Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thursday: Pirates Visit Yankees, Yesterday's Recap, Notes

Game: The Pirates take the bus to Tampa and George Steinbrenner Stadium to battle the Yankees. The game begins at 1:05 and will be carried by MLB Gameday.

Lineup: Erik Gonzalez SS, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Corey Dickerson DH, Jose Osuna RF, Patrick Kivlehan LF, Will Craig 1B, JB Shuck CF, Steven Baron C, Alfredo Reyes 2B (Steven Brault P). Pablo Reyes, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Lolo Sanchez, Jason Martin and Bryan Reynolds, Christian Kelley and Rodolfo Castro. are the mid-game subs.

And batting leadoff...Erik Gonzalez (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
Pitchers: LHP Steven Brault takes on LHP JA Happ (RHP Albert Abreu was originally penciled in). LHP Brandon Waddell along w/RHP's Elvis Escobar, Geoff Hartlieb and Alex McRae will fill in behind Brault.

Yesterday's Game: Pittsburgh drew first blood when Jason Martin smacked his second long ball of the spring in the opening frame. Starter Clay Holmes put up a lot of twos - two whiffs, two walks, two knocks - but no runs. He lasted just 1-1/3 IP, tho, after reaching 43 pitches.The Jays tallied in the third when Luis Escobar lost focus with two outs. With a runner of first, he balked and a single knotted the score. That was followed by a bopped batter before he finished up. Toronto went up in the fifth when Kyle Crick had his two-out lapse; after a pair of K's, a walk and double plated a Blue Bird. The Bucs were in mid-season form in the sixth. Bran Reynolds opened with a single, went to second on a wild pitch, and with no one out was thrown out at home after Lolo Sanchez's knock to left. It was the last  decent shot as the Pirates went quietly after that, with just a walk and a knock over the final three frames to drop their second in a row, 2-1, to Toronto.

The game wasn't as close as it looked; the Blue Jays went 1-for-12 w/RISP while Pittsburgh only moved four runners into scoring position. Each side K'ed nine times, so a lot of unproductive outs were made today. It was another six-hit effort by the Bucco batters, with Lolo going 2-for-2 and Martin homering. The weather didn't help either club as it was drizzly throughout the afternoon.

  • A few Buccos have been AWOL from the first week of play. The biggest concern is for C Elias Diaz, who is completely shut down due to a virus, according to director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk. They are treating the illness "week to week," he said, and it's possible that Diaz could begin the season on the injured list (the DL has become the IL). The others are 2B Adam Frazier and OF Corey Dickerson, who are taking part in the drills and camp work but being eased into game action. That's possibly because there's no competition for their spots but a logjam of backups to check out; Starling's in the same boat and only played one game this week. NRI 2B Nick Franklin is also waiting to play; that's not such good news for him with Kevin Kramer seeing lots of time at second.
  • RJ Anderson of CBS Sports writes about the growing chasm between the Pirates and their fans because of the team's lack of spending, which the base considers a lack of interest in winning.

2/28 Through the 1900’s: Homer Signs; Barney Double-Dips; HBD Lil, Jud, Moose, Cotton Top & Jack

  • 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. 
Moose as a Giant 1909 Ramly T204
  • 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, with its inherent conflicts of interest, wasn’t prohibited until 1910.
Homer Hillebrand 1905 (photo via Chicago History Museum/Getty)
  • 1905 - Pittsburgh signed C Homer Hillebrand as a free agent. The 25-year-old saw action with the Bucs over the next two seasons, posting an 8-4-1/2.53 line in 17 games and batting .237 in 18 more games at first, outfield and behind the plate. The Pirates used the versatile Hillebrand on the slab because of his rifle at backstop; it was a mixed blessing as he was an effective pitcher but limited by arm soreness. Homer had to retire after a partial 1906 campaign because of his bum wing. He tried to make a comeback in 1908, but it lasted one inning. The lefty was a Princeton guy and a true 4-H’er - his full name was Homer Hiller Henry Hillebrand.

