's projected as a mid-summer returnee.
  • Andrew Simon of has a short list of young starters he looks to break out this year; Jameson Taillon is among them.
  • If you have solid scroll skills, has a list of every team's "fluid" projected lineup, rotation and depth; we're not so sure the Bucco order is quite all that set yet.

2/28: A-Ram, Big Daddy & Jack Sign; HBD Boojum, Jack, Cotton Top, Moose & Lil; More OTD Quick Hits

  • 1865 - P Jack Easton was born in Bridgeport, Ohio. He tossed in the MLB for five years, closing out with a three-game (one start) stint with the Pirates in 1894 with a line of 0-1, 4.12. He finished his pro career in 1897 at age 32 with Wheeling of the Interstate League. He worked in glass plants after his playing days, but passed away young in 1903. 
  • 1881 - IF Terry “Cotton Top” Turner was born at Sandy Lake in Mercer County. He only got seven at-bats for Pittsburgh as a 20-year-old in 1901, but after a couple of seasons on the farm, Terry carved out a 17-year MLB career, mostly as a Cleveland Nap/Indian. Turner was a master at “small ball.” He was a strong defender who led AL shortstops in fielding four times. On the attack, tho he only had a .253 BA, Terry was great bunter (he laid down 268 sac bunts) and a speedy & fearless runner who pioneered the use of the head-first slide while stealing 256 bases as a pro. His “Cotton Top” nickname came about because of his light hair. 
  • 1881 - OF Harry “Moose” McCormick was born in Philadelphia. Moose had a scattered five-year career in the big leagues and was an early pinch-hitting stalwart, hitting .285 over his career. He played his 1904 rookie campaign in part with the Pirates, hitting .290 in 66 games. His post-baseball career was interesting - he served in the military during WW1 and was a salesman, ump & minor league manager before serving as the skipper at Bucknell & West Point. Moose rejoined the Army during WW2, heading up the PT at Mitchell Field and became a director of vets housing after the war. He also wrote a coaching manual (“The Fundamentals of Baseball” in 1931) and spent two years running a baseball exhibit at the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940. His nickname dated back to high school where he was a strapping 5’11”, 185 pounds.
Jud Wilson 1990 Eclipse Negro League Stars
  • 1897 - IF Ernest Judson (Jud or Boojum) Wilson was born in Remington, Virginia. Jud played for the Homestead Grays (1931-1932, 1940-1945) and had a brief stop with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932. The Grays’ captain and Hall of Fame infielder compiled a .351 lifetime BA. He was indifferent with the glove and feisty - his Hall of Fame bio describes him as “ill tempered and fearless” - but may have been the best pure hitter the Negro Leagues ever produced. Satchel Paige gave him his nickname when he heard a line drive off Wilson's bat zip by his head. After that, Satchel called Jud by the sound the ball made: "Booh-ZHOOM!" per Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post.
  • 1899 - RHP Ulysses Simpson Grant “Lil” Stoner (he got the nickname in his youth because his brother couldn’t pronounce Ulysses) was born in Bowie, Texas, the 17th of 18 children. Lil threw seven years for the Tigers; he was workmanlike, winning 10 or more games three times, but could never meet his highly-touted expectations. After that run, he got a brief look in Pittsburgh in 1930 (5-⅔ IP, three runs, seven hits) and was sent to Fort Worth. He had a bounce back campaign there at age 31, but failed a brief audition in Philly the following season and was out of pro ball altogether after the 1932 campaign. Stoner was quite the Renaissance Man - he was an excellent cook (his teammates sometimes called him the “Bowie Baker” because of his culinary skills), became famed for his flower-raising abilities, often called on to judge shows, and was an Enrico Caruso opera fan per Bob Hurte of SABR
  • 1903 - A syndicate headed by Philadelphia socialite James Potter that included Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss bought the Phillies for $170,000 and brought in former Bucco Chief Zimmer as a player/manager. Though they sold the team two years later, ownership interest in more than one team wasn’t prohibited until 1910. 
  • 1926 - The Pirates announced an increase in ticket prices: with tax included, box seats jumped to $1.75; reserved $1.50; grandstand $1.10 and bleachers remained the same at $.50. When it closed in 1970, ticket prices ranged from $3.50-$1.
  • 1970 - Roberto Clemente was featured on the cover of The Sporting News for the story “Swan Song?” TSN needn’t have worried; the 35-year-old Arriba hit .352 and made the All Star team for the division-winning Buccos. 
  • 1985 - RHP Rick Reuschel, 36, signed a free agent deal with the Bucs. Big Daddy was called up in May, won 14 games and earned the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. He was far from over the hill, working from 1985-87, going 31-30 with a 3.04 ERA in 91 starts while eating 586-2/3IP and winning an All-Star berth. He was flipped in a 1987 deadline deal with the Giants, traded for pitchers Scott Medvin and Jeff Robinson. 
  • 1986 - Commissioner Peter Ueberroth gave seven players who were admitted drug users, including Pirates Dave Parker and Dale Berra, a choice of a year's suspension without pay or heavy fines (10% of their salary) and career-long drug testing‚ along with 100 hours of drug-related community service as a result of the Pittsburgh Cocaine trial. 
  • 2002 - The team agreed to terms with 3B Aramis Ramirez on a back loaded, three-year contract extension through 2004 for $9.5M. The Bucs traded him to Chicago, along with Kenny Lofton, in mid-2003 for IF Bobby Hill and a minor league pitcher before the big money fell due. A-Ram finished his career with the Bucs in 2015, retiring after 18 MLB campaigns with a .283 BA, 368 HR and 1,417 RBI. 
A-Ram 2001 Upper Deck SP
  •  2006 - The team and SS Jack Wilson worked out a three-year/$20.1M contract extension through the 2009 season with an $8.4M club option for 2010. He was sent to Seattle before the 2009 deadline. Injury-bitten in his later years (he only played 90+ games once from 2008-12), he retired after the 2012 campaign.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Notes: Bucs Visit Braves After Boston Spanking; MLBPA Points Finger; Central Home Growns

Today: The Bucs visit Atlanta at the Kissimmee/Lake Buena Vista ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World Resort's Champions Stadium (that's a mouthful of ballpark!) The game starts at 1:05 and will be webcast by Steven Brault gets the opening call. Colin Moran is getting a look in the two-hole in an interesting move; hopefully he takes to it better than Andrew did.

Yesterday: Not an auspicious start for Ivan Nova, who gave up three runs and a dinger in his two frames. But it was a bad day all around as the Bucs were clobbered by the Bosox 13-2 with only Jameson Taillon spinning sharp. Starling Marte had two hits and S-Rod went long. Been a long week in Florida...

  • Kyle Glaser of Baseball America looks at the home-grown talent in the NL Central; the Bucco farm, outside of outfielders, doesn't stack up as well as you may think.
  • The MLBPA filed a grievance against the Pirates, Rays, Athletics & Marlins over spending, or lack thereof, of revenue sharing money. Tactically, it's more a team shaming move than legal remedy as the union tries to build a PR case against the clubs.Here's the Pirates response.

