Archive for the 'Pirates' Category



29
Oct
07

I’m back.

So, I haven’t posted in a while.  You can blame that on postseason baseball.  You might be surprised to find that my reaction to the Red Sox winning the World Series was “meh”.  I was rooting for the Indians to beat the Red Sox.  Then, when the Indians lost, I was rooting for the Rockies.  Here’s why:

  1. I like to root for the underdog.  The Red Sox have been favorites since the beginning, at least in the Boston media.  Hence, I wasn’t that interested in rooting for them.
  2. I hate the sense of entitlement that surrounds some teams.  This is one of the primary reasons I dislike the Yankees.  With all the success the Red Sox have had recently, I found more and more of this sense of entitlement creeping into coverage of the Red Sox.  This turned me off big time.
  3. I disliked the arrogance of the coverage here relating to the Red Sox.  People acted as though beating the Indians was a trivial formality.  Obviously, the Red Sox won, but not before finding themselves in the hole 3 games to 1.
  4. I guess my interest in the Pirates has made me resonate more with small market, low payroll teams.  So, I just find it harder to get excited about teams who have a huge payroll.
05
Oct
07

Pirates clean house

This year has been a year of upheaval for the Pirates’ leadership. In January, it was announced that Bob Nutting was replacing Kevin McClatchy as the controlling owner of the ballclub. Furthermore, in July Kevin McClatchy announced that he would step down from his position as CEO of the club at the end of the 2007 season. It’s not clear to me if they are seeking a replacement for this position or if its responsibilities will be shifted to others.

Fast forward to September when the Pirates announced that they had relieved Dave Littlefield of his responsibilities as General Manager. This announcement was followed quickly by the announcement that the Pirates had hired Frank Coonelly as the new President of the Pirates. Just under 2 weeks later, the Pirates announced that they had hired Neal Huntington, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, as the new Pirates’ General Manager. That seems like a lot of changes, right? Well, the Pirates weren’t finished.

On Friday, they announced that they had relieved Jim Tracy of his managerial duties. In addition to Tracy, they also announced that they had fired Brian Graham, senior director of player development, Ed Creech, senior director of scouting, and Jon Mercurio, director of baseball operations.  So, when the 2008 season starts up next spring, almost the entire top leadership of the club will be different than it was this year at the start of the 2007 season.

I’m not really sure what to think about this. If I thought it were definitely going to result in better performance, I’d be all in favor of it. However, I’m not convinced that this will make any difference. This is mostly because the Pirates’ payroll is so far below that of other teams in their division. This year the Pirates payroll was $38.6 million. The next lowest payroll in the NL Central was Cincinnati, with a payroll of $69.7 million, which is almost twice as high as the Pirates’ payroll. It only goes up from there. Milwaukee had a payroll of $72 million, Houston had a payroll of $87.8 million, St. Louis had a payroll of $90.3 million and Chicago had a payroll of $99.9 million. So, the Pirates have a payroll of between 1/2 and 1/3 that of all their competitors.  In order for the Pirates to succeed in that environment at least one of the following conditions must be true:

  1. The Pirates leadership is brilliant and vastly outperforms its opposition in management of the team.
  2. The leadership of all other teams in the division is consistently grossly incompetent.
  3. Key players on all other division rivals have serious injuries, thus greatly reducing the teams’ ability to win.
  4. The Pirates must be very lucky for the entire season.

It seems unlikely to me that any of the above conditions will be true.  So, if you ask me, the Pirates won’t win the division until they bring their payroll in line with other teams in their division.  Some of you may point out examples of teams who were successful with a low payroll.  Let me suggest that those teams’ successes are noteworthy because they are unusual and not to be expected.  Thus, while it is theoretically possible for the Pirates to succeed with a low payroll, in practice it is unlikely that they will see much success as long as there is such a disparity in payroll between them and their division rivals.