2/28 From 1920: Jack, A-Ram & Rick Sign; Clemente Cover Boy; Ticket Hike; Drug Penalties

  • 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 Forbes Field 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, minor league deal with the Bucs. Big Daddy was called up in May, won 14 games and earned the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award, all for $200K. 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 ex-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. Parker, then with the Reds, and Berra, with the Yankees, took the fine/testing/community service penalty. 
  • 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 2002 Donruss Diamond King
  • 2006 - The team and SS Jack Wilson worked out a three-year/$20.2M 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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wednesday: Blue Jays In Town, Yesterday's Recap & Notes

Game: Toronto takes on the Buccos at LECOM Park. The game begins at 1:05 and is on MLB Gameday.

Lineup: Lonnie Chisenhall RF, Jason Martin CF, Melky Cabrera LF, Josh Bell 1B, Fran Cervelli DH, Colin Moran 3B, Pablo Reyes 2B, Kevin Newman SS, Jake Stallings C (Clay Holmes P). Jose Osuna, Kevin Kramer, Cole Tucker, Will Craig and Arden Pabst are penciled in as mid-game relief.

Pablo is at second today (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Pitchers: RHP Clay Holmes gets the call v RHP Matt Shoemaker. LHP Frankie Liriano and RHP's Kyle Crick, Dovy Neverauskas, Aaron Slegers, Nick Burdi and Luis Escobar are also in the queue to toss today.

Yesterday: Mitch Keller's first spring training start wasn't one to remember - he gave up two runs on three hits in the first frame, although the linchpin knock was a two-out double not very well played by JB Shuck. Pittsburgh bounced back in the fourth. Pat Kivlehan legged out a knock, and with one gone, Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Kramer banged out back-to-back two-baggers. Jason Martin's two-out single put the Pirates up 3-2. The Bucs added on in the fifth on a Kivlehan dinger. but Brandon Maurer couldn't hold the lead after a walk, wild pitch, error by Will Craig and a couple of knocks. Blake Weiman couldn't douse the flames and it was 6-4 Minnesota.

Cole Tucker manufactured a run in the seventh. He was plunked and came around after a bunt, error and wild pitch. But that would be it; the Buccos could muster no more than a walk over the last two frames and dropped their first Grapefruit match 6-5. Pittsburgh had just six hits and both sides were sloppy; Pirates fielding has been quite meh this week. And while Mitch Keller hit a speed bump (he and Maurer were both hurt by miscues), JT Brubaker had a nice start, spinning two frames of one-hit ball for the day's silver lining.

  • C Steven Baron made a tumbling dive into the Twin's dugout to snag a foul pop; Jim Colony of 93.7 The Fan promptly dubbed him "Robber Baron," noting that Andrew Carnegie would be proud... click here to catch Steven's catch
  • Doc Emrick will join Greg Brown and Steve Blass in the booth for today's webcast of the game.
  • Jason Rollison of Bucs Dugout takes a look at third base; like shortstop, it could very well be a matter of finding a seat warmer until 2020.
  • It's on the back burner now, but the Bucs have a bumper crop of arb-eligible guys next year. Dave Slusser of Rumbunter looks at the players and  financials involved.
  • MLB Pipeline took a look down the road at 2021 Prospects; they singled out SS Oneil Cruz for the Bucs. 
  • MLB just signed a three-year deal with the indie Atlantic League, which will serve as its rules/equipment guinea pig.

2/27: Cole Train, Josias Sign; Haas Sold; Old Timey Pace of Play; Pie, Posey, Pete, Ray & Jud HoF; HBD Matt & Craig

  • 1901 - Do ya think that the pace-of-play/20-second clock is just a recent debate? 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 fouled 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. 
  • 1926 - The Pirates sold 22-year-old OF Mule Haas to the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association. The Buccos had a set outfield at the time, but perhaps should have been a little more patient with Mule. After two years with the minor league Crackers and posting a .323 BA in 1927, the Philly Athletics bought him for $16,000 and he stayed in the majors for 11 years, batting .292 lifetime and hitting .280 or better for eight of his next nine campaigns, with three .300+ seasons. 
Mule Haas 1925 Conlon Collection/TSN
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
Josias Manzanillo 2002 MLB Showdown
  • 2002 - The Pirates re-signed RHP Josias Manzanillo to a minor league contract worth $550K at the MLB level. Jose had shot himself in the foot after turning down arb, where it was estimated that he could be awarded $2M, to seek a multi-year, free agent payday that never materialized. He fired his agent and told Robert Dvorchak of the Post-Gazette “"I really don't understand how this thing works. I only know that I'm here. Things worked out that way.” But after two strong Pirates seasons (5-4-2/3.39 from 2000-01), he fizzled in 2002 after elbow surgery and was released in August. 
  • 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 with 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 pursestrings were tight, and Cole was sent to Houston in 2018, where he signed for $6.75M.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tuesday: Pirates at Twins; Yesterday's Recap & Notes

Game: The Bucs go to Fort Myers to visit the Twinkies at CenturyLink Sports Complex's Hammond Stadium. The game begins at 1:05 and there's no local broadcast; the match is on MLB Gameday. The weather is a little threatening, so keep an eye on that.

