Results tagged ‘ Ian Snell ’

Pirates early season preview part 9: Starting Pitching

 I apologize for not being able to post this entry last night, however I was feeling very sick. I am better now and this will be my only post today as it is New Year’s. Just as a reminder, I thank each and every one of you for reading my blog. Whether you are a brand new reader or a loyal tried and true reader, I appreciate your support, and ask for you to continue your support for years to come. I also wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy New Year.

 Here is the projected Pirates rotation as it stands today:

 1. James McDonald

 2. Paul Maholm

 3. Kevin Correia

 4. Ross Ohlendorf

 5. Charlie Morton

 6. Scott Olsen

 Meanwhile MLB Network projects this as the rotation:

 1. James McDonald

 2. Paul Maholm

 3. Kevin Correia

 4. Scott Olsen

 5. Ross Ohlendorf

 James McDonald came along with Andrew Lambo in the trade that sent Octavio Dotel to the Los Angeles Dodgers. I was at McDonald’s Pirates debut, and he looked dominant against the Colorado Rockies striking out a career high eight hitters. For me he compares to Ian Snell minus the attitude. He also is a lot more consistent. “I was just real excited today and ready to be on the mound and to get a chance to start every five days,” said McDonald on the start. “I was having fun today. When you get ahead, pitching can be fun.”

 McDonald showed throughout his tenure that he is closest to ace material for the Pirates. That does not say much, but once he became a Pirates, he got down to business and he has the fastest and most devastating pitches of the starters.

 McDonald also had a 20 inning scoreless streak as he shut out the Atlanta Braves on September 7 and the New York Mets on September 13. The streak ended September 18 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he bounced back and still won the game 4-1. That start perhaps impressed me the most, as many pitchers would have had the scoreless streaks in their head and then imploded once a run was allowed. Allowing the run early in the game helped McDonald settle down and concentrate and even give his team the win.

 Perhaps the biggest support McDonald received was from Jack Moore of Fangraphs who called McDonald an “ace” and even called him the biggest steal of the 2010 MLB Trade Deadline.

McDonald finished with an overall record of 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA, however one of those losses occurred when he was with the Dodgers.

 Paul Maholm has perhaps pitched like our ace in recent years, however he has been perhaps the most inconsistent of all of the Pirates starters in recent years. I broke down his stats in a previous post, but last year he gave up 225 hits in 185.1 innings and that is not that great.

 He did start 32 games which shows that he is healthy and not injury prone, and that is reassuring. Still Maholm was right up there for most losses in the Majors and finished with a 9-15 record, sometimes a victim of poor run support. Maholm also had a fielding percentage of .938.

 It is worth noting that Maholm seemed to pitch a bit better with Ray Searage as his pitching coach, and it is important to the Pirates that Maholm succeeds because as the pirates.com projects, he would be the only lefty in the rotation. Maholm, like almost all of the Pirates starters does not have the speed on his fastball, and thus location will be very important to Paul.

 Kevin Correia came to us as a free agent and a pitcher last season for the San Diego Padres for 2 years and $8 million. Correia was not a part of the Padres rotation come season’s end, and that could be a concern, however, you have to remember that the Padres were on the cusp of being a playoff team last season and the Pirates were not even close.

 Correia finished 10-10 last season with a 5.40 ERA. He appeared in 28 games, starting in 26 of them. My concern is his 145 innings pitched, because if you remember a couple of seasons ago, Ross Ohlendorf was having a great season, but because of his low innings count the season before, the Pirates limited and eventually shut down Ohlendorf. I think that Correia will have a nice season, but I worry that come September, Correia will be out of the mix because his innings count will be too high.

 Ross Ohlendorf was a deceptive pitcher as he consistently lost but was the victim of poor run support. His 1-11 season was clearly a fluke. Ohlendorf was consistenly injured throughout the season and a few of the losses were his fault, but often times the team would either score zero or one run in his start putting added pressure against Ohlendorf. Perhaps putting him in the fourth spot will be manageble for Ohlendorf who can put the injuries aside and get some support with a new look line up.