11
Sep
07

The streak continues

The Pirates lost tonight, putting their record on the year at 64-81. What does this mean? Well, it means that the Pirates cannot have a winning season this year. It means the best they can hope to do is not having a losing season. Unfortunately, that would require them to win every game they play for the rest of the season – all 17 of them. That means winning the series against the Brewers, sweeping the Astros followed by consecutive sweeps of the Padres, the Cubs, the Diamondbacks, and the Cardinals. So, although they haven’t recorded their 82nd loss quite yet, I think it’s pretty much in the bag – along with their 15th consecutive losing season. I hope I’m wrong, but that seems pretty unlikely.

29
Aug
07

Raise the Jolly Roger x 2

Today the Pirates began a series of 4 games against the Cincinnati Reds.  The series was kicked off with a “twi-night” doubleheader, the first game of which was a make-up for the August 5th game, which was postponed due to rain.  Both the Pirates and the Reds had been doing well coming into today’s games.  The Pirates had won their last three series and 7 out of their last 10 games.  However, the Reds were riding a 6-game winning streak coming into today’s games.  I knew that one team would have to falter and I was nervous that it was going to be the Pirates.  Fortunately, the Pirates put my fears to rest by winning the first game 6-4, due, in no small part, to Freddy Sanchez’ first career grand slam.  They followed up their victory with another victory, beating the Reds 3-2 in the second game.

With their two victories tonight, the Pirates advance to 59-72 (.450).  This lifts them out of last place in the NL Central, putting them a game and a half ahead of Houston.  In addition, it puts them only half a game behind Cincinnati.  A win in tomorrow’s game would move them to fourth place in the NL Central.  For those of you paying attention, if the Pirates are to post a winning season, they must win 23 of their remaining 31 games – which allows them only 8 losses for the rest of the season.  This is unlikely, but not impossible.  Afterall, they are 8-2 in their last 10 games…

Finally, those of you who might be frustrated by what looks like another disappointing season should consider the following: last year on this date, the Pirates had a record of 51-81 (.386), which meant that a winning season was already impossible.  In addition, they were a whopping 19.5 games behind first place.  This year, they’re at 59-72 (.450) and they’re only 8.5 games behind first place.  I’m not saying that they’re going to win the division, but they could.  Don’t forget that the Padres won the NL West in 2005 with a record of 82-80, the worst possible winning record and the worst record ever by a team that made it into the postseason.  So, while the Pirates aren’t doing quite as well as we might like, they’re definitely moving in the right direction.

PS: Interestingly, tonight the Pirates tied the franchise record for most home runs hit by the team in any calendar month.  The record has stood at 43 since August of 1947 and, since there are still 3 more games left in August, it stands a good chance of being broken by the 2007 squad.

25
Aug
07

Usually not a good decision

Unlike things related to Samuel Adams beer, which, if you believe their advertising, are always a good decision, last night I stayed up to “watch” the Pirates game against the Houston Astros after it went into extra innings, which was probably not a good decision. By “watching”, I mean following the game using MLB.com’s Gameday feature, not actually watching the TV broadcast or even listening on the radio.

Anyway, the game started at 8:05 and went 15 innings, finally ending after 1am. Going into the top of the 9th, the Pirates were losing 3-2 until Xavier Nady ripped a pinch-hit solo home run to tie the game. For the next 5 innings neither team scored, although the Astros loaded the bases in the 10th and 13th with 1 and 2 outs, respectively. In each case, the Pirates’ pitchers were able to get out of the jam, giving the offense a couple of chances to do some damage. In the top of the 15th, they did their damage, starting with a 3-run homer by Adam LaRoche and followed up by a Carlos Maldonado sacrifice fly and an RBI-single by Jose Castillo. With a 5-run cushion, it seemed like the game was in the bag until Shane Youman loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half of the inning. However, he was able to secure the win by striking out 3 consecutive batters, the first two of which he struck out on full counts.

Raise the Jolly Roger and let me sleep in!