Lineup: Erik Gonzalez SS, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Pat Livlehan LF, Will Craig 1B, Bryan Reynolds RF, Kevin Kramer 2B, JB Shuck CF, Jason Martin DH, Steven Baron C (Mitch Keller P). JHK batting second, hmmm, and another look at future Buccos Craig, Kramer, Reynolds and Martin. Ke'Bryan Hayes and Lolo Sanchez are penciled in for today's second wave.

Erik Gonzalez leading it off today (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Pitchers: RHP Mitch Keller v. RHP Tyler Duffy. RHP Michael Feliz, LHP Tyler Lyons, RHP Brandon Maurer and RHP JT Brubaker will work behind Keller. We get to see the next-ups, Keller and Brubaker, in their first action of the spring.

Yesterday: Walks are a bane and today was no different. Boston turned an early Bryce Brentz homer and a shaky outing by Elvis Escobar - two walks and a missed catch error - into a 3-1 lead. The Bucs had an answer, scoring their first run on a Colin Moran double and Kevin Newman sac fly into a run, then using three walks to manufacture three eighth-inning tallies and a 4-3 win over the Red Sox. The win went to Eduardo Vera and Morgan DuRapau earned the save.

  • Ol' Bucco mateys Gorkys Hernandez and Bryce Brentz started for the Red Sox yesterday. 
  • Adam Berry of makes a case for Pablo Reyes.
  • Trevor Williams, Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela and Richard Rodriguez worked a sim game at camp yesterday.
  • Richard Justice of thinks the Pirates are one of five teams that could be sneaky good this season.

2/26: Starr for Simon; Big Coin Toss; Early MLBPA; HBD Sam, Wobby, Preacher, Vic, Sonny & Stan

  • 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 Zimmer as a Clevelander - 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 ended up being C Mike Simon, sent to the Bucs a few days later. 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. 
  • 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. 
Tommy Padden (photo Janice Brown/New Hampshire Historical Society)
  • 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. 
  • 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 has taught in the Pirates system throughout various levels.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday: Boston - Bucs, Yesterday's Recap & Notes

Game: The BoSox come a' calling at LECOM Park. The game starts at 1:05 and will be on 93.7 The Fan and the feed.

Lineup: Melky Cabrera LF, Starling Marte CF, Fran Cervelli 1B, Josh Bell DH, Colin Moran 3B, Jose Osuna RF, Kevin Newman SS, Pablo Reyes 2B, Jake Stallings C (Jordan Lyles P). Well, a couple of guys are were they belong. Clint just announced they were going to work Cervy some at 3B, so of course he's at first today.

Starling gets the call - 2017 Topps Bunt Infinite

Pitchers: RHP Jordan Lyles v LHP Brian Johnson as Lyles looks to secure the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. LHP's Brandon Waddell & Elvis Escobar are paired w/RHP's Eduardo Vera and Jesus Liranzo, all four minor league guys getting a big league look, will follow.

Yesterday: The Bucs started quickly, with Lonnie Chisenhall leading off the game with a double and Erik Gonzalez singling him home. JHK went deep the next frame, and then again in the fourth; four pitches, two dingers. The Marlins got a run back when Lew Brinson launched a two-strike long ball v Nick Burdi in the fifth and plated another in the sixth when the IF couldn't turn a couple of balls into outs for Nick, who stuck out four in between runs. Ke'Bryan Hayes got both runs back in the Bucco half with a tater following a Christian Kelley walk.

Miami tied it with two doubles, two infield gaffes and a wild pitch off Alex McRae and Dario Agrazal in the seventh. The Pirates bounced right back. With two outs and the bases empty, Pablo Reyes doubled and Will Craig's bouncer into left scored him. The eighth was quiet and the Bucs were an out away from the win when the Fish put together three straight first-pitch singles off Blake Weiman to make it six-all. No sweat. Pittsburgh loaded the bases with two outs, then young Mr. Hayes swatted a grand salami to make it two-in-a-row for the Buccos. It sure looks like Colin Moran picked a bad day to take off.

