Results tagged ‘ Andy LaRoche ’
I understand that this may seem like a Napoleon Dynamite or even a Pedro Alvarez reference, but that is not the case. The Pedro that I happen to be speaking of is Pedro Ciriaco.
This past September Ciriaco was made a September call-up and management never gave him a chance. He never really got a chance to start and show off some of his glove work. His bat in that small quality looked impressive as he hit .333.
This Spring, Ciriaco has been given ample opportunity at shortstop and has rewarded the Pirates hitting over .350 before today’s “B” game that he was scheduled to be in. Manager Clint Hurdle seems impressed by Ciriaco and honestly, why wouldn’t you be?
Ciriaco has to be considered a front runner as Rule-5 pick Josh Rodriguez does not look to make the team. Ciriaco can play the infield minus first base and is dabbling in some outfield and can prove his worth even further.
It also helps Pedro’s case that Ronny Cedeno, who does his best work in the earlier part of the season was hitting .217 as of Sunday although he has brought that up since then. Cedeno is too streaky for me and much like Andy LaRoche is good in April, no more and no less.
Ciriaco was given to the Pirates by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the trade that sent Chris Snyder here as well. Pedro was rated the Diamondback’s best defensive prospect, so the offense is a strike extra, no pun intended.
If this Pedro does not make the roster come Opening Day, then something is truly wrong with this team. I understand what Garrett Atkins and Josh Fields can do, but at this moment the way that the roster is, Ciriaco is the way to go.
As it stands now, here is the Pirates current depth chart:
1. Pedro Alvarez.
2. Josh Rodriguez
The position was Alvarez’s come season’s end, however Andy LaRoche was given the position at the beginning of last season. Not many were sure what to expect with LaRoche, but many knew that he was just a placeholder and Alvarez would take over the position sooner rather than later. LaRoche had a decent 2009 season, but had a great defensive season under the tutiledge of Perry Hill. Hill left after the 2009 season, and sure enough so did LaRoche’s defense. It made things much easier for Alvarez to take over the position.
Alvarez was officially called up on June 16, 2010. He hit 13 home runs and batted in 53 runs in 66 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. In his first couple of weeks, fans were calling for his head. Every one was thrilled when he was drafted and because the Pirates have not been winning, the media overhyped Alvarez. People expected him to hit an endless amount of home runs, and last time I checked, he was not god. Alvarez will get his fare share of hits, but he will strikeout a lot as well. Rocco DeMaro even compared him to Adam Dunn once, meaning he will strikeout a lot, but he will get his fair share of hits too.
Perhaps Alvarez’s biggest Pittsburgh highlight was his three run home run off of Colorado Rockies closer Huston Street in the bottom of the tenth inning, in perhaps the craziest game of the year.
Alvarez had a couple of multi-homer games last season and was named National League Player of the Week based on his September 20-26 performances, in which Alvarez went 10-24 (a .417 batting average) with 2 home runs and 13 runs batted in. He was the NL Rookie of the Month for the month of September after hitting .311 and batting in 26 runs.
Alvarez will be starting at third base unless a freak injury happens. Alvarez has shown the power in his bat and he got into baseball shape last season, after people were saying that he would have to start at first base because of his weight. Pedro is working defensively on mastering the position, so that will be something to watch.
There is not much else to write about, as I have gone over Josh Rodriguez as well as both Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins for every other infield position. The Pirates likely will keep Rodriguez as he is the Rule-5 guy, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they got rid of him because they did not appear to be set on anybody. Fields and Atkins essentially are the same player, but Fields is coming off of an injury and thus is an experiment. Atkins is for that matter too, but Hurdle is likely to favor Atkins, as Atkins played under Hurdle back in both of their Colorado days and is more likely to help this team.
With that being said, here is my projected list come April 1:
1. Pedro Alvarez
2. Josh Rodriguez
3. Garrett Atkins
4. Josh Fields
I will start blogging tomorrow about the outfield beginning with left field. Jose Tabata is the front runner in the outfield, but who else is in the running.
The Pirates second base position is not one to write home about, but here’s at least a try. Here is the Pirates depth chart as of today:
1. Neil Walker
2. Josh Rodriguez
It’s not much of a depth chart, but here is more info. There are still a ton of free agents listed at the second base position. According to the website mlbtraderumors.com, here are those players and a few descriptions.
Willy Aybar (28)- Interesting signing if we can get the right price.
Ronnie Belliard (36)- Has some power, but a risk especially with the age.
Willie Bloomquist (33)- would be nice utlity. After KC stint though he may not want to play for another loser.
Alex Cora (35)- not worth it.
David Eckstein (36) – Type B, not offered arb- Interesting. Age is a concern but at short would be worth it for the right price.
Kevin Frandsen (29)- Young and could be worth it if price is right.
Mark Grudzielanek (41)- too old for position.
Cristian Guzman (33)- I like this fit, but I think he wants too much money.
Jerry Hairston Jr. (35)- Like Eckstein I am intrigued, but I think he would be cheaper.
Joe Inglett (33)- Not enough of a sample size to judge. Could come cheaply though.
Adam Kennedy (35)- Would be worth too much money… projects like Aki to me.
Felipe Lopez (31) – Type B, offered arb
Julio Lugo (35)- probably too old to play position.
Aaron Miles (34)- utility player but too old in terms of playing style.
Augie Ojeda (36)- not worth it.
Nick Punto (33)- would be an interesting option but price would likely be too high.
Delwyn Young (29)- Would sign for right price, but would he sign with the team that quit on him?
All of these are options, however most of these options will either be old and/or costly and I don’t think the team is keen on signing Delwyn Young again.