2/27: Cole Cash; Pie & Cum to HoF; Coleman Sold; Pace Play in 1901; HBD Matt & Craig

  • 1901 - Do ya think that the pace-of-play debate is just a recent concern? After a Philadelphia meeting, the NL Rules Committee told umps that a ball should be called if the pitcher does not throw to a ready batter within 20 seconds; they wanted to keep the game moving along at its two-hour tempo. Among other changes, the rule-makers directed umpires to chastise players who foul off good pitches. This wasn’t intended so much to keep the game moving as a measure to save the owners the cost of replacement baseballs. 
  • 1915 - C Bob Coleman, a Pirate backup who hit .245 during the 1913-14 seasons, was sold to Columbus of the American Association during the era when minor league clubs were independents. He made it back to the bigs with Cleveland in 1916, but after that, Bob toiled in the minors until hanging up the spikes in 1927 at age 36. 
Pie Traynor 1923 MLB Showdown
  • 1948 - 3B Pie Traynor was elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers. The infielder spent his entire 17-year career with the Pirates, where he compiled a .320 lifetime batting average and never had a season where he struck out more than 28 times. Traynor was best known for his glove at the hot corner, where he recorded 2,288 putouts and started 308 double plays. He was formally inducted on June 13th, 1949, and accepted with a succinct 40-word speech. Pie stayed in the City after his career and is buried in Homewood Cemetery. 
  • 1968 - 1B/OF Matt Stairs was born in St. John, New Brunswick. Matt made a stop in Pittsburgh in 2003, hitting .292 with 20 homers before moving on to Kansas City as a free agent. Stairs was a vet at relocating; in his 19 big league campaigns, he played for a dozen different franchises. He is just one of five Canadian players with 200+ HRs and was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. He was nicknamed “Stairsmaster," a play on his name and likely his 5’9”, 215 lb. physique. He was also known as the “Wonder Hamster.” He told Joe O'Connor of the National Post that “I have no idea what the Wonder Hamster was all about. That was from a fan in Oakland.” He did offer that "I'm short and chubby. I get up there and I'm a little guy" so again his physique may be the moniker’s genesis. After he racked the bat for the last time, Matt worked with Boston as a TV game analyst, then went to Philly as a batting coach in 2016. He moved to San Diego after the 2017 season following Pete Mackanin’s dismissal. 
Matt Stairs 2003 Topps HTA Hobby
  • 1977 - OF/PH Craig Monroe was born in Texarkana, Texas. The vet hadn’t had a solid year since 2006, but the Bucs inked him as a free agent in 2009, hoping for a bounce back from the 32-year-old. They didn’t get it; he hit .215 with three homers and was released on July 1st, ending his MLB career. 
  • 2006 - Homestead Gray player, manager and owner Cumberland “Cum” Posey was elected to the Hall of Fame’s Special Committee on the Negro Leagues, along with 1B/3B Jud Wilson of the Grays/Pittsburgh Crawfords and RHP Ray Brown, also of the Grays. Included in the class was OF Pete Hill, who was born (or at least raised from an early age) in Pittsburgh and first played for the Keystones. They were inducted on July 30th. 
  • 2016 - Gerrit Cole signed a contract for $541,000, the same amount he made in 2015 with $531,000 in base pay plus a $10,000 bonus for making the All-Star team. He was a pre-arb player and had no control over negotiations, and claimed that when he bickered for a bigger paycheck after a 19-win, 2.60 ERA, 202 K, All-Star campaign, the Bucs countered by offering him the minimum of $507,500 if he didn’t take their offer. The Pirates FO was looking ahead to the baseline of his first arb year (Cole Train got $3.75M in 2017) and Gerrit had already pocketed an $8M signing bonus. Cole said “I understand the business of this game, but it is hard to accept…” adding he would carry no hangover from it going into the season. It did demonstrate that the Pittsburgh purse strings were tight, and Cole was sent to Houston in 2018, where he signed for $6.75M.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Notes: Bucs Kiss Sister, Meet Bosox Today; Camp News

Today: The Boston Red Sox visit LECOM Park at 1:05 with Ivan Nova on tap. Jameson Taillon, George Kontos & Felipe Rivero will make their first appearances along with Dario Agrazal, Luis Escobar and Dovydas Neverauskas. The lineup is primarily the big boys, with S-Rod in left. The audio will be webcast on

Yesterday: Kevin Kramer hit a three-run jack in the second to give the Bucs a quick jump, then Tyler Glasnow did his thing - after a quiet first (he hit 100 twice), he gave up a homer, double, tossed a wild pitch, bopped a batter and gave two back. On the bright side, there were two K's, no walks and he used a lot of off-speed stuff in the second, so he gets some props for sticking to that program. AJ Schugel was pulled in the fourth with a sore wing; he tried to tough it out but didn't fool C Jacob Stallings, who waved in the docs.

Kevin Kramer 2016 (photo via MLB Pipeline)
The other guys did well on the hill except for the duo of NRI John Stilson and Tate Scioneaux of Altoona, who took the trip as an emergency arm, as they gave up a six-spot. But primed by a big bases-loaded triple by Austin Meadows, who is 4-for-5 in two games with five RBI, the Bucs rallied for an 8-8 draw against the split squad Tigers; the two sides used 19 pitchers, hence the truce after nine frames. Max Moroff had a solid day, going 2-for-2, as did another Curve reserve, OF'er Jerrick Suiter, who had a pair of two-baggers and drove in the tying run.

Austin Meadows 2016 Bowmans Best
  • Nova, though a vet, told the Trib's Kevin Gorman that he learned some lessons last year, his busiest as a full-time starter (he set personal highs in starts and IP), but laid his second-half woes on his knee, which was inflamed but he worked through.
  • The Pirates announced Shugel suffered from "right shoulder discomfort," so we'll see where that leads after he's further evaluated in Bradenton.
  • Joe Musgrove tossed a side session Sunday after taking a brief break with a sore arm; he'll throw another bullpen tomorrow.
  • Corey Dickerson arrived in camp today.
  • If you're wondering how Jordy Mercer is reacting to the future at short in Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman and Max Moroff, it's by taking the next wave under his wing. He told The Fan that “I don’t know if there are words to describe how (Clint Barmes) made the transition easier for me, and now I’m trying to do the same for them.” 
  • The MLBPA plans to open their Bradenton free agent camp to scouts on Tuesday

2/26: PPA Flops; Simon Deal; Padden Toss; HBD Preacher, Stan, Vic, Sonny, Wobby & Sam

  • 1863 - IF Simeon Henry Jean “Sam” LaRocque was born in St. Mathias, Quebec. Sam played fairly regularly for Pittsburgh in 1890, getting into 111 games w/481 PA, hitting .242, but after just one outing in 1891 was shipped to Louisville, where he ended his pro career. Sam did stay in baseball, managing in the minors. 
  • 1891 - 2B Jack “Wobby” Hammond was born in Amsterdam, New York. A star high school athlete signed by the Indians, he got three brief stops in the show, his last being a nine-game, 12-at bat stand with the Bucs in 1922 when he was 31, batting .273. Wobby showed a good stick in the minors, but mostly played at Class A. He retired from the Kansas City Blues the year after his Pirates debut. He hit .300, but at his age, the clock was against him. 
Chief was a better catcher than labor boss - 1887 Goodwin Old Judge
  • 1901 - After a bout of AL raids and player league-jumping, the NL suits sat down with Pirates catcher Chief Zimmer, the president of the Players Protective Association, and agreed to contract concessions for NL’ers who stayed home, including recognition of the union, a one-year reserve clause and minor league clarifications. Zimmer promised to suspend members of the union who jumped leagues in return. The summit didn’t work; the players expected more leeway and continued to move to the AL while the beleaguered union folded after the 1903 season. 
  • 1909 - The Pirates traded IF Charlie Starr to the Boston Doves for a PTBNL, who was C Mike Simon. 1909 was Starr’s last season while Simon was a Bucco reserve catcher for the next five years, compiling a .244 BA and tossing out 45% or more of base stealers four of his five campaigns. 
  • 1916 - LHP Elwin “Preacher” Roe was born in Ash Flat, Arizona. Preacher worked early in his career with the Pirates from 1944-47, where he was 34-47/3.73. He started off with two strong years, but an off season cracked noggin in 1945 from a tussle with a basketball ref was followed by a pair of poor campaigns. Preacher was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and bloomed (a spitter added to his arsenal was said to have helped him mightily), earning four All-Star berths and pitching in three different World Series. There are two versions of how he got his childhood nickname. One is that he was an ornery kid, and his grandma called him "Preacher" in hopes that he would eventually turn into one. The other, more likely, is that a minister and his wife used to ride him around whenever they went out on their buggy, and he became Preacher because of his association with them. 
Preacher Roe 1945 Play Ball reissue
  • 1930 - C/3B Vic Janowicz was born in Elyria, Ohio. A gridiron All-America and Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, Janowicz passed on football to sign for $75K as a bonus baby with the Bucs. He hit only .214 over two seasons (1953-54) as a bench player. He returned to football late in the 1954 season with the Washington Redskins and was their starting halfback in 1955. An automobile accident in 1956 ended his athletic career. 
  • 1936 - Tommy Padden, a Pirates catcher, reportedly tossed a silver dollar about 475 feet over the Merrimack River and into a snow pile in front of a large crowd. He did this to emulate the feat of the Senator’s Walter “Big Train” Johnson, who flipped a coin across the Rappahannock a few days prior to copy the alleged feat of George Washington per the New Hampshire History Blog
  • 1941 - 1B George “Sonny” Kopacz was born in Chicago. Sonny was a AAAA player who spent 14 seasons in the minors, eight in AAA, and in 1970 was the International League’s MVP with a line of .310/29/115 for the Pirates Columbus Jets. That campaign earned him a cup of coffee with the Bucs, but in 10 games he went 3-for-16 with no extra base knocks. He spent three more seasons a step away in AAA, retiring after the 1973 season at the age of 32. 
Sonny Kopacz 1971 Topps Rookie Stars
  • 1961 - Pitching coach Stan Kyles was born in Chicago. After an 11-year minor league pitching career, Kyles began coaching in the indie leagues and quickly got gigs with the Cubs (1992-93, 1997-2000), Rockies (1994-96) and Brewers (2001-12), spending his final three years as Milwaukee’s bullpen coach. In 2013, he took over the pitching reins at AA Altoona and in 2015 at AAA Indianapolis.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Notes: Bucs @ Tigers; Yanks Take 4-1 Decision; Camp Chatter