  • This was the second straight come-from-ahead victory, both earning a minor league reliever (Geoff Hartleib yesterday and Blake Weiman today) a blown save that turned into a win.
  • Pedro Alvarez played 1B and batted cleanup for the Fish. He had a whiff and a walk. OF Harold Ramirez, 24, a minor league FA signee who was part of the Frankie Liriano deal w/Toronto, went 1-for-2 and scored. He's expected to start at AAA this year with a shot at making the Miami roster at some point during the campaign.
  • While the audition guys get their stage calls, the regulars still get some work. Jamo and Kyle Crick tossed a sim game yesterday, while Archie tossed some live BP.
  • The Pirates have several Venezuelan players on the club. They see what's going on in their homeland and are taking a stand, per ESPN and the Post Gazette.

2/25: Womack Traded; Contract Conflicts; Ban the Jog; HBD Syd, Slats, Jim & Phil

  • 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, barnstormed through 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 wrote the book...
  • 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. 
  • 1973 - A new three-year CBA was reached between MLB and the MLBPA. Included items were a $15,000 minimum salary, salary arbitration, and the '10 and five' rule, which allowed a player with 10 years in the major leagues, the last five with his current team, to veto a trade. The players were briefly locked out of camp before the deal was agreed upon. 
  • 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 2014 (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 PTBNL (P Jason Boyd, who was sent over in August) and minor league OF Paul Weichard. The original deal (Womack/Al Martin for Bernard Gilkey) had been hung up when Gilkey wouldn’t agree to contract revisions. Womack led the NL in steals for three straight seasons, two with the Bucs, and played on Arizona and St. Louis World Series clubs. Mike Benjamin was supposed to keep the spot warm until Warren Morris was ready for everyday action, but the deal instead led to an unsettled situation at second with Morris, Pat Meares, Pokey Reese and Abraham Nunez holding down 2B until Jose Castillo’s arrival in 2004. Boyd got into four games as a Pirate while Weichard was a teenage lottery ticket who was often hurt and in four Pirates seasons never got past AA. 
  • 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.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday: Bradenton Opener - Lineup, Yesterday's Recap & Notes

Game: The Bucs take on the Miami Marlins at LECOM Park, with first pitch at 1:05. The game will be aired by 93.7 The Fan and on Gameday.

Lineup: Lonnie Chisenhall RF, Erik Gonzalez SS, Fran Cervelli DH, Josh Bell 1B, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Bryan Reynolds CF, Jason Martin LF, Kevin Kramer 2B, Steven Baron C (Nick Kingham P). A lot of yesterday's guys are also on today's roster; newbies are C Arden Pabst, CF Lolo Sanchez and 2B Alfredo Reyes.

Nick Kingham takes the bump today (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
Pitchers: RHP Nick Kingham is slated to start against RHP Trevor Richards. LHP Francisco Liriano, RHP Dovy Neverauskas, RHP Nick Burdi, RHP Alex McRae and RHP Dario Agrazal are scheduled for work behind the King.

Yesterday: Cutch started for the Phils, batting third and playing RF while Goose Gosselin entered in the sixth. The ol' mateys didn't help the boys in red as the Bucco's rode Jason Martin's two-run, ninth inning homer to a 3-2 win yesterday. The first Buc tally came on a double by Kevin Newman, who later scored on a wild pitch. To the delight of those who pooh-pooh counting numbers, five Pirate pitchers (Steven Brault, Clay Holmes, Aaron Slegers, Michael Feliz and Brandon Maurer) tossed seven shutout innings, but the decision went to Geoff Hartlieb, who gave up both runs on three hits with two whiffs while working the last two frames.

  • This is the Marlins’ first visit to Bradenton since 1993.
  • Mark Feinsand of lists 15 players likely to be dealt before the deadline. They include Fran Cervelli and oddly enough, J-Hay, even though he just signed a deal with the Tigers.

2/24: Bucs Sue To Break TRS Lease; HBD Flyin' Dutchman, Wilbur, John, 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. 
Coop 1924 Diaz Cigarettes
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
Bronson 2003 Topps Total
  • 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.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Play Ball!