Josh Rodriguez is becoming a more important piece of this team than anyone could have expected. The Pirates are very thin at second base and shortstop, so much so, that Rodriguez is the backup to Walker and Cedeno. Rodriguez was drafted by the Pirates in this year’s Rule-5 Draft. The pick surprised many, as many expected the Pirates expected to draft a pitcher. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said that this year’s Rule-5 class did not excite him like it did in seasons past. Previous Rule-5 picks include Donnie Veal and Evan Meek. Rodriguez went to Rice University and was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft by the Cleveland Indians. Rodriguez played for the AA Akron Aeros from 2008- May 2010 when he was promoted to the AAA Columbus Clippers. Rodriguez could play a big role on this team, and is one injury away from being a starter.
Every Pirate fan made a huge mistake in Spring Training: they counted out “The Pittsburgh Kid”. Pirates management had said that Neil Walker was a man without a position. Walker missed out on third base as Pedro Alvarez had him beat out in AAA, and Andy LaRoche would be the Pirates starter. In Indianapolis, things did not look great for Walker, as he was essentially being used as a big utility man. Perhaps even he didn’t even know where he was going to play or even which glove he was going to put on. Still, Walker perservered as his average was at an all-time high and he was hitting well, getting the attention of his teammates and the Pirates.
Walker had been in AAA for a little while, so his team was rooting him on every step of the way. Andy LaRoche was doing a decent enough job at the time to keep his third base job, although Pedro Alvarez would eventually take his place as the starter. Walker was in luck, as Aki Iwamura was having his troubles both offensively and defensively. The fans wanted his head and the Pirates were looking for options. Ultimately, the Pirates choose Walker to take over the job and essentially it was on the job training, as Walker, previously a catcher and third baseman was learning his third position and had not made that many appearances (23) at the position.
Walker continued his tear in the Majors, as he hit his first home run on June 1, 2010 against the Chicago Cubs. In his first full week at the position, Walker looked like he had played second base all of his life, leaping, diving and back pedaling like a gold glover. Walker, a switch hitter, also surprised many with his offensive success against lefties. On July 20 against division rival Milwaukee, Walker went 5 for 5 at the plate and was the first Pirate rookie since John Wehner in 1991 to accomplish such a feat. He finished the season hitting .296 with 12 home runs and 66 runs batted in. Walker also was named to the 2010 Topp’s All-Rookie team, equaling the feat teammate Andrew McCutchen experienced just a season before.
While Walker is clearly the starter at second base barring a freak injury, the options as previously stated are pretty slim. The team addressed the position by trading for Corey Wimberly from the Oakland A’s. Wimberly was a utility man in Triple-A for the team in 2010 and has never played at the Major League level. According to mlbtraderumors.com, “The 27-year-old posted a .284/.373/.354 line with 56 steals while playing at least ten games at short, second, third, left and center.”
While there may be a few minors that have a slight chance, I have not heard much from the organization acknowledging these candidates. Perhaps someone like a Josh Fields or Garrett Atkins could play second base and conduct an experiment much like Walker’s from last season. Still, the chances of them starting are unlikely, so without further ado here is my projection for the Spring.
1. Neil Walker
2. Josh Rodriguez
3. Corey Wimberly
Tomorrow’s entry will be on the equally thin position of shortstop.
Well the Pirates made some moves that had to be made one way or another by releasing these three.
With Duke, I remember the Opening Day 2009 start. It was his best outing in a Pirate uniform and he was really becoming a good pitcher until Joe Kerrigan messed up a good thing. Duke was great with the community as evidenc…ed with his Bowling With the Bucs event this past season. Duke leaving leaves Maholm and Doumit as the only two holdovers from the earlier rosters. I interviewed Duke during the 2009 season and he was very honest, candid and even funny during our brief time together. My other interviews were with Nate McLouth and Matt Capps, so obviously Duke was the last one standing. When I gave Duke a transcript of the interview during Bowling With the Bucs 2009, he quickly remembered me. I will always remember that and how nice he was to me.
While the Duke cut put a lot of money off of the table, the Andy LaRoche cut had to be the most painful for the Pirates. LaRoche was the main part of the Jason Bay trade. With Brandon Moss now on the Phillies, the release of LaRoche finally shows that management officially agreed with the public that the trade was a failed one. It probably took a lot for management to have to do that, and that makes me respect them. LaRoche had a lot of pressure as Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez were both ready to take his spot. Walker had a fast start to the season in Triple-A and Alvarez was showing the team his power as well. LaRoche had a couple of good weeks early in the season, however faded fairly fast after that. The team tried to move LaRoche to second base and first base, but it never worked out. LaRoche was a big part of the community as well winning the Pirates Roberto Clemente Award. I was frequently at PNC Park during LaRoche’s time with the Pirates, and almost every game he would sign autographs for fans. I first met him on the final game of the 2009 season when we were allowed to take pictures with the players. Our camera was out of memory and thus we had to boost it up, LaRoche was very patient about the entire situation. He may not be missed for his accomplishments on the field but he was a champion off of the field.
Delwyn Young was a big part of the teams’ bench over the past two seasons. He would play third base, second base and the outfield, making him a very useful option. His glovework at third base was not pretty, but it would be expected as he was trying to learn a new position. Under Perry Hill in 2009, Young tried his hand at second base and did a decent job, however he was a bit slow in terms of turning the double play. His outfield work was average at best as well, and he was not the fastest of runners and had trouble dealing with the right field of PNC Park. Young hit the first home run off of Stephen Strasburg. He also hit a bottom of the ninth game tying home run against San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson with two strikes and two outs. Young’s bat was great, however the team cut him, as he just was not getting the job done. He also did a great job in the community.
