October 2008

Corey Hart: What a Joke

Shortstop Brian Bixler tagging out Corey Hart 

Before I begin, yes I know that Corey Hart is not a Pirates player, but this occured at a Pirates game, so I decided to use this as a blog entry.

It has been a while since I have written an article, so I thought I would get back on the horn today. I was at the Pirates-Brewers game at PNC Park on August 30, and couldn’t help but notice Corey Hart.

My seats were fairly close to where Corey Hart was playing, and I noticed on a couple of occasions, that Corey Hart was taking out his cellphone.

As a baseball player, cellphones, first and foremost are not allowed onto any baseball field, at anytime. Also, I understand that there is a break in the action, but just because you are winning and there is a pitching change, does not mean that you can update who is in your ” fave five” or who called you.

Baseball has been known America’s Pasttime, but when a player like Corey Hart takes out a cellphone, he is disrespecting not only the Pirates and the Brewers, but also baseball and its fans.

With the cellphone in such plain view, I am surprised the Brewers or Major League Baseball didn’t take action by fining or suspending Hart for his own stupidity. Although I am a small voice, it is truly ridiculous to have your phone out in the middle of an important baseball game which your team needs to win in order to stay on top of the Wild Card standings.

 

Lanny Frattare Retires After 33 Seasons

Lanny Frattare

It has been confirmed that longtime Pirates broadcaster Lanny Frattare is hanging it up after 33 years of Major League service.

“The decision to retire from the Pirates broadcast booth was something I have been thinking about and have discussed for some time, but a decision I did not make until after the final road trip of the season,” Frattare said. “It was a difficult and emotional decision, but in the end, I decided it was time.”

Frattare was not only a great broadcaster, but a great friend to the Pirates and it fans. Frattare constantly gave back whether it was his golf tournament, talking or even John Challis when he came to PNC Park on June 25.

Frattare will be honored during an on-field ceremony before a 2009 game.

 All four other Pirates broadcasters, Bob Walk, Greg Brown, Steve Blass and John Wehner will be back next season in addition to a new member of the broadcasting team who has yet to be determined (team President Frank Coonelly announced that there is no timetable for an announcement regarding Frattare’s replacement)

 

My Experience at the 9/21 Houston Astros vs Pittsburgh Pirates game

Nate McLouth

 

 So before I begin with my experience (a rare personal blog entry), I will briefly touch on my last Astros vs Pirates encounter. It was a wet one and I waited through a 2 hour 38 minute rain delay only to have to leave after a minor 15 minute delay. I may be off with my times, but they are reasonable ball parked. So here is my day at PNC Park. Remember, this is all true:

  10:30: I was in the car on a ride to PNC Park. Halfway there, I remembered that it was Fan Appreciation Day, and hope that I would get a prize. I was hopeful but it was a long shot of me getting anything.

  11:00: I arrived at PNC Park but was not exactly in PNC Park. Although this may make no sense at all, let me clarify. I crossed the Clemente Bridge, and went in the Park. I was given a 2009 Pirates Magnetic Schedule (man was that fast) and a Dave Parker Bobble head. While the Riverwalk is Open, nothing else is really open.

  11:15: After a couple walks around the Riverwalk, and my friend buying a baseball to get autographs, we got board and make the 45 second venture into the Hall of Fame Club.

 11:16: We were in the Hall of Fame Club and were thankful it was not warm inside. We also saw Matt Capps in a batting practice jersey out on the field.

 11:24: My friend got all excited that one of the gates open and we left the Hall of Fame Club.

 11:25: We discovered that my friend was wrong and that employees are opening the gates so that they can get through. We also discovered where they stored the promotions and found the place empty.

 11:29: After several more false alarms with the gates, the gates opened and everyone went where their hearts desired.

 11:33: After a few minutes in the bleacher area, we decided to go along the third base side for autographs.

 11:38: We arrived at the third base seats and the wait for the Pirates players began. We took in the view, and noticed a couple of Astros kids playing catch on the field.

 12:00: Astros came out and started stretching and there were no Pirates players on the field. Tim Byrdak, an Astros lefty signed autographs for fans before warming up.

 12:10: Jeff Andrews, the Pirates pitching coach, is seen, and after a while tells us that the players would be out soon, and promised to sign autographs later (he never did and now he is no longer the pitching coach).