 Charlie Morton had a great 2009 and the team had high hopes for him to be a breakout star for the team. It is easy now to say that they should have known better. His first start was on April 8 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and he started out great striking out his first five batters. But in his 3.1 innings pitched, he allowed 8 runs. Morton lost all five starts in April posting a 12.57 ERA. Morton earned his first win on May 5 against the Chicago Cubs by a 4-2 decision. He couldn’t put anything together losing his next four games and then was placed on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue and a 1-9 record.

 After rehab and a meeting with a sports psychologist, he was sent to AAA Indianapolis.

 Speaking before his first start with the Indians, Morton said “I was pressing. I wasn’t being myself on the mound those last couple times I went out there in Pittsburgh. There was so much going on in my mind. At the end of last year, I finished strong, I got a glimpse of what I could do, truly, in the big leagues, going out there and going deep into games, being competitive, being someone who was pretty good. I wanted to be out there for myself and because I care about this team and organization. At the same time, though, after that last one, that last start, because I care about these guys is why, exactly, I knew I couldn’t go back out there again.”

 He earned his first win in AAA when the team defeated the Durham Bulls on June 24.

 He was re-called by the Pirates when Ohlendorf was injured, and in his first start against the Milwaukee Brewers, he gave up 8 runs in 3 innings.

 Things got more encouraging with Morton as the season drew closer to an end. When Searage took the pitching coach job, Morton seemed more in his element. In a game I attending in mid-September, Morton was the scheduled pitcher and I happened to be close to where he entered and he seemed in control even saying “hi, how are you” to me. He got the win that day and looked like a changed pitcher. His final start was October 2 against the Florida Marlins, and although the team lost 2-0, things were encouraging as Morton struck out a career high 9 strikeouts. Morton finished with a 2-12 record with a 7.57 ERA but after that August call-up he had a 4.26 ERA.

 Morton is the clear wild card, so it will be interesting to see what he has to offer. Will we see the April 2010 version of Charlie Morton where he could not get a break, or will we see the September/October 2010 Charlie Morton where he was the aggressor attacking the strike zone and getting much more positive results? Spring Training will tell the tale, but Morton is a clear front runner for the fifth spot.

 While Morton was projected a starter on the Pirates website, Olsen took his place on the MLB Network projections. He signed for cheap with the Pirates this offseason, but he could get a lot more because of all of the performance bonuses he could earn. Hopefully Clint Hurdle can rid Olsen of his attitude problem, and if he does, I like Olsen in the rotation. My concern with Olsen is that he is essentially, a poor man’s Zach Duke. He can give up a ton of hits (he gave up 226 hits in 176.2 innings for the Marlins in 2007) and really bring up that pitch count. In Colorado pitchers pitched an average of 93 pitches per game under Hurdle, and if Olsen is giving up a ton of hits, then he will not last that long.

 Olsen finished with a 4-8 record and an ERA of 5.56 for the Washington Nationals last season. He appeared in 17 games starting in 15 of them. Despite a small portion size, he had a perfect fielding percentage as well, which could help an infield which constantly made errors. Olsen also has another thing going for him as he is left-handed. Currently Maholm is the only lefty in the rotation and Olsen could perhaps balance out the rotation a little bit more. It looks to be a battle between Olsen and Morton for that fifth spot. Whoever loses will leave an interesting decision for Hurdle and management as they could prove to be valuable as long relievers but perhaps there time could be better utilized as starters in AAA. Still that would be a huge blow to Morton’s new found confidence and Olsen could blow another gasket and get into more confrontations.

 A long shot for the role of fifth starter is Brad Lincoln. Lincoln was selected by the Pirates with the fourth overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft. By drafting Lincoln, the team passed on other current proven talent in Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Tim Lincecum. It is easy to say that now, as who knows what would have happened if one of these three were in our rotation.

 On Wednesday June 9, Lincoln made his MLB debut against the Nationals after a 6-2 record in AAA before the call-up. In his six innings, and gave up five earned runs and walked two and struck out three.