To cap off the weekend, I paid the money to Pirates Charities to bowl with the Pirates. The event took place in Crafton, PA at Noblestown Lanes.
I arrived just when people were coming in, and upon entering the lanes, I went straight for the food which was donated by various food places. I grabbed a slice of pizza and a couple of Smiley Cookies. The lone complaint was that no drinks were out and you had to order them meaning that you either had to pay extra or wait for the drinks to come out.
This was my second year doing Bowling With the Bucs as I did the event last year and was paired up with Tyler Yates,
When I registered with Pirates Charities, I got a Zach Duke bag (the bag they gave away earlier in the day) and in it were various goodies. I received an Earth Day Pirates cap, a water bottle, one of the t-shirts from “T-Shirt Thursdays” and a couple of papers involving the lanes and another Pirates Charities event.
I found out that I would bowl on lane 8 and then talked with Rob, one of my Facebook friends who had said that he would come to the event as a spectator. I then got my shoes and the bowling ball I would roll with. With that, I went by the door for the Pirates players, coaches, broadcasters and front office who would come out one by one.
While some kids got a head start on the autographs I got some handshakes from Ryan Church, John Russell, Evan Meek and Andrew McCutchen just to name a few.
After Frank Coonelly wished all of the moms a happy Mother’s Day, Zach Duke rolled the first ball of the night, knocking down nine pins.
After that, the players went into their lanes. In the lane to my left, Paul Maholm was the Pirates celebrity. Maholm had been knocked around fairly good earlier in the day and had a beer in hand looking to forget the early part of his day (and he managed to roll a gutterball in his lane; a lane with bumpers). To my right was bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade. Herbie’s always been a cool guy and he has promised me a ball the next time I come to a game (which will be Thursday). Herbie did scare me a little bit when he decided to dance (while bowling) to a Lady Gaga song that had come on in the alley.
As for my “celebrity”, I ended up with Jack Taschner. Taschner, like me, is left-handed although because he had pitched in the last three games before the event, he bowled right handed.
I had a great start to the first game as I converted a split in the first frame and rolled a strike in the second frame. Taschner immediately pressured me telling Herbie that we would have a 240 and sure enough I buckled to the pressure as my form became terrible. I ended up with a 114 in the first game, which was enough to win the first game.
During the first game, I went around for various autographs and among others got Cutch to sign my t-shirt jersey and Church to sign my scorecards.
Taschner was much more social than Yates was last year, and our personalities meshed really well.
There were two parts of the event that I liked the most. The first was the media coverage. KDKA and WPXI had people there this year (and I got to talk to both reporters) but even better was the fact that FSN was there as well.
I talked to the producer for FSN and when I told him about myself and my interest in journalism (for a career), he gave me his card and offered me an exclusive opportunity over the summer. I was very excited about the opportunity and hope to capitalize on it.
After I talked with him, he was getting ready to interview Taschner. I think he based this on Taschner’s playful exchange with me when he was giving me tips and was unable to back them up with his game. When he asked Taschner for an interview, he (Taschner) asked whether or not to use just him or include me and the producer chose to include me. He asked us both questions and Taschner would answer and then I would answer. The experience was interesting as I was able to easily answer the questions despite not having anything going on in my head. Part of the interview and the exchange between Taschner and I made Inside Pirates Baseball that Saturday.
My second favorite part was the bowling itself. The bowling was fun, and thus Taschner decided to raise the stakes. With many of our second shots, he placed a $20 bill on the table for whomever could make the spare. After failing twice, I finally did convert a spare. However, he had not put down the $20. When I came up again, I told him to put up the $20 and I knocked down 9 pins, and then picked up the spare. The $20 was mine!
In the second game, I rolled a ninth in the tenth frame and converted the easy spare. I needed a strike to tie and I lost my grip on the ball and lost with a 104.
During and after the game I got my bowling jersey signed. Among the signatures were Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche, Brian Burres, John Russell, Taschner, Brian Bass, Church and Delwyn Young. It was cool interacting with a lot of the guys and despite the $25 increase to $150 to bowl it was well worth it.
Evan Meek who was drunk last year during this event continued his drinking this year while Taschner drank Diet Pepsi. Taschner introduced me to Meek and upon shaking his hand the flashback of last year came (Meek did acknowledge me by name)
I will make sure that I do this event next year. I highly recommend it and it is a must for any Pirates fan!
This idea started last year, when I realized that no Pirate would get any actual awards. I was semi-wrong when Nate McLouth took the Gold Glove award, but that award has a criteria that is very flawed. While Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones have chances at Rookie of the Year Award honors, it seems unlikely that it will happen. With that said, here are the nominees and winners of this year’s Pirate Awards.
1. Andrew McCutchen- It only makes sense that we start off with the team’s leadoff hitter. His dazzling speed and late game heroics made fans out of many. He is in the team’s plans for the long haul.
2. Garrett Jones- GFJ is up here because quite frankly, he was a joy to watch. He hit the most home runs among rookies and he was versitile playing first base as well as left and right field. While he is an old rookie because he was stuck behind Justin Morneau on the Twins, he never let that faze him.
3. Ross Ohlendorf- Ross pitched very well all season for the Pirates earning a team leading 11 victories. While he did not pitch the entire season due to inning limitations, Ohlendorf showcased his stuff especially in the second half of the season.
4. Zach Duke- Duke made a 5 game improvement this season winning 10 games this year. He also is an accomplished hitter, and if you don’t believe me, then watch him during batting practice at the ballpark. Duke was able to locate his fastball much better this season making himself much more effective this season.