 12:20 Pirates pitchers came out with Andrews to warm up. The first two that came out were Craig Hansen and Jason Davis and I couldn’t help but notice how tall they were. More players are seen including Marino Salas, Romulo Sanchez, Zach Duke, Jeff Karstens, Ian Snell, Jimmy Barthmaier, John Grabow, Jesse Chavez and Matt Capps. The running on the field began.

 12:25: At this point Tyler Yates and Denny Bautista were also out. Unless I was sorely mistaken I did not see Paul Maholm (or scheduled pitcher Ross Ohlendorf for that matter) out for warm ups, but I can understand what 200 innings pitched can do to one’s body. At this point, the pitchers start throwing to one another and the sequence continues for a good 10-15 minutes with Andrews watching everybody. Before I move on, I have to mention that Zach Duke and Jeff Karstens were the only two who long tossed.

12:40: The warmups are done, and the autograph signings began. Oh, and this little kid kept kicking my leg with the back of his sandal.

 12:55: By this time, I had five autographs. Ian Snell was the first, and I caught him talking to himself saying that he had to go, but had the heart to stay for another few minutes to sign some more autographs. I got John Grabow next followed by Tyler Yates. As I got Jeff Karstens, I asked him if his tooth was OK, and he acknowledged me and nodded. I also got Sean Burnett, a man that was fabulous during Spring Training. After this, I decided that I had enough autographs for one day, and left to get some food.

 12:56: I decided against my initial reaction and went down to shallow left field and attempted to get Matt Capp’s autograph.

 12:58 After dodging people, and jumping over a place, I was very close to Capps.

 12:59: I call out Matt’s name, and he comes over and signs. I was the last one to get a Capps autograph that morning. Capps is truly what a Pittsburgh Pirates players should be like. He is a very likable guy, and is never afraid to challenge a hitter.

 1:05: I am in line at Benkovitz Seafoods, and am happy to find out that no one is in front of me. This is going to be a good day.

 1:15: I have my gigantic fish sandwich (which was very good) and my large tea in my hands, and prepare to head off to my seats to meet my friend.

 1:22: I am in my seat, raring to go, and just in time to get the starting lineups for my scorecard!

 1:35: All of the pregame stuff is over, and the game starts. From here on in, I will break things down by inning.

 1st inning: My friend shows up after Michael Bourn gets a fluky hit (a barehand opportunity that Ohlendorf couldn’t handle) and announces that he got an autograph from both Andy LaRoche and Steve Pearce. Both teams failed to score a run.

 2nd inning: I stayed for the top of the inning in which the Astros were held scoreless, and then left my seat to walk along the Riverwalk. I then saw what I needed to see and asked if I could be on the Pirates trivia game which comes on at the end of the fourth inning. I am told that I am the alternate and that John Challis’ mailman was supposed to be on. If in the case he did not show up, I would be the contestant to take his place. I also was promised that if I was not on this season, that I will be on next season.

 3rd inning: The waiting game begins as they are giving the mailman time and he has not arrived. In the bottom of the third inning, they decided to give him two minutes. If he did not show up, then I was on. Still the mailman did not show up, I was going to be on Jumbotron!

 4th inning:After I gave them my name and location they gave the information to the people and everything was set. Before I knew it, I saw the Pirate Parrot and the Cannonball Crew. In the bottom of the fourth, I came over and dropped my stuff. I was told to step on a particular space (very Wheel of Fortune bonus round esque) and was told that since the Quiz only occured during the inning break. The Parrot massaged my shoulders (which felt awkwardly comfortable) and I chatted with the ladies of the Cannonball Crew about college and my passion to be a journalist. With that the inning was over and I was on.

 Pirates Quiz: The familiar Jeopardy set up showed on the jumbotron, and I knew I was up. After the host said hello, I nearly fumbled saying I was fine but recovered and asked how he was. Then came the question:

   Where will the Pirates play their first game of the 2009 season?

                           A. Busch Stadium

                           B. PNC Park

                           C. Wrigley Field

                           D. Minute Maid Ballpark

     It took me all of two seconds to answer A and after the host told the audience how confident I seemed, I was indeed right. Since I was right, there was no chance of me winning the Pirates Cap. I had a choice between a $160 Pirates Jacket or the mystery box. I took the mystery box and quickly realized how lopsided the deal was.