 He earned his first Major League victory on June 30 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Pitching seven innings while striking out six and walking one in the Pirates 2-0 win. “I felt like it was going to be my day. With the wind blowing in, I used it to my advantage,” said Lincoln.

 Lincoln was demoted to AAA Indy after his first loss of the season July 25 against the Padres. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington cited a drop in Lincoln’s velocity since he was promoted and that he had strayed from the mechanics that made him a prolific starter with Indianapolis. “For me, it’s probably the best move,” said Lincoln. 

 Lincoln was a September call-up but was essentially useless as the Pirates did not use him in any critical moments.

 Lincoln finished the season 1-4 with a 6.66 ERA. He appeared in 11 games and started in 9 of them. In his 52.2 innings, he gave up 66 hits, 42 runs (39 of them earned) and 9 homers. He also walked 15 and struck out 25.

 While Lincoln’s pitching may not have been great, he did have a .400 average, making him a good hitting pitcher. He went 6 for 15 at the plate and drove in 3 runs.

 Lincoln may be a long shot because of his pitching, but perhaps his bat will give him some consideration as the season wears on.

 There are other names on the rise as well, and one of them is Rudy Owens. Rudy Owens was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 28th round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft. It is not exactly the place where a name is made, but thus far Owns has made a pretty big impression on the Pirates.

 He is left-handed and with the rotation surprisingly loaded on righties Owens will definitely have the Pirates attention. Things started slowly for Owens in 2007 and 2008, but in 2009, things improved for Owens as he went 10-1 for the West Virginia Power with a 1.70 ERA. He then went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA for Lynchburg.

 Owens spent all of the 2010 season in Altoona. He appeared and started in 26 games and finished with a record of 12-6 with an ERA of 2.46. He pitched 150 innings allowing only 124 hits and allowed 46 runs (41 earned). He only walked 23 hitters while striking out 132 hitters.

 Lastly, before I make my projections, I will say another farewell to Zach Duke. Duke was a great person, but I believe that Joe Kerrigan screwed up his delivery. In 29 starts, Duke finished 8-15 with an ERA of 5.72. His 15 losses are tied for the second most losses in a season in his career (he had 16 losses in 2009).  In his 159 innings, Duke gave up 212 hits, 115 runs (101 earned). He also allowed 25 home runs and walked 51 while striking out only 96 people. Duke did seem to bring it together with Searage at the helm, but his option was way too much money.

 Finally, here is my projections for the rotation come April 1 as well as the rotation that would make sense:

Projected:

 1. James McDonald

 2. Paul Maholm

 3. Kevin Correia

 4. Ross Ohlendorf

 5. Charlie Morton

 Makes sense rotation:

 1. James McDonald

 2. Paul Maholm

 3. Kevin Correia

 4. Scott Olsen

 5. Ross Ohlendorf 

 The reason why I project that is that the Pirates have a lot of options. Morton had a lot going for him in September. Perhaps that is reason to get rid of him because in 2009 he had things going for him once he got his chance but couldn’t put it together in 2010 until the very end. Olsen is left-handed as said before and that helps his case. If he has a good spring, I think that management gives him the nod. I put the makes sense rotation the way I did because it mixes the righties and lefties and at least gives opposing teams something to prepare for on a more regular basis. I am not suggesting that this has to be the rotation, I mean if Morton has a better Spring, then by all means give him the job, but if they have an even Spring Training or Olsen has a better Spring Training, then give Olsen the nod and put Ohlendorf in the fifth spot.

 Wow, that was a long post! I hope to my next post on the Pirates relievers up very soon. The only apparent locks in that department right now are Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek. I will talk about them and others, as well as my pick for the Pirates closer job.

Pirates early season preview part 8: Right Field

 Just to reiterate from my last entry, I apologize for a mistake that I made in my centerfield entrance. I forgot to mention the strong possibility of Jose Tabata shifting from left field to center as it happened a few times last season. It appears to be the most likely option should Andrew McCutchen get injured.