The Winner: Andrew McCutchen
Cutch gets the award, because he was consistent all season long. Duke led the league in losses this year because of a lack of run support, but his earned run average started to pile on as the season continued. Ohlendorf was inconsistent for half of a season, and Jones was terrible when it came to hitting with runners on. You kind of knew what you would get with Cutch, and thus he is the team’s MVP.
1. Brandon Moss- While he won the starting right field job in April, he never really showed promise. While he was clutch for a short while in August, most of the time fans groaned and booed when he came to bat. The only reason he is still a Pirate is because if he were sent to Triple-A another team may claim him.
2. Brian Bixler- Another year gone, same Bixler. He shows all kinds of potential in Triple-A, but always appears overmatched in the Majors. In that sense he is very much like John Van Benschoten. Not much to write about him because plain and simple, he is just not that good.
3. Ryan Doumit- Doumit was doing a decent job catching in April, and then he got injured. While he is a leader on this team, it seems as if he does not practice what he preaches. He argued with John Russell and he did not really do anything positive that opened eyes when he returned.
4. Matt Capps- This was not the “Big Bull Rider” that I know. He was just inconsistent this season and he was a total mess.
The “Winner” (?): Matt Capps
Capps just was not the same this year. He just didn’t save games consistently for us and if there was not a save situation (please see games against Phillies, Dodgers, etc..), he was atrocious. I don’t get why the Pirates are going to give him an offer this offseason.
1. Zach Duke- He seemed more in control than I ever remember. He nearly pitched four complete games to tie for the NL lead (thanks John Russell) and was the best offensive pitcher.
2. Ross Ohlendorf- Wow, what a change a year makes. “Ross the Boss” went back and forth on using his sinker or his fastball, and his mix confused the hitters facing him. In the second half of the season, hitters did not want to face Ross Ohlendorf.
3. Andy LaRoche- A year ago he was below the Adam LaRoche line, and now, he has come back to be the player I thought he was. Offensively, he led the team in runs batted in with 62, and he very well could be the National League’s best defensive third baseman thanks in large part to Perry Hill.
The Winner: Ross Ohlendorf
I wrote on this blog last year that Ross Ohlendorf was the worst September call up. I wrote that he was visibly overmatched, and that he should not be a starter let alone be on the Pirates. I can now admit that I am wrong, and I am proud to do so. He led the team in games won easily passing Paul Maholm’s 2008 total of 9 and thus wins the award.
Moment of the Year:
1. Taking 2 out of 3 from the Phillies- Many in Pittsburgh, myself included thought that the Pirates had no shot against the Phils. Afterall, we had struggled against them at Citizens Bank Park, and it was clear that they were the more superior team. Still an Andrew McCutchen walk off sparked the team and they stunned the Phillies taking the series against them.
2. Taking 3 of 4 from the Dodgers- Just like the scenario before this one, LA dominated us at their ballpark and there was not much expectation here. Still we took 3 out of 4 from a team that advanced to the NLCS and still has a shot of winning the World Series. That is pretty cool if you ask me.
3. Triple Play vs Cincy- It was just a spur of the moment kind of thing, but luck struck for the Pirates, and although they lost the game, it has to be on the highlight reel. You can’t deny the pop fly caught by Jack Wilson, who tossed to Freddy Sanchez, who tossed to Adam LaRoche to complete the triple play. You also can’t deny the fact that none of them are wearing a Pirates uniform any more.
The Winner: Taking 3 of 4 from the Dodgers
This was almost as tough as deciding the MVP winner, and there were a ton more nominees I could choose from. It’s just before that series we were on a massive losing streak and we had just had a game were just about 3,000 fans attended and the upper deck was closed. It also captured the image of a 4 run ninth inning to win the third game of the series as well as Zach Duke pitching a near perfect game to win the final game of the series.
Best Midseason Acquisition:
1. Hunter Strickland- Simply put he combined to pitch a no-hitter almost immediately after being acquired. The last time I heard no-hitter here was 1997.
2. Lastings Milledge- Although he did not make immediate impact, causing many fans to want Nyjer Morgan back, Milledge came around, having a wonderful September and making a believer out of Pirates fans.
3. Tim Alderson- Although some were confused by him getting traded for Freddy Sanchez, Alderson has quality stuff and more importantly great potential.
The Winner: Tim Alderson
I am fairly excited by his potential, and I think he can be a front end starter. It would have been hard to keep Freddy financially and the trade worked to our advantage as Freddy got injured while playing for the Giants.
Most Improved in Minors:
1. Daniel McCutchen- He led triple-A in wins when he got his September call up, and after getting adjusted to pitching in the Majors did a decent job for the team.
2. Rudy Owens- The Pirates Minor League pitcher of the year showed promise and could be a star for years to come.
3. Starling Marte- He had a nice record and he always got my attention. He made me want to read what happened in the Minors every day.
The Winner: Daniel McCutchen
I got a decent look at him in September, and I think he could be either the fifth starter or long reliever. He has been with Ross Ohlendorf seemingly every where he goes, so why can’t he be the most improved next year?
Worst September call up?
1. Brian Bixler- I mean come on, why bring up Bixler. He is overmatched and is a liability defensively. Need I say more?
2. Neil Walker- I love his potential but it just wasn’t there offensively.
3. Virgil Vasquez- Didn’t fair well when he was first called up, so why did you call him up?
4. Eric Hacker- Had only three appearances and his first had exactly one person clap to welcome him. Did I mention that the game was at PNC Park? Oh and his ERA? 6.00.
The “Winner” (??): Brian Bixler
Just a waste of breath and space. It is rare when he plays, and even rarer that he does something right.