    When the box was opened I found out what I had won:

     1. A Nate McLouth autographed 2008 All-Star Jersey (valued at $260)

     2. 2 Lexus Club Seats to the Pirates Home Opener which will be on Monday April 13, 2009 (valued at $160-$210 per ticket).

   So all in all, I was very happy with the deal, and I came out a big winner. At that point, the game (which the Pirates lost 6-2) didn’t matter at all to me. Going back to my section was certainly a lot of fun, as I received some congratulations.

   During the game more than 30 lucky fans were chosen to receive a jersey off of the Pirates back and have it autographed. Neither my friend or I were lucky in that regard. Jack Wilson received two large and separate standing ovations as it is probably his last time in a Pirates home uniform, and a lady from Pittsburgh won a 2008 Chevy Malibu.

  All in all, this game was definitely a game for the ages and was certainly a much better Fan Appreciation Day than in 2007, and it was a game that I will never forget.

 

A Disgruntled Pirates Fan’s 2009 Season Promotions

 

It is a well known fact that the Pirates have been without a winning season for sixteen years. I understand people’s frustrations, and because of that here are what I’m sure their promotion list would be:

1. Jim Tracy Day: If you can sign an autograph faster than Jim Tracy’s (pictured above) time of 10 minutes (Usain Bolt beware), you win free outfield box seats.

 2. Matt Morris Day: Matt Morris is placed on the field along with the first 1,000 fans. The fans get one hour to boo Morris and pelt him with whatever they please.

 3. Dave Littlefield Appreciation Day: Everyone gets a bag to put over their head.

 4. Neil Diamond Bobble head Day: The Pirates ran out of players to bobble head, so they put Neil Diamond in a Pirates jersey and call it a bobble head.

 5. Free Primanti Bro’s food: Why not get a chance to eat all of the food you can handle in Pittsburgh’s favorite place to eat (doctors and barf bags not included)?

6. Pirates Cap: Sounds innocent enough, unless you put black and blue coloring with a Pirates logo on it.

 7. John Russell impersonation day: Anyone who can talk as low as John Russell can deserves a free Lexus Club Seat.

 8. Pirates Pitcher Tryouts day: Just like when Vince Papale got to try out and then play for the Eagles, you the fan, can try out to be a Pittsburgh Pirate. The winner gets a one year $1,000,000 contract and becomes the fifth starter.

 9. Nyjer Morgan over slides the base yet again bobble head: Yes that’s right, Subway will sponsor a bobble head where Nyjer Morgan in fact overslides the designated base.

 10. Jeff Karstens T-Shirt Jersey: He pitched a near no-no, but since then has nothing but horrible just ask the 12,741 who saw one of his starts in which a four run second inning gave him the loss.

 11. Adam LaRoche vs Ryan Doumit Day: The two face off in a 40 yard dash and the first 5,000 fans will go on the field and find out who is the slowest Buccos runner.

 12. Select an Ian Snell Pitch Day: All you need to do is predict whether Ian Snell will throw fastball or change up the only two pitches he has left in his repertoire. If you win you are allowed access to the game, if not don’t worry, you get Steelers tickets.

 13. Back to Reality Day: The Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates triple-A team, will play the Pirates to determine who the actual Major League team is.

 14. Fan Appreciation Day: Team finishes with 100 losses and the crowd instantly leaves Pittsburgh en route to Canada.

2008 Pirates Awards Part 2

Without further ado, here is the second part of the Pirates Awards:

 Best Pirates Mid season Acquisition:

 1. Jeff Karstens- Karstens was on his game when he first came to Pittsburgh in the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte trade. Through his first two starts, he flirted with a perfect game, and allowed zero runs. While he has never been the same since, he throws a lot of strikes and that never hurts.

 2. Brandon Moss- Moss may not have the best average, but boy can he hit.

 3. Andy LaRoche- LaRoche has made tons of errors while wearing a Pirates uniform. His first home run as a Pirate was in Wrigley Field which says a lot about LaRoche’s poise. Many said that just acquiring LaRoche in the Jason Bay trade would have made the Pirates winners.

 4. Ross Ohlendorf- Ohlendorf tore apart the minor leagues but since his first start as a Pirate, he has not been the same. He has looked very over matched.