20
Aug
07

Pirates games

During our trip to Pittsburgh we went to two Pirates games and saw the Pirates put together two come-from-behind victories.

On Thursday against the Mets, the Pirates found themselves in a 5-0 hole after 3 innings but scored 3, 1, 1, 2, and 3 runs in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, respectively, to win the the game 10-7.

Yesterday, the Pirates were losing 4-0 up until the 7th inning, when they scored 7 runs, all with 2 outs. That was a crazy inning. This is how the inning unfolded:

  1. Adam LaRoche flied out to right. (Nobody on, 1 out)
  2. Xavier Nady singled to left. (Runner on 1st, 1 out)
  3. Jason Bay struck out. (Runner on 1st, 2 outs)
  4. Jose Bautista singled to center. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs)
  5. Pinch-hitter Josh Phelps drew a full-count walk. (Bases loaded, 2 outs)
  6. Pinch-hitter Matt Kata hit a 3-run double to center (Runner on 2nd, 2 outs, 3 runs in)
  7. Nate McLouth doubled to right. (Runner on 2nd, 2 outs, 4 runs in)
  8. Jack Wilson drew a full-count walk. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, 4 runs in)
  9. Freddy Sanchez doubled to left. (Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 2 outs, 5 runs in)
  10. Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked. (Bases loaded, 2 outs, 5 runs in)
  11. Xavier Nady singled to left. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, 7 runs in)
  12. Jason Bay grounded into a fielder’s choice. (2 runners left on base, 3 outs, 7 runs in)

So, in just one half-inning, the Pirates went from losing by 4 runs to winning by 3 runs. In the bottom of the 8th, they tacked on another run and eventually won the game 8-4. This marks the 5th consecutive game in which they have scored 8 or more runs. Interestingly, the Pirates lead the majors in runs scored so far in August. Who are these guys?

Anyway, though I had prepared myself for disappointment, these games proved to be exhilarating and very satisfying. I couldn’t be more pleased. Maybe a walk-off home run would have been more exciting but a 7-run, 2-out rally is pretty good, too.

Amazingly, Sunday’s game was the 2nd game I’ve attended this year in which the home team scored 7 runs in the 7th inning, all with 2 outs.

19
Aug
07

It’s raining…

I’m supposed to go to the Pirates’ final game against the Phillies this afternoon, but it’s raining here right now and there’s an 80% chance of rain at game time.  So, we’ll just have to see what happens.  Elizabeth is excited because today is kids’ backpack day at PNC Park, so she’ll be getting a kid-sized Pirates backpack.

On Thursday we went to see the Pirates take on the Mets.  The Pirates were in a 5-0 hole by the end of the 3rd inning, which didn’t bode well.  However, they rallied big time and ended up winning 10-7.  It was a great game.

If they win today, I’ll be very satisfied with the outcome of the two games we attended.  Even if they lose today, I’ll still be happy overall, since Thursday’s game was so good.

14
Aug
07

The fate of the Pirates’ season

The Pirates have 46 games left in the season and their record is currently 49-67. The inquisitive reader may be wondering, “What has to happen for the Pirates to break their streak of consecutive losing seasons?” Well, since the season consists of 162 games, in order for the Pirates to have a winning season, they need to win 82 games. They currently have 49 wins and they need 82. Thus, they need to win 33 games out of their remaining 46. This means that their record during the remaining 46 games must be 33-13, for a win percentage of 0.717.

Given the Pirates’ performance during the 2nd half of the season, this seems pretty unlikely.  However, they have won 4 out of their last 5, so they’ve obviously turned things around a bit in comparison to a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, in order for the Pirates to have another 100-loss season, they would need to lose 33 or more games out of their remaining 46, which also seems pretty improbable.  Heather and I will be at their games on Thursday against the Mets and Sunday against the Phillies, so hopefully, these two games will net the Pirates another two wins.  It’ll be pretty depressing, though, if they lose both games.  In any case, these games will give me an opportunity to wear my Pirates jersey, which I don’t normally get much opportunity to wear since we live in Boston.