1. Bob Walk- Has a great sense of humor and can be fairly random. With the team we have, funny and random is good.
2. Tim Neverett- He replaced Lanny Frattare (retirement) and although I was expecting the worse, he did a nice job. Needs to work a bit more on saying things in different ways.
3. Greg Brown- Everytime I hear him, there always is a “gees” in whatever he is saying. Not a bad “voice of the Pirates” though.
4. Steve Blass- Last year’s winner was honored for his decades long ties to the team.
The Winner: Bob Walk
It’s got to be Bob Walk, he easily takes it this year.
1. Delwyn Young- I wasn’t expecting much from him because of what we traded away to get him, but we got a steal. This guy is an ideal utility man because he can play everywhere in the field, but he has a solid bat to go with it.
2. Zach Duke- Pretty much everything said above goes here as well.
3. Garrett Jones- You saw what he did in Spring Training, but did you really think he would make it to the Pirates, let alone go on such a tear?
The Winner: Garrett Jones
Jones went from a nobody to a somebody. No one expected this out of Jones.
1. McCutchen’s three HR game: It was nice to see Cutch rake since he is not known for his power. The curtain call has to be one of the highlights of the season.
2. Duke’s complete game home opener: I was in the Lexus Club, and I saw Duke in total control of the Astros all game long. The fist pump he made after the final out told the whole story.
3. Craig Monroe hits two three run home runs vs. the Braves: Monroe, who no longer is a Pirate, seemed to have a thing for three run home runs in his short time with us.
4. Andy LaRoche’s perfect day vs. his former team: I can’t think of any thing better than going five for five with two home runs against your former team.
The Winner: Zach Duke’s Home Opener
Just total control from start to finish. The Astros never stood a chance. It also is worth a mention that Duke had a double that game too.
Coach of the Year:
1. Joe Kerrigan- He transformed many players from Zach Duke to Ross Ohlendorf. He also was loyal to his guys and was the only guy who really stood up for Ian Snell (before Snell blamed him for his problems).
2. Don Long- His extra time spent with Delwyn Young seemed to pay off and in some of the series against big time teams, his work showed with the comebacks and walk offs.
3. Tony Beasley- Despite a death in the family, “Beas” pressed on, and did a solid job.
4. Perry Hill- Although it seems unlikely that Perry Hill will come back to the Pirates, he transformed Andy LaRoche into an elite fielder and Delwyn Young as a solid second baseman.
The Winner: Perry Hill
This was probably the hardest decision of all. A case really could have been made for Kerrigan or Hill. I think I was swayed by Kerrigan staying one more year and Hill likely not. Hill did a good job as the infield instructor and the Pirates raised their intensity defensively.
1. Cutch (Andrew McCutchen)
2. GFJ (Garrett Jones)
3. Ross the Boss (Ross Ohlendorf)
4. Big Bull Rider (Matt Capps)
The Winner: GFJ
I mean come on it stands for Garrett Freaking Jones. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
Best Inning Break Activity:
1. Pirate Quiz- Nice game just pick an answer and either take what you won or go for the box of mystery.
2. Press Your Buc- Played under the rules of the game by a similar name, the contestant presses a button and stops on a prize or a whammy.
3. Bucco- Nice little Plinko game where if you get in the middle you when a 10 game pack or other prizes.
4. Perogie Race- Even though there is a meeting in the Park where it is determined who wins, it is still cool to watch, especially if you are one who bets money on the race.
The Winner: Pirate Quiz
I will admit that I am a little biased because I have been on Pirate Quiz, but still I like this game more than the others because at least there are some variables that change. Still, I couldn’t find a picture to capture the victory of Pirate Quiz so I guess I’ll have to satisfy demands by putting this up instead.
That wraps up this year’s edition of the Pirates Awards. Agree or disagree, feel free to comment. Until next year, may all gloves be golden and all seasons winning.
So I was unable to go to the 9/25 Pirates game because of G-20. The person I was to go with wanted to go until he found out about G-20 and decided to back out, a decision I would agree with.
I went 9/26 to the ballpark and was given seats in section 114 on Thursday instead of the section 327 I was supposed to sit in. I had a nicer view, but other than that, talking some of my family who was sitting next to us and a nice Skyblast performance by Foreigner not much occured.
That brings us to Fan Appreciation Day my twenty-fourth Pirates game of the season (not bad for a seventeen year old who doesn’t have season tickets). I was to sit in section 7 row K, however, I ended up not sitting there. Why you might ask, well I got a seat upgrade to here.
I got free Lexus Club tickets (my second time in the Lexus Club) as my step-uncle gave my dad, my friend Colston and I the tickets as everyone else was afraid of the rain. The day was off to a good start for sure.
The Lexus Club opened at 12, and we all went inside. My dad had already given me Wendy’s before he knew about the Lexus Club seats so I was not hungry at the time. I knew that from 12-12:30 the Pirates were at the gates taking pictures with fans and we immediately went to the elevator to get there. As you can tell from the previous picture, I had my bp jersey on, but underneath had my blue under armour on for later reasons.
Colston and I ran to the bottom and said our good-byes to the person I always bought Pirates memorabilia from. We have become familiar with each other over the past couple of seasons. We then prepared to get pictures taken.
Our first stop was the left field entrance and Tony Beasley. Beasley and I are friends, and he still remembers me from Bowling With the Bucs all the way back in May. He told me that he looks forward to seeing me next season. Here is a picture of us.
Also in that area was John Russell and Matt Capps, while Charlie Morton and Donnie Veal signed endless autographs.