 The Winner: It seems at times that I am picking the lesser of four evils, but for me, the clear winner is Brandon Moss. Moss has torn up pitching and although his average doesn’t show it, he is showing true offensive potential. Overtime, his defensive issues will solve themselves as he tries to get used to his surroundings at PNC Park.

 

  Most Improved Minor League Player:

 1. Andrew McCutchen- Showed he can hit for tremendous average and decent power. He very well could steal an outfield spot in Spring Training.

 2. Neil Walker- The home town kid, Walker adapted to third base and hit a lot of home runs.

 3. Nyjer Morgan- Stolen base machine in minors. It’s a shame he can’t do that in Pittsburgh.

 The Winner: Has to be McCutchen, at worst case, he is a September call up next season and he could be a true phenom.

 Worst September Call Up:

 1. Craig Hansen- He is still struggling with control and has been a huge disappointment. Any time he pitches a scoreless inning, I thank god for a miracle.

2. Marino Salas- Based on what he has done so far, he is nowhere near Major League ready.

 3. Ross Ohlendorf- Just looked very over matched in the Majors.

 The Winner: Ross Ohlendorf has to be your winner. He is not ready for the Majors and will need a lot of fine tuning in the off season to succeed in the near future. He clearly is a fifth starter at best right now.

 Best Player that may not be in a Pirates uniform next season:

 1. Doug Mientkiewicz- Now that his name is as easy to spell as Roethlisberger is, he will be missed as a locker room leader. He also didn’t strike out much, and hit for a nice average.

 2. Luis Rivas- He was a nice utility man, and could play a lot of positions. The bottom line with Rivas, is that he didn’t get enough at bats, and Luis Cruz is younger and can fit in Riva’s role.

 3. Jason Michaels- Although he is the most likely to be resigned out of the four, Michaels was a clutch pinch hitter and always seemed to deliver. He makes a nice and gritty fourth or fifth outfielder. With youth not on his side, his time may be up in Pittsburgh.

 4. Chris Gomez- Speaking of youth not being on your side, Gomez was used only in pinch hit situations for the most part. Sure he could play practically any infield position well, but as you can see from the constant starting line up he is not a part of it. It seems fairly clear to me that he is not in the Pirates plans.

 The Winner: To me, it comes down to who I would be most likely to resign out of these four. Mientkiewicz has gotten into hot water way to much, and for that reason Jason Michaels gets my vote. Michaels is best off of the bench which is what his role would be. Michaels also is a great locker room leader and he will definitely be able to keep the player’s heads in the game.

 Best Player available for arbitration:

 1. Ryan Doumit- He is a great locker room leader and is above average at his position.

 2. Nate McLouth- McLouth peaked at the right time, and will definitely get paid accordingly. McLouth is not at all a flashy player, but he constantly gets the job done day in, day out.

 3. Paul Maholm- His stats are cause for optimism. Although his numbers look more promising than Gorzelanny’s did in 2007, it could be a cause for concern that he will certainly go over 200 innings pitched. Pirates management is worried about what to pay Maholm because they don’t want to see the inconsistent Maholm from the past few seasons.

 4. Adam LaRoche- Sure April was a total mess, but isn’t it always? After April he was a .290 hitter on the season. LaRoche is at least an average first baseman and cannot be blamed for the Pirates and their struggles. It is very tough to keep up with the average Major League first baseman with talent such as Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols, Jason Giambi, and Kevin Youkilis manning the position.

 The Winner: Nate McLouth really showed his true colors this season. With previous management not giving him a chance to start, McLouth took full advantage of starting and will probably be awarded with a lucrative contract.

 Here are some quick award winners:

 . For his efforts with the Pirates offense, hitting coach Don Long wins the Coach of the Year award.

 . For his nickname of “The Great and Powerful”, Luis Rivas wins best nickname award.

 . With the constant amount of participants singing at Pirates games, PNC Park Idol wins the best inning break activity of the year.

 . For his constant humor while broadcasting, Steve Blass wins Pirates Broadcaster of the Year.

 . For his great work before a season ending injury, Phil Dumatrait wins the Most Surprising Player Award.

 . For his courageous efforts in singing our National Anthem, Pirates Third Base Coach Tony Beasley wins Best Performance.