Today: The Pirates will play the Tigers in Lakeland at 1:05; it'll be a split squad today for El Tigres. Tyler Glasnow gets the start; he doesn't exactly seem simpatico w/the FO about working from the pen, so it would behoove him to break from the gates at a full gallop. Also slated to toss are Steven Brault, Josh Smoker, AJ Schugel, Edgar Santana and John Stilson. (EDIT - Brault was scratched, manager's decision; he'll go on Tuesday.)  Fraze will leadoff & start in center, Colin Moran is at 3B and J-Bell is the cleanup hitter & DH. The game will be on 93.7 The Fan.

Yesterday: Nick Kingham was sharp for two innings and Michael Feliz struck out the side while Kyle Crick, Jordan Milbrath and Jack Leathersich added some zeroes. Clay Holmes was shaky and gave up a run; the Bronx Bombers' Billy McKinney booked it late with a three-run bomb off NRI Richard Rodriguez in the ninth. The only Pirates offense was an El Coffee solo shot (he had two of the Buccos seven hits) while Cole Tucker & S-Rod doubled as the Bucs fell 4-1 to the Yankees. In a nice pre-game touch, Maz and Rennie Stennett took part in the LECOM Park season-opening ceremonies.

So far, so good... 2017 Donruss Diamond Kings
  • Pittsburgh pitching was on the wild side yesterday with five walks after just giving up just one free pass yesterday, and they bopped two Pinstripers. Uncle Ray must have them working on that inside thing again - that's five beaned batters in two games for the staff. 
  • LHP Kevin Siegrist is in the house; he threw his first Pirates bullpen Saturday.
  • Joe Musgrove is back in action after some arm soreness; he's slated for a bullpen session today.
  • The Reds signed LHP Ollie Perez, 36, to an NRI deal. The lefty had a big 2004 camapign for Pittsburgh (12-10.2.98) but couldn't replicate it; he left town in 2006, had a couple of solid years for the Mets and faded. Ollie rejuvenated his career when he was switched to a full-time reliever in 2012 by Seattle.
  • Pedro Alvarez, 31, re-signed with the Orioles on a minor league NRI deal.

2/25: Womack Dealt; Lawton Inked; Pampered Pirates; Strike Ok'ed; Exemption Upheld; HBD Syd, Phils & Jim

  • 1893 - LHP Phil Slattery was born in Harper, Iowa. He got his only sip from the MLB well in 1915, doing nicely as a Bucco. In three outings covering eight frames, the 22-year-old pitched scoreless ball, giving up just five hits and a walk. His Bucco stop was in between stints with Marshallville of the Central Association, and that’s where he returned to after his September audition in Pittsburgh. Phil remained in the minors until 1921 when he retired. 
  • 1906 - Pampered players department: The Pittsburgh Press reported that for spring drills in Hot Springs, manager Fred Clarke decided to “ away with the running in from the park to the hotel after afternoon practice. The road is a hard one the players injured their legs while sprinting. If the men rode in open cars, they caught cold. Clarke will try to have a closed car held...until practice ends.” The team opened camp March 14th, played a seven-game exhibition schedule starting April 4th and started playing for keeps (hopefully sniffle-free & with fresh legs) on April 12th. 
  • 1929 - Pirate GM Syd Thrift was born in Locust Hill, Virginia. Thrift had been out of baseball for nine years when he was the surprise hire for general manager in 1985. He brought in dark horse Jim Leyland as manager and dealt veterans like Don Robinson, Tony Pena and Rick Reuschel in exchange for young prospects like Doug Drabek, Andy Van Slyke, Mike LaValliere, Mike Dunne, Chico Lind and Jeff Robinson. Thrift's term ended after the 1988 season when he was fired after noisily butting heads with team ownership. He’s credited for laying the foundation for the team's success in the early nineties under Jim Leyland. 
Syd Thrift (photo Associated Press)
  • 1931 - RHP Jim Dunn was born in Valdosta, Georgia. His only MLB work was done with the Bucs in 1952; in three outings, he went 0-1, 3.38 in 5-⅓ IP as a 21-year-old. He started in the Pirates system after being signed in 1951 out of Alabama, and the Pirates lost him in the 1955 minor league draft. He pitched solidly in 1955-57, going through three levels with the Bucs and Cubs, but hit the wall in AA in 1958 and retired a year later at age 28.
  • 1957 - In a big day for MLB, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 6-3 that baseball is the only professional sport exempt from antitrust laws, withstanding a challenge from the NFL. Ever since congressmen (mainly from areas without teams) have threatened to rescind the exemption, but baseball has managed to dodge the bullet so far. The case was Radovich v. National Football League, and the NFL tried to sway the court to give it the same antitrust status as baseball, but the Supremes ruled that was a matter for legislative, not judicial, action. 
  • 1981 - The MLBPA voted for a strike authorization on May 29th if free agent compensation wasn’t settled. It wasn’t and the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, the first work stoppage that resulted in regular season games being cancelled, began on June 12th after an NLRB hearing couldn’t resolve the issue. It forced the cancellation of 713 games before the two sides reached an agreement on July 31st and play resumed on August 10th, with the Pirates getting just 102 games in, the fewest in baseball. The 1981 campaign was split into first and second half winners w/playoffs and the compensation issue was never resolved satisfactorily. The negotiations were so toxic that when peace returned, MLBPA’s Marvin Miller and MLB negotiator Ray Grebey refused to shake hands or even pose with one another; the animosity would lead to more stoppages and the 1994-95 strike that cancelled an entire season. 
Phil Irwin (photo Stacy Revere/Getty)
  • 1987 - RHP Phil Irwin was born in Germantown, Tennessee. The U of Mississippi hurler was drafted in the 19th round of the 2009 draft on the recommendation of scout Darren Mazeroski and compiled a promising minor league resume. He was called up for a so-so spot start in 2013 and injured his arm upon his return to Indy, requiring ulnar nerve surgery (he had a forearm issue in 2012 which was likely the first sign of the damage) and never made it back. He was DFA’ed by the Pirates in 2014 and claimed by the Rangers. He made one start for them and spent his last pro season in Korea in 2015. 
  • 1999 - The Pirates traded 2B Tony Womack to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later (P Jason Boyd) and OF Paul Weichard (minors). Womack led the NL in steals for three straight seasons, two with the Bucs, and played on Arizona and St. Louis World Series clubs. As for the Pirates, his departure led to an unsettled situation at second with Warren Morris, Pat Meares, Pokey Reese and Abraham Nunez holding the spot until Jose Castillo’s arrival in 2004. 
  • 2005 - OF Matt Lawton signed a one-year, $7.75M deal with the Pirates. The Bucs traded him at the deadline to the Cubs for Jody Gerut. He had a solid half season, hitting .273 with 10 HR and 44 RBI before being flipped. It was his last hurrah; he played 11 games in 2006 to close out his 12-year career.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Notes: Rays Take Opener 6-3, Yanks Come to Town; Siegrist Inked; Player Odds & Ends

Today: The Bucs open at LECOM Saturday against the Yankees on the 50th anniversary of the Pittsburgh-Bradenton connection. The game starts at 1:05 and will be aired on KDKA 1020 AM. Nick Kingham is slated to start against New York's Domingo German. Also due on the hill for the Bucs are Clay Holmes, Michael Feliz, Kyle Crick, Rule 5 pick Jordan Milbrath, Jack Leathersich and NRI Richard Rodriguez. The Bucs have some starters (J-Hay, El Coffee,Starling, Freezer, Jordy) sprinkled in the lineup; Bruce Brentz gets his first Bucco start at DH.