Next on the list was the Highmark Legacy Square entrance and Andy LaRoche. I had never had any previous encounters with him and did not know much. There were lines for everyone and I wanted LaRoche for the intrigue reason. When I got to him, I asked him if he got to meet Foreigner and he told me that he never really got a chance to meet them, but that he really wanted to. As I was about to get the pic, Colston’s batteries died. A big setback that cost us later, Colston had to take a couple of minutes to get the new batteries in. Andy was very patient, and then this was the result.
I then went over to Evan Meek and Ronny Cedeno. They were over there, and I had no idea how much time was left for photos. Still, I never got to interact with Cedeno over the season, and the last time I interacted with Meek was Bowling With the Bucs is May, and he was drunk and hammered. So for curiousity and giggles, this was the result.
Because Zach Duke had quite a line, I went to my last stop over there, and it was Jeff Karstens and Denny Bautista. I am not sure why Bautista can’t smile, but this is the result.
I went back to the left field gate, where I posed with Lastings Milledge, and I’ll put the result at the very end of this blog.
I then left the Highmark Legacy Square and headed over to the Riverwalk entrance and saw Perry Hill, Don Long and Brandon Moss among others. However, I had my eyes set on a bigger target, and by big, I meant big.
Garrett Jones was over there, and there were three seperate lines for him, that’s how messy things got. As I was getting near the front of the line, one of the Cannonball Crew ladies said that there was three minutes left and about a minute later, I got this shot.
We then ran to the right field entrance to try and get McCutchen, and got there just as McCutchen was leaving. I was painfree in my knee all day until that run, and that was not fun. However, I’ll get him at Photofest, so I guess it’s not that big of a loss. Those two minutes changing the batteries cost us dearly. Still about a minute later, we went through the same door McCutchen did as we had Lexus Club access and others jealously looked at us.
When we took the elevator, we were told to take another to get to the Lexus Club, however when we got there, I saw two players on the Dodgers signing, so I went down to get my baseball signed. What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t take off my Pirates BP Jersey and the Dodgers players would see me in Pirates colors.
Still, I guess that did not matter to former Pirate Ronald Belisario (first picture) and George Sherrill (second picture) as they signed my baseball anyways.
So after that we went over to the Lexus Club and took our seats after trying to get Delwyn Young to sign my baseball.
Soon after, I ran into my good friend Joe Klimchak (pictured below) and we talked about the season ending and being in the Lexus Club again. He’s going to let me be on an in-game entertainment show, and we parted ways.
With that we took our seats and I got a hot dog to get the Lexus festivities started.
Not much occured until the second inning when I was given an additional free ticket for the Dodgers dugout, front row. I immediately took my Pirates uniform off, and headed over there. With two outs left in the Pirates half of the inning, I took my seat. It wasn’t long before Luis Cruz struck out for out number three.
Immediately afterwards, Dodgers catchers Russell Martin (pictured in the end of the blog) and I made direct eye contact, and he threw me the baseball he had just used, and he didn’t even switch it (it was thrown by Clayton Kershaw). I was on the board in a big way.
After that, I went back to the Lexus Club to relax for a little while, understanding there was work to be done later.
It was nice to be back in the Lexus Club once again, as there was plenty of good times and all kinds of free food and drinks to boot.
Still, I was not there just for the fun. My main objective on the day was to get Joe Torre to autograph my copy of his book. I failed the day before, because I was not allowed into the one section because I did not have a ticket for that section.
However today was a new day. I left my Lexus Club seat in the ninth inning and went to the dugout seat. I had book and pen in hand, ready to go and get the signaure.
All seemed to be going well, as the Pirates brought in Matt Capps and the Dodgers promptly scored three runs against him, taking a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the inning.
Everything was going according to plan, especially when the seemingly automatic 7-1 closer Jonathan Broxton came in to close the game. He had experienced no trouble the night before, and I hoping that this would be the same.
Unfortunately, my luck has seemingly run out. I was stationed in the first row behind the Dodgers dugout in my blue under armour shirt, and the Pirates were starting to forge a comeback.
I had very bad feelings, when Broxton managed to get a ground ball from Andy LaRoche, and instead of getting the sure out at first, Rafael Furcal decided to try and be a hero and get Andrew McCutchen out at second base.
To begin with, this play made no sense, Furcal only had a chance to get one Pirate out, and LaRoche not McCutchen represented the game tying run. So simply put McCutchen did not matter one bit, yet Furcal decided to be a hero.
It didn’t help that Furcal made a poor, low attempt to get McCutchen out. The ball skipped to right field, and all runners moved up a base, meaning pinch hitter Delwyn Young, scored to make it 5-3.
After another intentional walk to Garrett Jones, Lastings Milledge was up. He had not received a hit in any of his four prior trips to the plate that day.
However, my luck officially ran out, as Broxton threw another 98 mile per hour fastball right down the middle, and Milledge crushed it.
It went right to the right fielder Andre Ethier who if he done what he was supposed to do would only have allowed McCutchen to score and make it 5-4. However, that was not to be on this day, and he misplayed it.
With the misplay, not only did McCutchen score, but Andy LaRoche scored as well making it 5-5. But the Pirates were not done, Jones was rounding first, and there was a play at the plate. Jones scored rather easily, and the Pirates won the game 6-5.
I was so frustrated because I now knew that there was no chance of Torre signing my book. But it got worse, because when I went home, I discovered that when Jones scored the winning run, the camera caught my blue shirt about as high as neck length, which absolutely made things worse for me, as I was reminded about my tragedy.
Nothing really happened after the game except the Pirates signed jerseys to those who won them. In other words, they signed and then left. They couldn’t really give anything away, because the next day would be the last home game.
As a brief note, in the twenty-four games I attended, the Pirates went 16-8.