 Moving back to right field, here is the projected depth chart:

 1. Garrett Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. Ryan Doumit

 Garrett Jones goes by many nicknames, G.I. Jones., The Legend, G(arrett) F(reaking) J(ones) (of Extra Innings With Rocco DeMaro fame) or even his preferred nickname of Bam Bam. He first got his chance with the Pirates when the team traded away Eric Hinske. He made the 2010 Opening Day Roster and on that Opening Day he homered in each of his first two at-bats, and then homered the next game as well. Jones finished the 2010 season hitting a lowly .247 with 34 doubles, a triple, 21 home runs, 86 runs batted in, 53 walks and 123 strikeouts.

 I have talked in previous posts Jones moving to the outfield is beneficial to the team defensively but it helps offensively as well. Jones does not hit lefties well but seems to do a good job against righties.

 Enter Matt Diaz. I have profiled Diaz in previous entries as well, and he is the opposite of Jones, as he does hit lefties well, meaning all signs will point to a platoon situation. Diaz could have signed for much more successful teams including the New York Yankees and had more money in salary and in performance and playoff money (and a World Series ring if he was lucky). Diaz signed with Pittsburgh for three reasons.

 Money was obviously not a factor in his decision but the first was approaching former Pirates and current Atlanta Brave Nate McLouth. McLouth was very well liked by fans, and trading him upset many myself included. Having interviewed McLouth, I can say that he was a down to earth man and a great interview. McLouth gave Pittsburgh a good review which helped Diaz and his thought process.

 Another factor for Diaz had to be the playing time. Sure Diaz would have received much more money playing for New York or a higher market team, but he would have had to fight for a roster spot that would not be guaranteed, and even if he made it be forced to ride the bench the majority of the time. In Pittsburgh, Diaz is in a platoon scenario and he can play both the outfield and first base, making himself extremely valuable to the Pirates organization.

 The final factor for Diaz was Clint Hurdle. Diaz mentioned when he spoke with Pittsburgh Media that he thought very highly of Hurdle, and when he heard that Hurdle would be the Pirates manager, that that would be a big plus for the team.

 I have discussed all kinds of other options in previous blog entries for the right field position so here is a run down.

 Ryan Doumit essentially is the third string outfielder, unless he actually does get traded. As I have written in the earlier catcher and first base previews, the Pirates have seemingly made all of these signings in an attempt to show Doumit the door. He has a huge salary (in Pirates terms) and the Pirates don’t really have any where to put him besides the bench. In a sense this is much like when the Pirates sent Ian Snell to AAA, however unlike Snell, Doumit does not lack accountability. For the past two years on FSN, you have heard the commercial in which Doumit says that “you will be in a dog fight” in reference to playing the Pirates. Doumit is likely on the bench come April as he still can play multiple positions, though not really that well.

 Just so I don’t make the mistake again, it is not insane to think that Jose Tabata could move from left to right field. It is an option and right fielders at PNC Park have had trouble fielding the balls that bounce off the Clemente Wall. Perhaps Tabata bucks that trend.

 Another option is John Bowker. Bowker did see some significant time in right field as a September call-up, and he did a respectable job at the position. Bowker could turn some heads this season.

 As I wrote in yesterday’s entry, Alex Presley is also a possibility.

 Lastly, I will throw out the name Gorkys Hernandez. He was a part of the unpopular Nate McLouth trade and will be a big part of future Pirates teams. He did get injured for a good chunk of last season though. Last season, Hernandez played in 92 games hitting .266 with 11 doubles, 4 triples, 2 homers, 26 runs batted in, 17 stolen bases and 95 strikeouts for AA Altoona. For Hernandez it has been a long road, and that road will continue for at least another season, but he definitely will be one to keep an eye (or two) on.

 With that being said here are my projected Opening Day depth charts with the first being with Ryan Doumit and the second being without Doumit:

 1. Garrett (insert nickname of your choice here) Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. Ryan Doumit

 4. John Bowker

 5. Alex Presley

 

 1. Garrett (insert nickname of your choice here) Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. John Bowker

 4. Alex Presley

 Nothing changes in either of these, although if Doumit gets traded, it will be interesting to see what happens to the team.