Game: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia in Clearwater. The game is at Spectrum Field and starts at 1:05. The match will be broadcast on 93.7 The Fan and on Gameday. The Phils opened yesterday and beat the Rays 3-2.

Lineup: Pablo Reyes CF, Kevin Newman SS, Melky Cabrera DH, Pat Kivlehan RF, Colin Moran 3B, Jose Osuna 1B, Kevin Kramer 2B, JB Shuck LF, Jake Stallings C (Steven Brault P). 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes, SS Tucker Cole, 1B Will Craig, C Arden Pabst and OF's Bryan Reynolds/Jason Martin are also dressed. Not too shabby a lineup for the first spring game.

Steve Brault (photo Joe Guzy/Pirates)
Pitchers: LHP Steven Brault, in the mix for the fifth starter spot (or trip to Indy; big camp for him) v. RHP Enyel De Los Santos, who got a couple of 2018 starts in seven outings and features a fastball/change/curve toolkit. Brault will be followed by RHP Clay Holmes, RHP Michael Feliz, RHP Brandon Maurer, RHP Aaron Slegers, and RHP Geoff Hartlieb.

  • Cutch, Juan Nicasio, Phil Gosselin and Gift Ngoepe are rostered with the Phils; Goose and Gift as NRI's. Ngoepe hasn't arrived in Florida yet; he has a visa issue. S-Rod was also inked by the Phils but tore his meniscus earlier in the week and may need surgery. 
  • Today also marks the transfer of the guys in major league camp from Pirates City to LECOM Park. 
  • The Pirates announced the retirement of OF Tyler Gaffney. He signed with the Bucs after being drafted in 2012, then jumped leagues to join the NFL (he won a couple of Super Bowl rings with the Pats), then tried to launch a comeback in baseball after injuries short circuited his football gig.
  • The Reds are reportedly talking about a minor league deal w/SS Jose Iglesias. Guess the Bucs really liked Erik Gonzalez, or perhaps Jose's asking price was higher at the opening bell.
  • Another guy the Bucs could have used but apparently didn't touch base with, utilityman Marwin Gonzalez, agreed to a deal with the Minnesota Twins on a two-year/$21M contract, per ESPN's Jeff Passan. He would have been a great add at a J-Hay contract price.
  • The league will use a 20-second pitch timer during ST. The first week will be "free," the middle stages will involve a warning if violated, and a penalty (ball/strike) will be incurred later in the process if the MLBPA agrees.

2/23 Through the 1960’s: Pud Signs; Regan Day; RIP Bill; HBD Barney, Bo, Ray, T-Bone, Hedi & Mike

  • 1865 - 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, with 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. 
Barney Dreyfuss (Photo Rauh Jewish Archives/Heinz History Center)
  • 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 infusion 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. 
  • 1928 - 2B Bill Regan of Brookline was honored by a local testimonial at the Roosevelt Hotel before he left town for camp. Bill was in the middle of a five-year run with the Red Sox, but was remembered by his local buds (he first made his name as a member of the semi-pro JJ Coyne’s ball club from Oakland) with Honus Wagner leading the speakers list, along with the president of City Council, James Malone, and Duquesne football coach Elmer Layden. Regan did join the hometown nine for his final campaign in 1931. 
T-Bone 2007 (photo Nick Laham/Getty)
  • 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.” 
  • 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 1987 Donruss
  • 1969 - RHP Bill Swift passed away in Bartow, Florida at the age of 60. He tossed eight seasons (1932-39) for the Bucs, with a 91-79/3.57 record. Swift was a workhorse, going 200+ innings and picking up double-digit wins in his first five seasons, topping out with 16 scalps in 1936. He was the poster child for pitch-to-contact, punching out just 3.4 batters/nine IP during his Pittsburgh career, but giving up less than two walks per game and a homer just once every 18 frames. He worked for 11 years in the bigs, and was 3-0-1 as a reliever for the 100-win Brooklyn Dodgers of 1941, the NL champs, in just nine outings.