First off, it has been a little while since the post not because of a lack of enthusiasm for writing these entries, but because of school starting. This put me back quite a bit. There are a few more game recaps including this one coming up before two pieces entailing my 2009 season with the Pirates and the 2nd annual Pirates awards. Looks like a lot of writing coming up!
This was a meaningful game, as I had a chance to get Albert Pujols to sign my baseball for the only time this season. I did my research, and I figured out how to say what I thought would get him to sign, but it was to no avail, as I never really had a chance.
I did sit on the first base side, and it gave me a chance to get some Cardinals signatures. I got off to a good start as I positioned my self right along the Cardinals dugout.
This led to the first Pujols miss as someone asked him to sign, and he groaned and left never to appear again.
This immediately made me discouraged, and I was ready to head to my seat. This was supported when I saw a Cardinal signing along the first baseline. Despite my knee being a bit shaky, I went the fastest I could down there and found out it was outfielder (and possible Rookie of the Year) Colby Rasmus. Many say that he is a jerk and he never signs, but here he was signing, I had to pinch myself to make sure this was true. I pushed and pulled my way into line, and sure enough ended up getting him (pictured below)
I then headed off because I had heard that the Pirates Wives were hosting a fundraiser where they were selling autographed baseballs for $50 per ball with proceeds going to a charity (I believe the charity was for burn victims). I immediately bought 1 ball and was disappointed to discover that it was Nate McLouth (pictured below), as I already have several of his signatures. Still I wanted a picture with some of the Pirates Wives, and this is how it turned out:
I then went down to one of the entrances and bought myself the September edition of the Pirates magazine called Pirates Insider. I then decided to take a gamble and get another baseball this time faring a bit better and getting Travis Hafner (pictured below).
After that I went back to my seat, and got in position for potentially more autographs. But before anything else, I talked to the usher in my section about what happened during the Philly game where only those in the front row weren’t sent to their seat. The previous usher told me the reasoning was that, “nobody would sign.” I found that reason to be bogus, and was proven correct when I found out from this other usher, that it was because Phillies fans are rowdy and that they were trying to protect everyone.
While that explanation was much more credible I still was upset. Obviously, I was in Phillies colors, meaning I was technically speaking a Phillies fan, so I am more than certain that I could handle myself around a few passionate drunks.
With that knowledge, I went back to my autograph area. Before his interview with the Cardinals TV station, fifteen game winner Joel Pineiro (pictured below) started signing, and I was fortunate enough to get him.
That was all I got in terms of autographs, as no Cardinals signed during the time they stretched on the field.
Still, I moved from the first base side near the middle innings of the game, and went over to speak with a couple of friends who were at the game and on the other side of the field. Usually, the PNC Park ushers kick people out of sections that aren’t theirs starting thirty minutes before game time, but I had no problem getting in. It was going so well that I decided in the ninth inning to go down and try to get a baseball from the home plate umpire.
It was a hard task bad knee or not, but my knee was not feeling too well, making my chances slim and none. Still I made it to the section I was gunning for, a 100′s section with a clear path to the place where I could get a ball. I thought at that point that I stood a good chance, but it was getting harder and harder to be patient. A couple next to me started cheering for the Bucs, while I was cheering for the game to be over.
I needed the game to be over, because I should have already left the park at that time, and got a call from the person driving me that he was on his way. I had to act fast, and the fact that Andy LaRoche walked instead of becoming out number three was aggrevating. However all was good, when Moss popped out and became the third out. During this whole ordeal, the usher never even noticed me, and I never even saw the usher during the whole sequence.
I immediately headed down to the umpire entrance and saw the umpire. There was one problem, I had forgotten his name which meant I had little chance of getting a ball. The umpire was tossing up baseballs, and then it happened. One man screamed, “Mr. Barksdale, may I please have a baseball?” He then got a baseball. I thought, why not, and I tried the same tactic, however Barksdale was already gone.
Just as I was ready to call it a day, walking all the way down there for nothing, Lance Barksdale (pictured below) came out, and tossed me a ball, the last ball he threw that night. What a great way to end a decent night.
I went to this game with my friend Colston. The day started off innocently enough as we went into will call to try and get tickets. It was a Friday night game so first base wasn’t going to be available, and I went for third base seats and got them. We were playing the Cincinnati Reds who aren’t much better than the Pirates, so I was anticipating a nice win.
It was 1979 celebration weekend, and you could tell when you entered the stadium and got a gold pill box cap (pictured below) much like the one the Pirates wore in 1979.
Immediately afterwards the wait began. Since I am not a season ticket holder, I was not given the 30 extra minutes of batting practice like most of the ballhawks do. So I decided to take advantage of Dollar Dog Night, and thus got the first two hot dogs of the night. I then went to the Songwhale booth and played Press Your Buc. I hit Big Bucs, and won a coffee mug as well as a choice of a Floppy Fishing Cap or any of the CDs. I already had the hat, and chose a CD. By then, the gates opened and the madness ensued.
I then headed to left field for BP and finally met ballhawk Erik Jabs. I had read his blog religiously throughout the whole season, and it was great to finally meet him. Unfortunately, neither of us had any luck while we were together. After parting ways, Colston and I headed to our seats.
Nothing much was going on, so I decided to go over to say hi to Stan Savran (pictured below) before he started his show at 6:30. After saying hi, it was 6:30 and those who were not in their actual section were kicked out.
I then called my friend Ryan, because he and a couple friends were at the ball game. I went over and said hi and prepared for the game.
For those new to my blog, I really try to go for as many autographs as I can. I am not the most serious person that goes for autographs, I don’t push everyone out of the way, and sometimes, I am even generous, but once I am at a spot, I refuse to give up my spot for anyone.