Nick Kingham tosses today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Yesterday: The Bucs lost to Tampa Bay, 6-3. Austin Meadows went 3-for-3 with two doubles/pair of RBI and Colin Moran got his first Bucco hit, a soft shot the opposite way. Tyler Eppler retired six straight Rays following a leadoff single and most of the pitching was sharp; Altoona's Alex McRae and depth NRI John Stilson gave up all six runs. Both clubs' players wore Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS caps (as did the entire MLB) before the game to honor the fallen and support the survivors.

  • The Pirates signed LHP Kevin Siegrist, 28, to an NRI deal to bolster the southpaw competition in the pen. He was 13-4-9 w/the Cards in 148 appearances during 2015-16 but tossed to a 4.88 ERA (4.38 FIP) last year; he hurt his back and was released by both SL and the Phils. Nice pickup, especially if Siegrist can stay healthy.
  • The Kansas City Royals signed OF'er Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal two days after the Bucs signed him to a minor league deal. He was released at his request to pursue other opportunities after the Corey Dickerson trade shut down the competition for the LF spot. Saunders should be in the mix at KC.
  • Adam Berry of takes a look at some dark horse roster candidates for the Pirates.
  • MLB Pipeline has an updated list of the Pirates Top 30 Prospects; there are some newer names there that you'll have to add to your memory banks.
  • The Tigers have agreed to a one-year/$4M contract with LHP Frankie Liriano, with another $1M available in bonuses.

2/24: Bye-Bye Bucs; HBD Hans, Wilbur, John Henry, Earl, Steamboat & Bronson

  • 1874 - Hall of Famer (he was part of the first class, with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, et al) Honus Wagner was born in Chartiers, now a part of Carnegie. Considered by many to be the greatest SS to ever play, he spent 18 years (1900 -17) with Pittsburgh and played on a pair of World Series teams, winning in 1909. The Flying Dutchman won eight NL batting titles with a lifetime .328 BA. He drove in 100+ runs nine times and scored 100+ runs seven times. Wagner also served as a Pirate coach from 1933-51 and very briefly as a player/manager. 
Wilbur Cooper (photo Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1892 - LHP Wilbur Cooper was born in Bearsville, West Virginia. Cooper tossed for 13 years in Pittsburgh, winning 202 games, the most in Pirate history, with a 2.74 ERA and 263 complete games to his credit. He and Carl Mays are the only two 20th century pitchers who worked over 3,000 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA that aren’t in the Hall of Fame. 
  • 1898 - 2B John Henry Russell was born in Dolcito, Alabama. He played second and short for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932-33, batting between Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston while earning a 1933 All-Star bid. Russell was considered one of the Negro League’s premier defenders and earned his keep at the dish, hitting .276 for Pittsburgh per Seamheads. Russell finished his career the following season at age 36 with the Cleveland Red Sox. 
  • 1907 - C Earl Grace was born in Barlow, Kentucky. He was a reserve catcher for the Bucs for five seasons (1931-35) with a .275 BA, coming over from the Cubs for C Rollie Hemsley. Earl handled a glove as well as he handled a bat. In 1932, he finished the season with just one error in 413 chances to establish a then NL record with a .998 fielding percentage. Grace spent 15 seasons in organized ball, retiring in 1940 and becoming a Phoenix-based real estate broker who occasionally did some scouting for the Yankees. Trivia: Earl was traded three times in his career; all three deals were for a different catcher. 
Earl Grace 1934 Goudey
  • 1909 - P Clarence “Steamboat” Struss was born in Riverdale, Illinois. In 1934, Steamboat was called up from Little Rock, where he was the Southern Association’s strikeout leader. The 25-year-old “smokeball” artist got the start for the last game of the season, the back end of a twinbill at Wrigley. Steamboat gave up six runs (five earned) in seven innings. Struss held the Cubs to seven hits, but six walks and a wild pitch that plated the winning run were more than enough to do him in. He did help himself, though, by smacking a two-run double. Struss pitched in the minors until 1941 in the Cub and White Sox systems but never got a second invite to the bigs. 
  • 1977 - RHP Bronson Arroyo was born in Key West Florida. A third round pick of the Bucs in 1995, Bronson debuted with the Pirates in 2000 and worked three seasons for Pittsburgh, splitting the time between starting and the pen while slashing 9-14/5.41. He’s put in more than a decade of MLB work since then, mainly with the Reds, before being derailed by TJ surgery in July of 2014. The 40-year-old came back to pitch a final season for the Reds in 2017, retiring after the year with 16 seasons under his belt. 
  • 1981 - How close were the Bucs to leaving? The Pirates, bleeding money, filed suit in the Allegheny County Courthouse for the annulment of its lease at Three Rivers Stadium after receiving relocation overtures from New Orleans, Washington & Tampa. The case was eventually resolved when the Galbreath family sold the team in 1985 to a public-private partnership after threatening bankruptcy.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Notes: Grapefruit Opener - Pirates v Rays, Outfielders Everywhere as Bucs Land Dickerson, Brentz & Saunders; Camp Stuff and News

Off to Port Charlotte to visit the Rays - the long winter is over!

RHP Tyler Eppler will start the Pirates Grapefruit League opener with a two inning/35-pitch limit and we get our first look at Colin Moran on the hot corner; J-Bell and Fraze (LF) also start. Today's game is on 93.7 the Fan and starts at 1:05.