2/23 From 1970:Mondesi, El Tiante Sign; Al For Vander Wal; No WBC For Russ; RIP Vic; 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. 
Vic Harris Helmar Big League Brew
  • 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, Harris 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. 
  • 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 unique first 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 also been making a pitch for Martin since the winter meetings and finally got their guy when the Padres sent him to Seattle in July at the deadline. Martin played three more years while Van der Wal lasted the better part of two seasons for the Bucs before being traded to the Giants and playing through the 2004 camapign. Sak & Padua never made it to the show. 
John Vander Wal 2001 Upper Deck Vintage
  • 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 (he tore a quad and was released from that contract for not showing up for rehab). He finished his 13-year MLB career with a 41-game stint with the Braves in 2005. He went into Dominican politics afterward, and in 2017 was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay a $1.3M fine for corruption and mishandling of public funds while mayor of San Cristóbal.
  • 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.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Camp Notes

Been very, very quiet so far...

  • CBS Sports agrees with the groupthink that pushes a Jamo extension as the logical move. 
  • Bob Nutting visited camp and pitched the usual yada. He did say that the club doubled the size of the Dominican training facility, using some of last year's BAMTech money, and that minor league wages need "a fresh look," though he was way short of any specifics. He also wouldn't discuss the value of/competition for the team's media rights (which expire after this year) and stadium naming rights (which expire after 2020).
  • Per Pirates medical chief Todd Tomczyk, Archie and Big Joe are progressing according to schedule and should be ready to rock when the season opens; Gregory is TBD. Chad Kuhl and Edgar Santana are both out for 2019; he doesn't expect them back even late in the year.
Mitch at camp (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • MLB Pipeline has just released its most current Top 30 Prospects list. Mitch Keller keeps the top spot while pups Oneil Cruz, Calvin Mitchell and Luis Escobar are in the top ten. It's top heavy with position players, but 13 of the 30 are pitchers. It's homegrown, including 20 draftees, and features 13 players with an ETA of 2019.
  • The Pirates have voided the contract of RHP Roberto Gomez, who apparently didn't pass his physical. He had been invited to camp as a depth player and was slated to start the year at Indy.
  • Josh Harrison in agreement with the Tigers on a one-year/$2M + $1M in incentives contract, pending his physical, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. J-Hay is expected to their everyday second baseman, and gets to rejoin old middle-infield bud Jordy, who also moved on to Motown.
  • Doc Emrick plans to visit the radio booth on Monday during the Red Sox game and will be with the boys for sure on Wednesday when the Blue Jays' game is streamed on . Both games have 1 PM starts. 
S-Rod...if it weren't for bad luck (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Sean Rodriguez has a tear in his right meniscus and a sprain in his right knee; TBD if he will need surgery. He had signed a minor league deal w/the Phils. 
  • Prob worth the wait - Manny Machado inked the biggest FA sports contract in American history, signing a 10-year/$300M deal with the Padres. The White Sox made an offer that was potentially worth more, but through bonuses rather than guaranteed money. Now Bryce Harper has his target contract.
  • 93.7 The Fan is carrying an AP story about how veteran salaries and the FA system may be altered in the upcoming CBA. Data crunching and a long lead-in time for cheap youngsters are having their effect on the middle class.
  • Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated looks at the MLB's efforts to stamp out hi-tech sign-stealing, which has become a thing over the past couple of seasons.

2/22: Corey D, Orlando & Doc Become Bucs; Carter Luvs Pgh; Miami Camp; RIP Howie; HBD Tom, Frankie, Bill, Roy & Ben

  • 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, located in the Hill. 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 via "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 Pittsburgh 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. 
  • 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. 
Frankie Zak (photo via Find-A-Grave)
  • 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, giving up just 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. 
  • 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 cynical 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. 
Howie Haak (photo via SABR)
  • 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. 
  •  2018 - The Pirates swung a deal with Tampa Bay to land All-Star OF’er Corey Dickerson, 28, who was being DFA’ed as part of the Rays contract housekeeping. Pittsburgh acquired Dickerson for RHP Daniel Hudson, touted young 2B Tristan Gray and $1M cash. His 2017 line was .282/27/62. Corey was added to replace Andrew McCutchen, who had been traded to the Giants earlier in the off season, taking over in left field as Starling Marte shifted to center. He did well, posting a 118 OPS+, the same as the departed Cutch’s, in 2018.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

2/21: JR Re-Hired; 1st CBA; Saunders In-And-Out; Hoopster HoF Groat; HBD Joel, Ted & Jouett