31
Jul
07

Not what I was expecting

So, the non-waiver trade deadline has passed and Jack Wilson is still a Pirate. That’s a welcome surprise. What’s more, the Pirates added a veteran pitcher to their rotation. That’s an even more welcome surprise.

I was afraid that the Pirates’ absolutely terrible 2nd half so far would prompt what many in baseball refer to as a “fire sale”, which involves a team dumping all its expensive (read: experienced) players in exchange for prospects with which to rebuild the team the following year. Coming up to the trade deadline, all I heard was rumors about how teams were interested in Torres, Marte and Chacon. Writers kept saying that the Pirates had pitchers to spare. Were we watching the same team?

When my brother-in-law visited last week, he told me about a Pirates shirt he saw that said: “Pittsburgh Baseball: Rebuilding Since 1992.” That about sums up the last 15 years in Pirates history. So, when the Pirates actually traded a prospect for a veteran, I was surprised. I don’t think the season is a write-off yet and this move indicates to me that the Pirates ownership and general manager don’t either. As far as I’m concerned, the goal of this season is not to win the NL Central; rather, the goal is to break this embarrassing streak of losing seasons.

If the Pirates could put together a winning season — even something as meager as 82-80 — there would be a lot of celebrating in the ‘Burgh. In fact, a couple of months ago, I was wearing some Pirates stuff here in Boston and someone, evidently from Pittsburgh, passed me in a car and shouted something like, “This is the year we break the losing streak!” After so many years of losing, Pirates fans have learned to temper their dreams a little. Come on, Pirates, let’s turn around the second half, put an end to these losing seasons, and declare the team rebuilt. This trade seems like a step in the right direction.

20
Jul
07

This is not good news

I got an email yesterday from Pirates.com about how the Pirates had received shortstop Cesar Izturis and cash from the Cubs in exchange for a player to be named later.  I’m always nervous about trades involving a player to be named later, but let’s forget about that for a minute.  You might be asking why the Pirates would trade for a shortstop when they already have Jack Wilson as their starter and a number of others capable of playing shortstop, including Jose Castillo, Jose Bautista and Freddy Sanchez.  Well, it looks like Wilson’s loyalty to the Pirates is coming back to bite him in the butt.  Before last season, he approached the Pirates ownership about a contract extension, which was ultimately agreed upon and signed.  Now, evidently, the Pirates are looking to dump payroll and Jack’s contract is the place where they’re likely to start now that they have a replacement for him.

I’ll concede that, offensively,  Jack is not one of the Pirates’ most potent contributors.  However, his defense is outstanding.  Probably twice a week he is featured in highlight reels on MLB.com making plays that no human being should be able to make.  So, while he isn’t scoring lots of runs or producing lots of R’sBI (aka RBIs), he is saving the Pirates lots of runs through his tremendous defense.  Finally, even if he weren’t doing much to affect the outcomes of games, he makes the games fun to watch.  For a team that doesn’t win a lot of games, this is crucial.  If a team wants fans to come to games, they either need to a) win lots of games, or b) be fun to watch.  I’m afraid that a trade involving Jack Wilson will not help the Pirates to win any more games and it will make them a lot less fun to watch.

Finally, I’d just hate to see Jack go because of his loyalty to the Pirates.  In an age when any good player the Pirates have inevitably leaves once their contract expires for a club that can pay more, Jack took the initiative with the Pirates ownership to work out a contract extension.  He likes living in Pittsburgh and wanted to keep his family there.  I have tremendous respect for someone who could’ve got more money elsewhere but chose to stay with the Pirates because of loyalty to the fans and to the city.  It is for this reason that I bought a Jack Wilson shirt last season.  It would be a shame to see the Pirates trade away one of the few players who wanted to stay enough to put his money where his mouth is.




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