Colin gets the call (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Holy Moly, outfield logjam! The Pirates have have traded for OF Corey Dickerson from Tampa Bay in exchange for RHP Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray and cash. Dickerson, 28, has played for Colorado and Tampa for the past five years with a .280 BA and some pop in his bat. He's making $5.95M this season and will be eligible for arbitration next year. He’ll be a free agent in 2020 and so won't be much of a block in the OF but is a nice plug-in. He's average defensively, but if he can keep his bat on a steady course - he fell off dramatically in the last three months of 2017 - he can help firm up the middle of the order. Gray, 21, is a good-looking 2B drafted out of Rice in 2017 who has been in Low A, but has a boatload of young guys ahead of him in the pipeline. Huddy is trying to find some consistency; two bad months killed his stat line last year and eroded the Bucs confidence in handing him the ball in higher-leverage situations. He'll have to earn a spot; the Rays pen is full of young arms.
  • Yah, more outfielders - the Pirates purchased OF Bryce Brentz from the Bosox; he was a big bopper in AAA Pawtucket (.271/31 HR) but was in line to be DFA'ed when the JD Martinez signing becomes official. He's a 29-year-old corner OF'er who has two stops in Boston, batting .287 in 90 PAs and is out of options. The Pirates also signed OF'er Michael Saunders, 31, late of the Phillies and Jays, to an NRI contract. He looked like he turned a corner in 2015-16, but he had a tough second half in '16 and stayed cold last year (.202 BA in 73 games).
  • RHP Bo Schultz, an NRI from Toronto who had TJ surgery last year, should be cleared for full action at the end of the month. On the other side of the pillow, Nava, who had back issues last year, is off due to lower back discomfort and Joe Musgrove is in "keep loose" mode, but not shut down, so that's promising.
Big year for Fraze? 2017 Topps Heritage
  • Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs expects a good year from Adam Frazier, who he says"...has shown tremendous BABIP skills. He hits a ton of liners, rarely pops up, doesn’t get shifted, and possesses above average speed...a rebound should be coming.
  • Fran Cervelli, as may be expected, is not a fan of the pace-of-game changes; we can't really think of a catcher who would be a proponent. Those guys are the game's chess-masters and the new rules are taking away one of their primary tactics, the mound visit. 
  • Per @JohnDreker the Pirates have signed their 47th international amateur free agent since July 2nd, so they've been busy gathering bodies in the post-Rene Gayo era.
  • If you were among the many who thought FA OF'er Jarod Dyson would be a good fit in Pittsburgh, you can perish the thought - he signed a two-year/$7.5M deal with Arizona.
  • The Astros’ RHP Forrest Whitley, 20, who the Pirates tried to pry loose from Houston unsuccessfully, has been suspended 50 games for minor-league drug violations. It's said that he took a stimulant to help him on a long drive home after taking in a college game. At his age, tho, this is pretty much a speed bump lesson.
  • RHP Jesse Chavez, 34, who started out as a Pirate in 2008, was signed by the team that drafted him back in 2002, the Texas Rangers, on a two-way contract.
  • Jose Tabata, 29, has signed with the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League.

2/23 TRS/PNC Era: Martin Deal; RIP Vic; Raul, El Tiante Signs; Russ Leaves WBC; HBD Jason & Jaff

  • 1974 - RHP Jason Boyd was born in St. Clair, Illinois. He began his career with the Bucs in 1999 and ended it with another Pirates stop in 2004 after outings in Philly, Cleveland, and San Diego. Jason didn’t help himself much - he had a 1-0/4.91 line for the Bucs, broke his hand later in the season after punching the rubber when he was pulled from a minor-league game and had gotten into a couple of 2003 off-season fights. He spent 2005 in the Texas system before ending his pro ball tenure. 
  • 1978 - Vic Harris, long time outfielder/manager for the Homestead Grays, passed away at age 72 in San Fernando, California. Vic was born in Florida and moved to Pittsburgh, attending Schenley HS in Oakland. As a player, Vic spend 18 years with Homestead after his 1925 debut, hitting .304, and in nine years as skipper (with eight league titles) beginning in 1936, he led the Grays to a 406-281 record (per Seamheads) while serving as a player/manager for every season but his last in 1946. He even slipped in a campaign with the cross-town rivals, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, hitting .339 in 1934. 
Vic Harris 1942 (Teenie Harris/Carnegie Museum of Art)
  • 1981 - RHP Luis Tiant signed a minor league deal with the Bucs for a guaranteed $125K. He tossed in Class AAA Portland until August, when the 40-year-old El Tiante was called up, going 2-5 with a 3.92 ERA down the stretch. He was released at the end of the season and tossed in Mexico the next year. He was purchased from the Plataneros de Tabasco club in August by California, appearing in six games for the Halos to end his MLB career after 19 seasons and 229 wins. 
  • 1990 - OF’er Jaff Decker was born in Phoenix. A first-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2008 out of high school, he put in a couple of emergency stints in Pittsburgh in 2014-15, getting in 28 games and hitting .214, but with a strong .371 OBP. He's hopscotched organizations since. Jaff got his name thanks to a slip of the pen; he was supposed to be named after his uncle Jeff, but the name was misspelled by a nurse and so Jaff it became.
  • 2000 - The Bucs dealt Al Martin to the San Diego Padres for OF John Vander Wal and pitchers Jim Sak and Geraldo Padua. The Mariners had been making a pitch for Martin since the winter meetings and finally got their guy 10 days after dealing Ken Griffey Jr. to the Reds (the day of the Griffey swap, Pirates GM Cam Bonifay denied a Martin-to-Seattle deal was in the works to the media). Martin played four more years as a platoon guy while Van der Wal lasted the better part of two seasons for the Bucs before being traded to the Giants. Sak & Padua never made it to the show. 
Raul "AWOL" Mondesi 2004 Topps
  • 2004 - The Pirates, which had been unable to pry Raul Mondesi from the Yankees the year before, signed him to a one-year/$1.75M free agent deal. Mondesi was hitting .283 w/two homers and 14 RBI when he left the team on May 7th to return to the Dominican Republic to fight a lawsuit; he never came back. The Pirates terminated him a couple of weeks later, citing breach of contract. It was suspected he was angling to leave town all along, and that probably was his game plan as he signed with the Angels at the end of the month. Though he may have won that battle, he quickly lost the war - he was out of baseball in 2005. 
  • 2013 - C Russell Martin withdrew from the Canadian team roster of the World Baseball Classic because he wasn’t allowed to play shortstop. Both the Pirates and the Canadian team were uncomfortable with the switch, while Martin, who had signed a two-year/$17M deal with the Pirates, told that “...I simply didn’t want to catch,” citing concern about the pre-season tournament wear and tear. He had played in 2009 for the Canadian WBC nine.

2/23 Expo Park/Forbes Field Era: Pud Signs; HBD Barney, Bo, Ray, T-Bone, Eddie & Mike

  • 1885 - Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss was born in Freiburg, Baden (Germany). He is often credited with the creation of the modern baseball World Series. Dreyfuss also built one of baseball's first modern steel and concrete baseball parks, Forbes Field, in 1909. During his period of ownership (1900-1932), the Pirates won six NL pennants and World Series titles in 1909 and 1925; only the New York Giants won more NL championships during the same period. He’s in the Hall of Fame as one of the founding fathers that helped steer MLB through its early growing pains. 
Pud was a cover boy but not much with money (1886 Alleghenys Program)
  • 1888 - RHP James "Pud" Galvin signed with Pittsburgh for $3,000, including $1,000 in advance. The club offered the ace $3,500 with no front money, but Galvin needed the quick grand to carry him through the off season. “Gentleman Jeems” ended up in the Hall of Fame as MLB’s first 300-game winner (he claimed 365 victories); he was a much better pitcher than financial planner. 
  • 1908 - RHP Ray Brown was born in Alger, Ohio. He tossed for the Homestead Grays from 1932-45,winning 102 NNL games, and to cement the relationship, he even was married to owner Cum Posey’s daughter Ethel. Brown threw a one-hitter in the 1944 Negro League World Series to lead the Grays to the title and pitched a perfect seven-inning game in 1945. In 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier listed Brown as one of five Negro leagues stars who would be certain major leaguers if the color line didn’t exist, along with Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Satchel Paige. All five were voted into the Hall of Fame, with Brown’s election occurring in 2006. 
  • 1958 - Coach John “T-Bone” Shelby was born in Lexington, Kentucky. In 2006, he followed manager Jim Tracy to Pittsburgh, where he was the club's first base coach from 2006-07. He went on to coach in the Baltimore, Milwaukee and Colorado organizations. As for his nickname, he told Andrew Gruman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “I grew up being called T. I told my teammates in rookie ball to call me T and some clown on the team started calling me T-Bone and I hated it. It stuck because I hated it and now I love it.” 
Eddie Vargas (photo via Clemente Cup 2016)
  • 1959 - 1B Hediberto “Eddie/Hedi” Vargas was born in Guanica, Puerto Rico. The Bucs signed him in 1977 and he got cups of coffee with the big team in 1982 and again in 1984. Eddie hit .256 but without much power and he couldn’t dislodge Jason Thompson or win a bench spot. He was released in 1985, playing in Mexico & the minors before leaving the game after the 1989 campaign. 
  • 1961 - RHP Mike Smith was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Mike had gotten tastes of the show by working 17 games in four seasons for the Reds & Expos and got his longest exposure as a Bucco in 1989, working 16 times w/24 IP. His counting numbers were OK at 0-1, 3.75, but his peripherals told a different tale and that was his last MLB campaign. He closed his career by tossing five years (1996-2000) of indie league ball. 
  • 1963 - OF Bobby “Bo” Bonilla was born in the Bronx. The switch hitter spent six years in Pittsburgh (1986-91) with a line of .284/114/500 and was a four-time All Star for Pittsburgh before leaving in 1991 as an FA, signing a huge deal with the NY Mets. From 1992-94, Bo was the highest-paid player in the league, earning over $6M per season. When he released with a year left on the deal, the Mets settled the contract by sending him $1.2M every season - for the next 25 years! Bobby played for 16 campaigns in the show with eight teams, retiring at 38 after the 2001 season w/a lifetime .279 BA, 287 HR, 1,084 runs and 1,173 RBI.
Bobby Bo 1988 Broder Red Stars