 Tomorrow will be my first of two entries on pitching. It will focus on starters. The Pirates have a ton of starters, but what is my projected rotation? You will have to read tomorrow’s entry to find out.

 

Top 5 Pirates Salaries for the 2011 season

 Pittsburgh Tribune- Review writer Rob Biertempfel published who the highest paid Pirates are today and I thought it would be an interesting write up. As a note,  these salaries are before the Kevin Correia deal, as the financial terms have not been finalized.

#5: Ronny Cedeno $1.125 million: Cedeno hit .256 and hit 8 home runs and batted in 38 runs. He had an above average season, but hits .230 on the road and .246 against right handed pitchers which are causes for concern. Cedeno struck out 106 times last season as well. Looking at his season, Cedeno stepped to the plate a total of 487 times and hit flyballs 36.8% of the time, groundballs 39.4% of the time, struckout 21.8% of the time and grounded into a double play 2.1% of the time. The Pirates came to terms with Cedeno on December 3 at a time when they were looking for a shortstop that could potentially prove to be an upgrade. With J.J. Hardy, Brandon Ryan and others out of the picture the Pirates took a shortstop in the Rule-5 Draft to try and challenge Cedeno. There are now rumors that Ryan Doumit will be traded to the Boston Red Sox for shortstop Marco Scutaro who hit .275 with 11 home runs and 56 runs batted in. He would make $5.5 million dollars this season and hits lefties and righties at a fairly similar clip.

#4 Matt Diaz $2 million: Diaz was a much needed righty into the Pirates line up and can play both first base and the outfield. Diaz looks to be an option for a possible platoon in right field as Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen have left and center field locked up. In 84 games last season, Diaz hit .250 with 7 home runs and batted in 31 runs. He has some power having 17 of his 56 hits going for doubles, and 2 hits going for triples. Diaz platooning with Garrett Jones is a great idea, as Diaz was a .273 hitter against lefties and only hitting at a .223 hitter against righties. Out of Diaz’s 233 at bats, he hit flyballs 42.1% of the time, grounders 36.5% of the time, struckout 18.9% of the time and grounding into double plays 2.6% of the time. Diaz has a deal with the Pirates for two seasons.

 

#3 Lyle Overbay $5 million: I will start out by saying that Overbay is a fellow aquarius which has clearly helped his power. Despite a .243 average last season, he hit 20 home runs and batted in 67 runs. He projects just like Adam LaRoche meaning they walk a lot (Overbay walked 67 times last season) and strikeout even more (Overbay struck out 131 times). His career average is .274, so perhaps that average could come up a bit. He was paid $7.95 million each of the past two seasons and last season only hit .222 against lefties and .250 against righties. In his 546 at bats, he hit flyballs 40.3% of the time, groundballs 34.1% of the time, struck out 24% of the time and grounded into double plays 1.6% of the time.

 # 2 Ryan Doumit $5.1 million: Doumit has been the biggest trade bait in the entire Pirates organization. He made $3.65 million last season. Doumit cannot play an entire season as he at one point or another always seems to get injured. Despite rumors of being traded for players such as Marco Scutaro and Kenshin Kawakami, Pirates GM Neal Huntington said at Winter Meetings that at that time Doumit was the team’s starting right fielder. Since that quote, the Pirates have signed Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay and essentially rendered Doumit’s big salary useless much like Ian Snell’s a couple of seasons ago. After acquiring Chris Snyder from the Diamondbacks in July, Doumit (who couldn’t even throw out 10% of runners trying to steal a base) displayed a great arm and terrible fielding in right field. Still after the trade, Doumit started to hit some home runs leaving his bat in the line up. Last season he batted .251 and hit 13 home runs and batted in 45 runs. He was a horrendous .186 against lefties. In 425 at bats, Doumit hit fly balls 44.5% of the time, hit groundballs 30.8% of the time, struckout 20.5% of the time and grounded into a double play 4.2% of the time. Time will tell if Doumit dons the Pirates “P” come April.