 

 There you have it, these are your 2008 Pirates Award Winners.

Feel free to comment on this and any other Pirates entry by either submitting comments or e mailing me at yngzc@yahoo.com

 

2008 Pirates Awards Part 1

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. This is my first entry about the Pirates. Here’s what I’ll do: Since there is no chance for any of the Pirates players to win any major awards, here is my list of Pirates awards. I’ll make this in an award-like fashion, there will be a few nominees followed by the winner.

Team MVP:

1. Nate McLouth, McLouth leads the Pirates in almost every offensive category. His job was the only one in question at the beginning of the season, and he has been about as close to consistent as the Pirates have had in the past 16 years.

2. Paul Maholm: Easily the best of the pitchers this year, Maholm, previously labeled inconsistent, has been the exact opposite this season. In almost all of his starts, he has made it to at least the sixth inning, something that definitely helps the Pirates win.

3. Pirates Management: It was hard to gauge what management would do coming into the season, especially because of the recent failures of Dave Littlefield and Cam Bonifay.

All Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly did was trade for pitching at the deadline by selling high, acquire veteran locker room leaders, and actually give the team a chance to talk about realistic future plans for the first time in 16 years.

The Winner: This is a tough one, but I have to go with Pirates management.

By doing what they did at the trade deadline, they ensure future success. Because of previous management, we cannot contend in the next two to three years, but that isn’t the current management’s fault.

They got solid pitching talent in Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, Bryan Morris, and Ross Ohlendorf among others. It is clear that Brandon Moss will succeed as a Pirate, at least offensively anyway, once he figures out left/right field, he will be good to go.

LVP (Least Valuable Player):

1. Matt Morris: What else is there to say except that he is no longer a big league pitcher. He was a baffling acquisition during last year’s trade deadline and he was not worth the money he was being paid, just to be a locker room leader.

2. Tom Gorzelanny: Just not the same pitcher he was last year. Gorzelanny struggled with control and weight all year–he did not take the Pirate’s accountability theme to heart.

 3. Ian Snell: He just struggled with control all season. I think he hid an injury, and he isn’t the same pitcher as last year either. He needs to add another pitch or at least improve his location with his pitches.

4. Adam LaRoche: Despite his stellar second half, he is a rally killer. He strikes out way too much, and he leaves way too many on base.

The “Winner”: Matt Morris. When you are being paid that much money, pitching 1 & 2/3 innings is not an option. All in all, the Matt Morris experiment was yet another smashing failure for past Pirate management.

Most Improved Player:

1. Nate McLouth: In his first year as starter, he showed why he became the starter in the first place. If Pirates management puts Nate in one place in the lineup (preferably lead off), he can really showcase his talent.

2. Ryan Doumit: Doumit was doing really well last year before an injury hit him, but this year, He is at it once again. He lost weight during the off season, and calls a good game behind the plate. Yet, he needs to work on hitting to the opposite field.

3. Paul Maholm: Maholm is the Pirate’s most consistent starter. He is not afraid of pitching any pitch in any count.

The Winner: Nate McLouth. McLouth has taken a step in the right direction both offensively and defensively.

Moment of the Year:

1. Nate McLouth’s two-run home run to beat the Yankees: In a sell out game, Nate McLouth blasted a two-run home run to giving the Pirates the edge, 4-2–a lead they never would relinquish.

2. Jason Michael’s Home run to beat the Cardinals: In a see-saw battle heading in to the bottom of the ninth, Jason Michaels delivered a two-run homer to defeat the Cardinals and make Steve Blass scream, something I thought was never possible.

 3. The Pirates Extra Inning Record: I had to include this as a choice: Whether it was opening day against the Braves, or a game against the Cardinals, the Pirates had the best record in the league in extra inning games–something worth noting. This Pirates team showed a fire that fans have not seen in a long time.

The Winner: This is also a very hard one, but I am going with the Jason Michaels home run. Given the circumstances, this game looked like yet another loss, but when Kyle McClellan, Jason Isringhausen, and others failed to close the door, the Pirates got right back into the game.

In the tenth inning after Raul Chavez (the last Pirates hitter on the bench) walked, Michaels hit the home run and the crowd went bonkers.

Please, feel free to post comments on this or any other entry either on this entry or at yngzc@yahoo.com

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