Thursday, February 22, 2018

2/22: DC Days; Hello, FLA; Doc Joins Up; Orlando Inked; RIP Howie; HBD Bennie, Frankie, Roy, Bill & Tom

  • 1892 - Pirate suit Bill Benswanger was born in New York City. His family moved to Pittsburgh when he was five and he attended Central HS. Bill married into owner Barney Dreyfuss’ family, and in 1931 he became the team’s treasurer. Dreyfuss passed away the following year and Benswanger became the president, a position he held until 1946. Baseball wasn’t exactly in his blood. He told Vince Johnson of the Post Gazette that “I literally got dumped into baseball. I didn’t know a thing about it. I was there just because I was the only man in the family.” But Bill was a quick learner and ran the club creditably before the Dreyfuss family sold it to Frank McKinney’s group for an estimated $2,225,000.
Bill Benswanger 1933 (photo from Who's Who in Major League Baseball)
  • 1900 - C Roy Spencer was born in Scranton, NC. He played his first three campaigns in Pittsburgh (1925-27) on two World Series clubs as a reserve, appearing in the ‘27 Classic. In three years, he hit .307 for Pittsburgh. After leaving Pittsburgh, Spencer played nine more seasons, starting from 1929-32 for Washington after sharpening his game by spending a year with Indianapolis of the American Association. 
  • 1911 - C Bill Baker was born in Paw Creek, NC. The backup played four seasons (1941-43, 1946) with Pittsburgh, missing a couple of years while in the Navy during WW2, and hit .247. Baker went into umpiring after his career and worked his way up to an NL arbitrator for a season before his knees finally gave out, an occupational hazard for an old catcher. 
  • 1915 - The Pirates bought 1B Doc Johnston from Cleveland for $7,500. It was thought that Doc was brought in to challenge Honus Wagner for the first base slot, with owner Barney Dreyfuss telling the Pittsburg Press that “No man is certain of his job with the Pirates. Everyplace is open this spring…” Hans was 41 and it was assumed that he would slide over to cover Ed Konetchy’s spot at first after Konetchy skipped to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Federal League. When the season started, Doc was indeed at first, but not at Hans’ expense - the Dutchman held onto his shortstop job, playing 131 games at the position. Doc started in Pittsburgh for two years and then was moved as part of the Burleigh Grimes deal after the 1916 campaign.
Frankie Zak (photo via SABR)
  • 1922 - SS Frankie Zak was born in Passaic, New Jersey. He played three years, all in Pittsburgh (1944-46), as a reserve infielder and pinch runner with a .266 lifetime BA. Even tho he only got 160 bats in 1944, he was named a replacement All-Star. The game was held at Forbes Field, and with wartime travel restrictions creating logistic problems, the NL took the easy road by selecting him (Frankie did hit .300 that season). Red Patterson in the New York Herald-Tribune explained “Frank Zak was substituted at the last moment for (Pirate) Pete Coscarart, who was supposed to replace Eddie Miller (of the Reds) but went fishing before he could be notified.” A local sports scribe cracked "He (Zak) got a break. He thought he'd have to pay his way in." The poor guy couldn’t even get a memento; he was named to the team too late to have his name included in the All-Star program. 
  • 1947 - For the first time since 1918, the Pirates held spring training in Florida with the pitchers reporting and the full squad due on the 27th. Billy Herman’s club worked out in Miami Beach, with the players getting $5 per day spending money, which the Post Gazette estimated as enough “for a couple of hamburgers...and a cup of coffee.” 
  • 1948 - RHP Tom Griffin was born in Los Angeles. He was a first round pick of the Astros (4th overall) in 1966 and spent 14 years in the show as a swingman. He bowed out as a Bucco in 1982 after being traded by the Giants for Doe Boyland. Griffin got into six games, went 1-3, 8.87, and hung up his spikes at age 34 after the Pirates released him in May to clear a spot for IF Ken Reitz. His career game was tossed against the Bucs when on May 7th, 1974, he threw a one-hitter against the Pirates, a Willie Stargell single, and took home a 2-1 win. To add a little salt to the wound, Milt May, who the Bucs had sent to the Astros for Jerry Reuss in October, tripled home the game winner. 
Tom Griffin 1982 Topps
  • 1980 - President Jimmy Carter hosted both the Steelers and Pirates in a single ceremony at the White House to celebrate their respective championship wins in Super Bowl XIV and the 1979 World Series. More than one observer believed that the ceremony had more to do with the upcoming Pennsylvania primary than trophies. Championship showcases, thought to be initiated by JFK, were made into an annual rite by Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan. 
  • 1985 - The Pirates signed Orlando Merced as an amateur free agent out of high school at the age of 17. The Puerto Rican spent seven seasons with the Bucs, playing outfield and first, batting .283 from 1990-96 before being traded as part of the Jose Silva/Abraham Nunez deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. 
  • 1999 - Howie Haak, known as the “King of the Caribbean” by baseball people and “Big Daddy” by young Latino ballplayers, died of a stroke at age 87. Haak toiled for the Pirates from 1950-88, when he resigned after a spat with GM Syd Thrift and beat the bushes for the Houston Astros for several years afterward. In 1984, Haak was selected as the first recipient of the Scout of the Year award, voted on by his peers. He signed scores of players for the Bucs, including Manny Sanguillen, Omar Moreno & Rennie Stennett of Panama; Tony Pena, Jose DeLeon, Frank Taveras & Cecilio Guante of the Dominican Republic, Ramon Hernandez & Junior Ortiz of Puerto Rico, Joe Christopher & Al McBean of the Virgin Islands, Roman Mejias & Orlando McFarlane of Cuba and Tony Armas of Venezuela. He also reeled in some US players, like Dick Stuart, Dale Berra, Steve Nicosia, Joe Gibbon, Red Witt, John Candelaria and Bob Veale.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2/21: JR Extended; Groat Into College HoF; First CBA; HBD Ted, Jouett & Joel