#1 Paul Maholm $5.75 million: After the departure of Zach Duke, Maholm is the lone pitcher on this list. Maholm finished with a record of 9-15 and tied for second in the National League in losses, often a victim of poor run support. Lefties hit .231 against him, and righties had his number hitting  .316. Away from home, hitters had a .318 average against Maholm in contrast to hitters hitting .289 against him at PNC Park. Maholm made $5 million last season. Maholm did pitch one complete game out of his 32 starts last season, but in 185.1 innings he allowed 228 hits and 119 runs (105 of them were earned). Maholm gave up 15 home runs last season and walked 62 batters. Sadly, Maholm’s 102 strikeouts were the most of any Pirates starter and only beat Joel Hanrahan by two strikeouts. Maholm’s WHIP was .11 above his career average as it ended up at 1.56. His pitches per game was also down .5 of a pitch as it was 95.9 pitches last season. Perhaps Maholm can better his numbers with Ray Searage as the new pitching coach, but for me, this is a make or break year for Paul.

The 2nd Annual Pirates Awards

 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.

 Team MVP:

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.

 

 

 Team LVP:

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.

 

 Most Improved:

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.

 

  Best Broadcaster:

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.

 Most Surprising:

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.

Garrett Jones, take me to the river! by Dave's Family Fotos.

  Best Performance:

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.

On First by jmd41280.

 Best nickname:

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.

P1000226 by boomerkuwanger.

 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.

8/26 PNC Park Pirates vs Phillies

 This entry should be shorter, because there was not as much going on this time as the last entry.

 Let me state for the record, that I should not have been at this game. I had tickets for the previous day’s game, and I mistakenly assumed that they were for the game I went to. It was a struggle and took a lot of loopholes to get tickets for the Wednesday game, but soon enough, I had seats in section 7. If anyone paid attention to the Tuesday Pirates-Phillies matchup, they would know that I had tickets to the best game of the season, and blew it big time.

 So I went to the game again with my friend Colston, and upon entering the park I was a little upset. As my ticket was being scanned, the gates were being open to everyone, so I would be behind in getting to BP. I did get in, and caught up with Erik Jabs. After a quick hello, he was off to right field to capitalize on the lefty hitters.

 I did not get any balls during BP, but I also failed in my chances to get autographs. Pedro Martinez was jogging along the warning track when all of a sudden, he stopped to say hi to Manny Sanguillen and signed autographs. I went over and got in a good position for him to sign my Gold Glove Baseball, but he said to us that he had to leave.

 Still, I did not see much problem with this, as Raul Ibanez was to my left striking a conversation with one of his friends. He then proceeded to sign his friends ticket. When the conversation ended, I asked him if he would sign my baseball, but he said this instead, “I don’t sign during batting practice”. While he did respond to me, his response was an absolute copout. I had just seen him sign for his friend, so understandably I was upset at him, but I decided not to say anything, as I tried to blend in as a Philly fan. I didn’t want him to think I was a Pirate fan, because that would not bode well for me.

 Later on Ibanez seemed to be even more foolish as Phillies reliever Scott Eyre briefly signed. So I ended up with no signatures at BP and no balls to boot. I did end up with something though, as I got my pain in my knee to come back.

 After BP, I went to the bullpen area to see if there were any baseballs in there, but there were none. Seeing the lost cause, I decided to head to my seat.

 Things did not get much better at my seats though. One of the reasons I pay the extra money to get the close seats is because of the autographs however I was in for a big surprise, and not a good one.

 I was standing in the front of the row as usual with the full understanding that many of those with me would be leaving as they would be kicked out of the section at 6:30. However, the ushers were either really cranky or the extra rules and regulations set by the Pirates were absolutely pathetic. Not only would the fans who were not in the section going to be kicked out from seeking autographs at 6:30, but those not in the front row of each section would have to return to their seats as well.

