Saturday, February 16, 2019

2/16 From 1980: Deep Freeser; AJ, Ron, Tommy & Leo Sign; Wheaties Heroes; HBD Jorge

  • 1988 - RHP Jorge Rondon was born in Calabozo, Venezuela. Jorge has spent small parts of three seasons in MLB, with two of his 16 big league outings coming with the Pirates in 2016 after a solid stint at AAA Indianapolis. It didn’t work out so well, with a 17.18 ERA/2.727 WHIP in 3-2/3 IP. He was DFA’ed five days after his call-up and signed with the Chisox, then took his services to Japan for the 2017 campaign. 
  • 1996 - General Mills put out a Wheaties cereal box commemorating Negro League stars Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell to celebrate the league's 75th anniversary. All three legendary figures played for Pittsburgh and/or Homestead at some point in their Hall of Fame careers. 
  • 2000 - The Pirates signed RHP Leo Nunez out of the Dominican Republic. He never twirled for the Bucs, being traded to KC in 2004 and made the news in 2011 when he admitted to being Juan Carlos Oviedo, not Leo Nunez, a fake ID he used to shave a year off his age and make him a more desirable prospect to Pittsburgh. He pitched thru 2011, served a lengthy suspension to start 2012 and then blew out his elbow during rehab, requiring TJ surgery. Juan/Leo returned to the show in 2014, but hasn’t appeared on a MLB hill since that season. 
  • 2000 - Tommy Sandt, a popular field coach during Jim Leyland’s tenure from 1987-96 who left the team with Leyland, rejoined the club as a minor league roving instructor. The reunion didn’t last very long; Sandt stayed through the 2002 campaign and then left again to manage for the Padres organization. 
  • 2002 - RHP Ron Villone signed a one-year/$900K FA contract with the Bucs, making Pittsburgh one of his 12 MLB stops during a 15-year career. He went 4-6 with a 5.81 ERA for the Pirates and was released at the end of the year, but hung around through the 2009 season before retiring. Villone has been a pitching coach in the Cubs’ organization since 2012. 
  • 2014 - Free agent RHP AJ Burnett signed a one-year/$16M deal that included an option for 2015 with the Phils after coming off a pair of strong seasons (26-21/3.41) for the Bucs that resurrected his brand. He chose Philly over the Pirates because the ballyard was located 90 minutes from his Maryland home. "It was about my wife. It was about my kids. It was about playing somewhere where I'm at home,” the pitcher explained. But he returned to Pittsburgh the following season, signing a contract that was $4.25M less than the option he declined. He told the press that he had one more year left in the tank and “There’s no other place I want to finish my career (than Pittsburgh).” 
David Freese (photo Dave Arrigo/Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 2018 - In one of the Pirates more memorable camp outbursts (maybe only second to Jim Leyland’s f-bomb scold of Barry Bonds in 1991), David Freese threw some darts at the “environment” in Pittsburgh. He tossed out zingers like "When you’re losing 10-2 in the pouring rain against Joe Maddon and you’re laughing, that’s not good. That says a lot.” Also “This is a different organization, where if you get drafted, you look at a guy like Jameson Taillon. It sucks that if you pan out, you have your future written for you in an organization like this. You either fold and sign a team friendly deal, or you’re bounced.” And finally "You look at the Steelers, Penguins and you’ve got the Pirates. If I’m kind of handling this situation, I’d be losing sleep trying to compete with those other two teams. To have all three teams in a city like Pittsburgh be on top of each league, that would be incredible." He explained that he thought the FO and his teammates had the desire to win, but had to move beyond analytics and focus more on intangibles to provide that winning environment for the Pirates. "You’ve got to have urgency. You’ve got to have accountability...I’ve been here for two years, and we just kind of lacked in that department a little bit. We’ve got to pick that up.”

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