  • 1867 - RHP Jouett Meekin was born in New Albany, Indiana. Meekin was in his 10th year of big league ball when he joined the Pirates in 1900 at age 33; two starts and 21 runs later (half were unearned, but still…) he had tossed his last in MLB. It was an inglorious end to a stellar career; between 1894-98, he had won 111 games, even while pitching through a torn muscle in 1895. He left pro ball in 1902 and became a fireman. 
Ted Savage 1964 Topps
  • 1936 - OF Ted Savage was born in Venice, Illinois. Ted played for eight teams in a nine-year major league career, including a stop in Pittsburgh in 1963, batting just .195. He only ended up with a .233 lifetime BA, but made the most of his post-baseball days. Savage earned a Ph.D. in urban studies from St. Louis University, worked there and then for the Cards as a community relations admin before retiring. He kept his hand in the game afterward as a promoter and fundraiser for baseball’s RBI program.
  • 1961 - C Joel Skinner was born in La Jolla, California. Joel was Pirates OF Bob Skinner’s son, and the Bucs drafted him in the later rounds of the 1979 draft. Though he only played two years in the Bucco system, he was part of a pair of landmarks. The Pirates lost him in the short-lived free agent compensation draft to the Yankees as the first player ever claimed under that system (oddly enough, it was because the Phillies had signed NY’s Ed Farmer, but the compensation pool was formed by the entire league, not just the team involved.) He also was an interim manager for Cleveland, so he and his dad, a former Phil’s skipper, formed just the second father-son manager team in MLB history (George and Dick Sisler were the first). 
  • 1968 - Marvin Miller negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in history with the team owners. The CBA ran from January 1st‚ 1968 to December 31st‚ 1969. The minimum MLB player's salary was raised to $10‚000, meal money during the season went up to $15 a day‚ and players got $40 a week for training-camp expenses. 
JR 2009 Topps
  • 2009 - The Pirates picked up manager John Russell’s contract option for the season. The sophomore skipper went 67-95 after taking Jim Tracy’s spot. "JR met or exceeded expectations in his first year as the Pirates' manager," GM Neal Huntington explained in a statement. JR skippered through the 2010 campaign, suffering through a dismal-105 loss year, and was replaced by Clint Hurdle. 
  • 2011 - Seven new members of the College Baseball Hall of Fame were announced, including Duke’s Dick Groat, who became the first player ever inducted into both the college basketball (he was a two-time All-America who considered hoops to be his best sport) and baseball halls. Groat won a World Series and MVP while with the Pirates, and in his 26 game NBA career with the Fort Wayne Pistons, he averaged 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists before joining the Bucs full-time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2/20: Meares Signed; IA, UA Formed; HBD Baron, Frankie, Harry, Tom, Jack & Tony

  • 1862 - 3B Harry Raymond was born in Utica. After four seasons with the Louisville Colonels, Raymond came to Pittsburgh briefly in 1892, getting into 12 games and batting just .082. He finished the year and his big league career with Washington, going 1-for-18. He did soldier on, playing seven more minor league campaigns before calling it quits in 1899 at age 37. Raymond was best know as a league jumper who went from Louisville to Lincoln in 1891 and was given a lifetime suspension by the American Association and National League, who had an agreement re: player movement. But the punishment was withdrawn later in the year and he got to play out his final MLB season. 
Tom O'Brien (image from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette)
  • 1873 - Utilityman Tom O’Brien was born in Verona. O’Brien played just two seasons and four positions for his hometown club (1898, 1900), hitting .274 for Pittsburgh before his untimely death during a Cuban barnstorming tour in 1901. The lore around his death is that it was brought on by drinking a bucket of seawater during the voyage as a seasickness cure, but he actually had typhoid that developed into pneumonia, and he passed away at age 27. 
  • 1875 - C Jack Rafter was born in Troy, New York. Jack’s big league line was 0-for-3 in one game for the 1904 Pirates. He had a long New York baseball connection. He played at Fordham and spent 13 years in the minors, staying near his home base with stints at Troy, Syracuse and Albany forming the bulk of his baseball resume. 
  • 1877 - The International Association (so-called because it had a pair of Canadian clubs) was formed in Pittsburgh with the Alleghenys as one of the charter teams. Some baseball historians consider it to be the first minor league; others think the league was conceived to rival the major National League. It was fairly short-lived, folding after the 1880 season. It really didn’t have much a schedule; Alleghenys’ ace Pud Galvin tossed 18 of the 19 IA games played that first year. Pittsburgh finished second at 13-6, 1-½ games behind the London (Ontario) Tecumsehs. 
  • 1884 - The now you see it, now you don’t Union Association was organized. It only lasted a season and had two local reps: the Pittsburgh Stogies, which absorbed the Chicago Browns before folding (they would re-form in the 1914) and the mid-state Altoona Mountain City nine. 
Frank Gustine 1947 Exhibits
  • 1920 - All-Star infielder and restaurant owner Frankie Gustine was born in Hoopeston, Illinois. He played 10 years (1939-48) for the Bucs, hitting .268 as a Pirate and earning three All-Star spots. Gustine later became the head coach at Point Park College from 1968-74 and operated a bar/restaurant on Forbes Avenue in Oakland a few steps away from Forbes Field that became Hemingways in 1982. 
  • 1928 - The Baron of the Bullpen, ElRoy Face, was born in Stephentown, NY. He pitched fifteen years (1953, 1955-68) for the Bucs, going 100-93-188/3.36. Face was the first major leaguer to save 20 games more than once, leading the league three times and finishing second three times; in 1959 he set the still-standing major league record for winning percentage (.947) at 18-1, winning 22 games in a row over two seasons (19548-59). He held the NL record for career games pitched (846) from 1967-86, and the league record for career saves (193) from 1962-82. Face still holds the NL record for career wins in relief (96), and he held the league mark for career innings pitched in relief (1,211-1/3) until 1983. 
  • 1965 - RHP Tony Menendez was born in Havana, Cuba. Tony was a first round draft pick of the White Sox out of high school in 1984 and had a three-year MLB career with three teams between 1992-94 that lasted 23 appearances. He got 14 of those outings as a 1993 Bucco. He did pretty well, with no decisions but a 3.00 ERA in 21 IP, mostly as a September call-up from AAA Buffalo. Tony signed with the Giants the following year, got a brief look in the majors and retired as a Bay farmhand after the 1995 campaign. 
Pat Meares 2001 Topps Heritage
  • 1999 - The Pirates signed free agent SS Pat Meares to a $1.5M contract. In April, they extended the deal through the 2003 season for $15M. He broke his hand early in 1999, had surgery, and was out of baseball by 2002 after a prolonged soap opera clash with management, having played 240 games for the Bucs and hitting .238.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Notes: Camp Now In Full Swing

And now they're all in Bradenton...

  • It was a full boat at camp; no visa or personal issues to warrant a late call. In a sign of future movement, not only was Jose Osuna at third base, but Daniel Nava was at first with Austin Meadows in left. Osuna is on his maiden cruise at the hot corner after being introduced to the spot in the Winter league while Nava and Meadows have some limited work at their new-ish spots.
  • Sheesh - Joe Musgrove missed his bullpen w/right shoulder discomfort; he's being evaluated. Musgrove pooh-poohed the soreness, saying his missed session was just precautionary, so we shall see.
J-Hay is all about the wins (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • J-Hay stood by his off season comments, reiterating that if the Pirates aren't in win-now mode, he wants out.
  • Elias Diaz expressed relief for his mother's rescue - she's thankfully OK after the ordeal - and says his goal is to get her and other family members out of Venezuela. Not a surprise; a recent paper by the Brookings Institute says that the troubled nation may end up with more refugees than Syria.
  • Tony Watson has enlisted in the Bucco Bay brigade, joining Cutch, Mark the Shark, Gorkys Hernandez, Alen Hanson, Chase d'Arnaud & Hunter Strickland (he was claimed from Altoona after coming over in the Adam LaRoche trade) in San Francisco. It's a two-year deal with an option; reportedly the guaranteed money is $9M, but with bonuses and an option pick up, he could take home $21M over three years.
  • Joaquin Benoit has signed a one-year/$1M MLB contract with the Nats, pending his physical.
Joaquin Benoit - life after the Bucs (photo: Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Rajai Davis signed an NRI deal with the Indians. If you remember, his 2007 trade was the one that finally scuttled Dave Littlefield's GM run when Raj was sent to the Bay for Matty Morris. Davis, btw, is working on his 13th MLB campaign; Mo was cut after 16 starts as a Pirate to end his big league stay.
  • Alex Presley signed with the O's; it was an NRI deal.
  • Baseball America's Joe Sheehan compares Milwaukee and Pittsburgh baseball and came to the conclusion that ownership does make a difference.
  • The Bucs have returned to their free tee Friday promotions; they handed out the shirts on Saturday last year.
  • Pace of game news: MLB will limit the number of mound visits in a game (six per game; pitchers being yanked don't count) and reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes. There will be no pitch clock or between-batters times. But the league will have their stopwatch on them; they said they'd give the players a chance to self-police those items before deciding if clocks were needed.