  • 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 geez…) 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, working there before catching on with the Cards as a community relations admin before retiring. He kept his hand in the game afterward as a promoter and fundraiser for baseballs’ 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 2018 - The Pirates signed OF’er Michael Saunders, a 2016 All-Star for the Blue Jays who went through a tough 2017 campaign (.202 between Toronto & Philadelphia), to a minor league deal with an invite to camp to compete for a vacancy in left. It ended up one of the quickest in-and-outs in Bucco history as the following day the Pirates traded with Tampa Bay to bring in All-Star LF’er Corey Dickerson, making him the default starter and triggering a request by Saunders to be released to seek a job in greener pastures. It was granted and he inked an agreement with the Kansas City Royals on the 23rd. He was a AAA depth guy last year and is with the Rox organization this year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2/20 Through the 1920’s: IA, UA Form; HBD Ray, Tom, Jack, Frankie & Baron

  • 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 (photo via Commercial Gazette via Baseball Obscura)
  • 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 but 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 (international 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 form again in the 1914) and the mid-state Altoona Mountain City nine. Whether it was major league or not depends on your baseball historian of choice; some accept it as big time, others say nay. 
Frankie 1940 Sporting News
  • 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. His nickname was bestowed by Post Gazette beat writer Jack Hernon in 1959, borrowing it from Joe Reichler of the Associated Press who wrote in his 1950 pre-season profile of the St. Louis Cardinals: "For relief they have Ted Wilks, the league's bullpen baron...”

2/20 From 1960: Veale, Meares, Joyce Sign; Jack/Jose Mtg; Price Cut; RIP Bill; HBD Tony

  • 1963 - Bill Hinchman passed away in Columbus at the age of 79. He finished his 10-year MLB career with the Bucs from 1915-20 (he hit .284/129 OPS+ in that span), was a Pirates coach in 1923 and scouted for Pittsburgh from 1921-58, signing Rip Sewell, Clyde Barnhart, Claude Passeau, Cookie Lavagetto & Billy Cox for sure and more nebulously, Arky Vaughan & Lloyd Waner.
Tony Menendez 1993 Bowman reverse
  • 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. 
  • 1971 - Bob Veale signed his contract, valued at approximately $30,000, and GM Joe Brown immediately deducted $300 from it in $100/day fines for the big lefty being late for camp. Veale had stirred Brown’s ire earlier in the week by calling for an extension and not returning his contract to the Pirates. Veale was penciled to head to the pen after a 10-15/3.92 line in 1970 and went 6-0 as a reliever, but with a sky-high 6.99 ERA as at age 36, Father Time was bearing down on him. 
  • 1979 - In a move called “unprecedented” by Buc GM Harding Peterson, the Pirates cut sixth-level reserved seat ticket prices by a buck (from $4.25 to $3.25) and announced Monday through Thursday group discounts in an effort to boost attendance, which had dropped below a million (965,000) in 1978 for the first time since Three Rivers Stadium opened in 1971. It helped some as 1.4M fans spun the turnstiles during the season; of course, performance had a little to do with it, too, as the Bucs won the NL and World Series. In TRS’ 30-year history, the Pirates drew under 1M fans five times and went over the 2M mark twice (1990-91). 
  • 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. 
Jack Wilson 2007 Topps Opening Day
  • 2007 - SS Jack Wilson and his DP partner, 2B Jose Castillo, locked themselves in manager Jim Tracy’s office (he was out supervising practice) to discuss Wilson’s withering review of Castillo (poorly conditioned, not prepared mentally and overall “lazy” in the field) three weeks ago during the Pirates Fest. They came out of tete-a-tete 20 minutes later unbruised, though without comment other than Castillo saying he was ready to play, physically and mentally. Apparently the suits agreed with Jack’s assessment. Freddy Sanchez took over at second base and had an All-Star season while hitting .304; Jose was relegated to utility duty and released at the end of the year. 
  • 2016 - The Pirates agreed to a minor league deal with former Angels’ OF Matt Joyce, 31, an eight-year vet with an All Star game under his belt. It was a good signing; Joyce made the club and while he hit just .242, he posted an OBP of .403, a slugging % of .463, swatted 13 homers in 231 at bats and finished with an OPS+ of 132. He earned $1M as a Buc and turned the campaign into a two-year/$11M deal with Oakland in the off season; he's now with Cleveland.