 I asked my usher, who looked like former baseball player John Wehner if I could stay in the front since I am in the section, but got a no since I was not in the front row of the section. Then he added, “Nobody’s going to be signing.” Well of course nobody will sign when you force everyone to sit down in their seats. So because of the Pirates and their stupid regulations, I got no autographs. Based on the way the ushers acted, you would have guessed that each member of the Phillies had swine flu, but no, they were just trying to ruin everyone’s good time.

 It just felt awkward just waiting for the game started. I already had the lineups filled out and it was watching paint dry. I also was right in the middle of my row which made things harder because I always had to get up. My knee was still in pain, so that never helped.

 The game started and of course Philly gets a home run in the first inning. I ended up leaving my section in the third inning (and I could not leave fast enough), for dinner. I then grabbed my dinner and went straight to the Riverwalk.

 Nothing was really going on there, but the winner of Pirate Quiz got a set of Rolling Stones music, so not that bad of a prize. 

 After that, I decided to try my luck at the bullpen. I also shaved the night before to appear younger to those in the bullpen. I was a little more careful, because I was not sure if Luis Dorante would recognize him from five days earlier.

  I was able to get much closer than I did when I started a few days ago, when I was as far as can be. On this day, I was a spot away from the corner spot, but a kid was there and never left. So with not much action, I stayed and chatted with those by the bullpen. Eventually, a group of three people came over, one of them looking like former Pirates pitcher Ian Snell (picture below).

 In the ninth inning, I put on my rally cap and continued talking. However when Brandon Moss came in to pinch hit, someone asked what good he was going to do. I then replied saying, “just watch, he’s going to hit one right over the wall.” She laughed, but sure enough, Moss went deep, and all of us celebrated as if the ball had just dropped during New Year’s at Times Square. High fives were exchanged with all, and after I correctly predicted that Ramon Vazquez would ground out to the shortstop, we went to extra innings.

 After Steven Jackson allowed the first two Phillies hitters on base, he was lifted for fellow reliever Phil Dumatrait. Dumatrait has been warming up, and was put in to face Chase Utley, a lefty. This was obviously done to get a favorable matchup as Dumatrait is the lone left-hander in the Pirates bullpen.

 After Dumatrait finished throwing, I saw this as my last chance. It was bullpen catcher Heberto “Herbie” Andrade who had the ball and I called down to him to toss it. After he told me that he couldn’t hear me, I asked my request again, but louder, and he said yes. Andrade (pictured below in the Pirates batting practice jersey), then tossed me my first and lone ball of the day.

 

 The really good thing about this ball, was that it was not a practice one. You could tell that it was used more than just that one bullpen session, and the quickness in my request ensured that Andrade unlike Dorante didn’t have time to switch balls.

 Dumatrait unfortunately came in, and allowed a first pitch three run home run to Ryan Howard and effectively ending the game.

 The game was a fun one, but compared to the game before was a big letdown, because other than getting the baseball, nothing happened.

 I will be at the ballpark 9/4 and 9/6 so entries will come soon for those. 

My Top Pirates Moments from the 2008 season

 So despite last season being another year of disappointment for the Buccos, I did not let that get in my way. Despite not being a season ticket holder and my age of 16 years young, I went to a grand total of 17 games last season. No at the field and off of it, there were a ton of fun moments. Here they are in terms of most memorable to least memorable:

1. Pirates Trivia Win: If you read one my previous entries, you recall me getting on Pirates Trivia. If you did not read the entry, I managed to leave my outfield seat and make my way on to the Riverwalk (similar to a beach’s boardwalk with souvenir stands as well as concession stands and rest rooms), and ask if I could go on Pirates Trivia. Despite originally being an alternate and the promise of being on next season, the original person never showed up and I was on. Pirates Trivia is one of the games that occurred after the bottom of the fourth inning. In the game, a single person has their name and is on jumbotron. A question is read to them with four possible choices and if you answer correctly, you get to choose between a Pirates jacket (valued at $160) or a mystery box which can be either good or bad. If you get the question incorrectly, you have a choice between a Pirates hat and the box.