2/19: Dodgers Sign Roberto; Bucs Get AJ; Simon Signs; HBD Stewie, Poet, Dana, Chris & Home Run Joe

  • 1876 - Utilityman “Home Run Joe” Marshall was born in Audubon, Minnesota. A prodigious slugger in the lower levels - he once bashed 26 long balls, a huge number in the dead ball era - it never translated into the show. He got a brief look in Pittsburgh in 1903, getting into 10 games and hitting .261 with a double and two triples, but no dingers, then another lengthier chance with the Cards in 1906, but again w/no homers. Joe did play 17 pro seasons before retiring in 1913 and worked a variety of jobs afterward - ump, clerk, & miner were all on his resume - until he passed away at age 55. 
  • 1944 - HP Chris Zachary was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. Chris closed out his nine-year, five-team MLB stay in 1973 with the Pirates, arriving in a trade with the Tigers for C Charlie Sands. He went 0-1-1, 3.00, in six outings from the pen after spending most of the year at AAA Charleston as a starter. Following the season, he was swapped to the Phils for 1B Pete Koegel, played a year of AAA ball and retired. Chris went on to run a horse farm and was recognized as a member of the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame for his career that stretched from Central HS to the Bucs.
Howie Haak's 1954 Scouting Report on Roberto Clemente
  • 1954 - 19-year-old Roberto Clemente signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers for one year at $5,000 with a $10,000 signing bonus. The Dodgers got his John Doe in competition with the NY Yankees, NY Giants and Milwaukee Braves, which made a larger offer but dangled it after Clemente had already signed on with Brooklyn. It was a pyrrhic victory as the Bucs claimed Roberto in November’s 1954 Rule 5 Draft. He was unprotected because he was a bonus baby (any player signed to a bonus over $6,000) who wasn’t carried on the Brooklyn MLB roster during the year as the rules of the time required, and so had to be offered in the draft. Clemente was the first player taken and cost the Pirates $4,000. 
  • 1967 - Pirates scout Dana Brown was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Pirates hired the former minor league OF away from the Phils in 1993; he moved on to Montreal in 2002 as scouting director and left to become a special assistant to the GM with Toronto in 2009. As a Bucco bird dog, he was responsible for signing Ian Snell and Chris Young. 
  • 1971 - RHP Miguel “The Poet” Batista was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The outfielder-turned-pitcher began his 18-year, 12-team career by tossing a pair of innings for the Bucs in 1992. After his modest Pittsburgh beginnings, he chilled his heels in the minors until 1996 before becoming a MLB fixture from 1998 through his last game with Atlanta in 2012. His nickname came about because of his love of literature. He even published a book of poetry - a lifelong interest of his - titled "Feelings in Black and White (“Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro”) in 2002. 
Stew went to Atlanta 2016 Topps
  • 1982 - C Chris Stewart was born in Fontana, California. He joined the Pirates via trade in 2014 and hit .294 as Russ Martin’s caddy (he batted .250 in four seasons w/Pittsburgh) while providing solid defense. Stew signed a two year contract with a club option in 2016 as the back-up to Francisco Cervelli. He was familiar with the drill; he played behind Cervelli and Martin as a Yankee, too. After several visits to the DL, he became a free agent and signed with the Braves in 2018. 
  • 2004 - The Pirates signed 1B Randall Simon to an $800,000 FA contract months after trading him to the Cubs following his sausage-swatting incident in Milwaukee. He spent 26 days on the DL with a bad hammy, hit .194 upon his return and was released in August. Simon got brief looks with Tampa and the Phils, ending his MLB days in 2006. He’s played in Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands WBC team (he was born in Curacao) and the indie leagues in the meantime. 
  • 2012 - The Pirates officially had RHP AJ Burnett drop in their laps (the deal had been announced a couple of days prior). The Yankees sent him to Pittsburgh for farm hands Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones and agreed to pay $20M of the $33M remaining on the last two years of his contract. AJ went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in Pittsburgh before joining the Phils for an injury-plagued 2014 season. He returned to the Bucco fold in 2015 (9-7, 3.18 ERA) for his farewell campaign, agreeing to a team-friendly $8.5M deal after refusing to exercise a $14.75M Philly option.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

2/18: AVS Signs, The King; HBD Bruce, Manny, Bob, Maxie, Luis, Cal & Sherry

  • 1891 - LHP Sherrod “Sherry” Smith was born in Monticello, Georgia. He got his career off to an inglorious start in Pittsburgh, giving up seven runs in 4-⅔ IP in his three 1911-12 outings. But after a couple years of minor league seasoning and a change of scenery, he blossomed to win 114 games in the next 12 years for the Brooklyn Robins and Cleveland Indians. In 1980 Smith was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and a decade later he was honored with a state historical marker ("Mansfield's Famous Southpaw") near his home. 
Luis Arroyo 1957 Topps
  • 1927 - LHP Luis Arroyo was born in Penuelas, Puerto Rico. “Tite” (a Latino nickname for Enrique, his middle name) was a screwballer who got a lot of ground outs. He tossed for the Bucs between 1956-57, with 12 starts in 72 appearances and a 6-14-2/4.69 ERA. After a year in AAA, he was converted full time to relief and spent his last four seasons in Yankee pinstripes, winning a World Series game and earning an All-Star nod in 1961. 
  • 1929 - C Cal Neeman was born in Valmeyer, Illinois. Neeman came off the bench for most of his seven-year career (he made the The Sporting News’ All Rookie squad in 1957 as a Cub but never was the top man after that year), and appeared in 24 games for the 1962 Buccos, hitting .180 after earning a spot on the club as an NRI in camp. He was was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for utility player Bob Burda after the season. After he retired in 1963, he returned to college and worked a variety of jobs, including HS baseball coach. 
  • 1938 - OF Manny Mota was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The pinch hitter supreme spent six seasons (1963-68) with Pittsburgh as a fourth outfielder early in his career, hitting .297 during that span. It wasn’t until 1974 that the Dodgers used him solely as a bench bat and he came through in spades, smacking 150 career pinch hits. 
Manny Mota 1965 Jay Publishing
  • 1939 - IF Dal Maxvill was born in Granite City, Illinois. Dal joined the Bucs toward the tail end of his MLB days for parts of 1973-74, hitting .188 before being released. “Maxie” finished his 14-year career with Oakland after the Pirates let him go, playing his last game in 1975. Dal coached and was the Card’s GM afterward, retiring from baseball for good when he was fired from that job during a messy transition following Gus Busch’s death. 
  • 1939 - RHP Bob Miller was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Miller spent 18 years in the show, tossing for the Bucs in 1971-72 (6-4-6, 2.19) and pitching in two NLCS sets and a World Series. He later managed in the Padres organization and was pitching coach for the Blue Jays and Giants. Miller pitched in an era that featured three Bob Millers, all tossing in the majors starting in the late 1950s, and in fact was teammates with one of them in 1962 with the Mets. 
  • 1950 - RHP Bruce Kison was born in Pasco, Washington. The righty pitched nine years (1971-79) for the Bucs and his career bookended Pittsburgh World series titles; he was 4-1 in the postseason, including a memorable 6-1/3 shutout innings stint against the Orioles in game #4 of the 1971 Fall Classic. He was part of the rotation for three years, but was used mostly as a spot starter and long guy, putting up a Pirate pitching line of 81-63/3.49. 
Bruce Kison 1978 Topps
  • 1967 - Eddie Feigner, headliner fastpitch softball hurler of the King and his Court, appeared in a charity softball game at Dodger Stadium and struck out six MLB players in a row, including Roberto Clemente, reportedly tossing a 104 MPH underhand heater. 
  • 1989 - All-Star outfielder Andy Van Slyke dropped his demand to be paid if there was an owners' lockout when the CBA expired in 1990 (there was, but it was settled in mid-March) and signed a three-year/$5.5M contract with the Pirates, avoiding a looming arbitration hearing. Van Slyke's contract included a $600K signing bonus and salaries of $1.95M in 1989 and 1991 and $1M in 1990 with $270,000 per season available in incentive bonuses. Before the deal ran out, he signed a three-year extension in 1991 worth $12.65M, making him the Pirates' highest paid player.