Tonight was a special night, as I really started really going for autographs this season (my high at the ballpark is 7 and my high outside of the ballpark is 19 at Bowling With the Bucs). I was going for my 200th total signature tonight, and whoever signed first would be lucky 200. I also determined, that I needed a picture with whoever gave me #200.
This however, would prove to be an easy task, as the Pirate Parrot (pictured below) was down by the wheelchair section, and my section was right by the stairs leading to the section. Right away, I went down and he signed my scorecard. While the signature may seem anti-climatic, I count mascots. I already had Steely McBeam as well as the Jolly Roger, so this one obviously counted. Even better, was that I already had a picture with the Pirate Parrot, so there was no need to take another one.
Still, I had to think quickly, because a minute later, Steve Pearce (pictured below) was signing by the third base line. I had to watch where I came in, because it was past 6:30, and I ran the risk of getting kicked out. So instead of going straight into the section right where the usher was standing, I worked my way around by going into a section and going through the empty rows. There was a lot of competition going for Pearce and one of the people in front of me, forgot his pen which was not smart, because I was not giving him mine. Pearce after a while said that he had to go, and signed my scorecard last.
However when he tried to give me back the pen, the exchange failed and the pen was in the dirt. So Pearce threw me back the pen and the throw was pretty good. There was one problem with it. I am left-handed and seemingly can’t catch anything with my right hand, and the throw was clearly coming toward my right hand. Somehow, I made the catch and I felt that it was a miracle. I looked around to everybody trying to see if they saw the catch, but it was seemingly ignored (of course). Right after this, I was kicked out of the section.
I was undeterred though, as I walked slowly towards my section to make it seem as if I had left. I then walked back towards Ryan to pass time. I then sat back in my seat waiting for the players to come over and sign so that I had an excuse to come over.
Eventually, I saw Ronny Cedeno signing and I went over. However, I instantly realized that it was really crowded despite taking a spot. I then quickly had to reassess the situation. I either could get Cedeno which could result in me potentially losing a ton of signatures, or I could give up my spot and try and get a new spot and risk getting absolutely nothing.
For me, I took the risk, and I did not see it as much of a risk. I left the spot and then found a new spot closer to the center and was in front. I was in pretty good shape in terms of getting signatures. I did get a little worried when both Andy LaRoche (who seemingly always signs) and Delwyn Young did not sign, and I thought my risk had failed.
I also got even more worried when both Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge went over to start signing and went to my far left. The only person out was Garrett Jones, and he was working on his swing, as evidenced by his bat and batting gloves. When he finished, someone right around me screamed for him, and sure enough he was jogging my way.
After a couple signatures, he started drifting a bit, but I was not worried. My scorecard contains spirals and I knew that if I reached out far enough, the spirals may make contact with his glove. Despite my shoulder having been in immense pain for that whole week, I reached that arm out and sure enough the spirals made contact. Soon after, Jones (pictured below) signed my scorecard.
After he signed, I made sure to thank Jones, and unlike many others, he responded with a, “you’re welcome”.
Soon after, I noticed that Milledge and McCutchen were coming over. In truth they already signed once each for me on my Gold Glove Baseball, but I had the scorecard so I thought it would be cool to have them again.
Milledge (see photo) came over first, and was making his way down the line. He signed my scorecard and at the time a kid behind me, was calling Milledge asking him to sign his baseball. Lastings said that he would get to him. It looked like a long shot though, because the kid had no reach. I then displayed an act of generosity, telling Milledge that I would get the ball from the kid and giving it to him to sign and then giving it back to the kid. Milledge seemed pretty happy and signed it. The look on the kid’s face was priceless.
Soon after that McCutchen (photo below) came over and started signing. He also signed my scorecard, and after getting him turned around to head back to my seat. Just as I was heading up, one of the ushers was heading down to kick everyone out. So by realizing that I wouldn’t get Cedeno and moving my location, I got 3 autographs. Risk well taken!
I then headed back to my seat and sat there for a couple of innings before heading over to the Riverwalk.
After failing to get my friend on Pirate Quiz, I went to the bullpen to try and get a baseball. I got my first ball on July 31 against the Nationals, when Willie Harris hit a foul ball and the bat boy tossed it to me. I didn’t know what to expect when I got there but it was worth a try. If you do try and get a ball from the bullpen, you have to stay behind a fence they have, so you don’t spit on the players, etc.
At first I did not get the corner spot, however after a while people left and I quickly reacted and took the spot.
About an inning or so later, reliever Phil Dumatrait (photo below) who was finally back in Pittsburgh after all of his injury trouble was in my view. I screamed, “Phil, welcome back!” His response was a simple smile and wave. Much like what Tiger Woods did to me in the 2007 US Open Dumatrait at least knows that I exist.
After a while, reliever Steven Jackson was warming up in the bullpen, and I decided to make my move. When it turned out that Jackson was not needed in the game he gave bullpen coach Luis Dorante the ball. Dorante then placed the ball in his back pocket.
After a few seconds I called out to Luis saying, “Luis may I please have a ball?” After my request, Dorante (see below) disappeared for a minute and then came out looking for me, and tossing me my one and only ball of the day. It was obvious that he switched balls, as he had given me a practice ball, but I didn’t care. The marks on the ball made it look pretty interesting, and I could tell that it was game used.
I then tried to get back to my seat but ran into Ryan and his friends. We parted ways, as they were leaving the park. I then ran back up to my seats to try and get a ball from the umpire. However I was not quick enough to get their attention, and they only had three balls. Still I was on the board with my second ball of the season and I was excited for the next game? Could I get on the board the next game? You’ll just have to wait until the next entry to find out.
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.
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