 After getting my question, I took only a couple of seconds to answer and after being told that I seemed confident, got the answer correct. I then instantly chose to gamble and picked the box. Inside the box was a signed Nate McLouth 2008 All-Star Jersey (valued at $260 at the time) as well as 2 Lexus Club tickets to Pirates Opening Day next year (valued at $160 to $210 a ticket). The victory was even more satifying, because I had tried to get McLouth’s autograph several times before. The most notable time, was right before a game, when after a picture it was just me and him. I called his name, and without saying that he had to go or apologizing, he ran back to the dugout.

 

DSC00557 by joshua_siebert.

Caption: This is the view in the Lexus Club. It is right in front of the park, your food is free and you can see what it is like for a hitter to hit 90 mile per hour heat.

 

2. Autographs: As I mentioned, I did get Nate McLouth’s autograph, but there were so many others that I got. This was my first year attempting to get autographs, and in large part it was a success. I will definitely be able to get more, as I will be sitting right where autographs are usually given. My autographs ranged from teams and eras, but I was happy to get each and everyone of them.

   The fun started at the team’s annual event called PirateFest. The annual event, is usually done as a way for players to say thanks to the fans. There are autograph signings, games and much fun every year. The autograph sessions were done in one area, and there was a line. Each signing involved a current Pirate, a former Pirate and a future Pirate. I actually did get in line for a little bit, but after discovering how long the wait was (2 1/2 hours), I instantly left the line. Immediately afterwards, there was a Pirates Q&A session and I saw my chance. The session lasted around an hour and afterwards I was ready to do some back and forth running. The first person I approached was Tom Gorzelanny and after congratulating him on his marriage and his good season I got his signature. I then proceeded to run back and forth repeatedly to get many more signatures. The signatures were Zach Duke, Xavier Nady and Paul Maholm.

  After the running, I got Bob Walk, Matt Morris (more on him later), Bob Friend and Ian Snell all seperately at the radio booth. I also got Matt Capps and Jack Wilson seperately at one of the stages.

 Then during the summer, I attended the Parade of Champions, a part of Pittsburgh’s 250 anniversary. The event featured champions in every sport and had a lot of different features. There were several autograph sessions during the day and one was extra special. In fact, it was so special that it was seperate from all of the other signers. I instantly got in line because of the person and because of how long the line was going to be. Any guesses who this person is? If you said Bill Mazeroski, then you are correct. Mazeroski was great, and he was in town because he would in a couple days’ time throw out the first pitch in the Pirates-Yankees game. I also was able to get signatures from Steve Blass, Kent Tekulve, John Candelaria and Bob Friend. 

Bill Mazeroski

 A week later, I got yet another great autograph. The Tampa Bay Rays were in town and it was Sunday. A key hint for autograph hunters who go to PNC Park is to either get seats by the team of your choice or go to the ballpark on Sunday. Sunday is the easiest day to access the players and interact with them. While I did miss Scott Kazmir and James Shields I did manage to get three autographs. I got former Pirate Al Reyes, Edwin Jackson (who is no longer on the team) and the biggest one in Matt Garza. Garza who earlier in the season has tossed a one hitter was a great autograph because he ended up becoming the ALCS MVP. I felt great to add him to my collection. The only in game autograph I got was from the Jolly Roger, one of the Pirates two mascots. He looked over my scorecard and then whipped out a sharpie and signed it. Before the season was over, I also got Freddy Sanchez, John Grabow, Sean Burnett, Ian Snell, Matt Capps, Jeff Karstens and Tyler Yates.  

 

Matt Garza

 

 

 

   3. 4 Games In 4 Days: Despite not being a season ticket holder, I was able to attend four Pirates games in four days. While that may not sound like much, the way I did it would make it difficult for the average person. Considering that I am 16 and go to bed at 11, it made for an interesting sequence. The first three games were the Skyblasts and involved fireworks and a post-game concert. As a footnote, the Pirates did lose all four games, but to me that did not matter. After each night of Skyblast I went to bed at 2 AM. The fourth game was at 1:35 so I barely got any sleep, and I did get a sunburn afterwards. By the end of all four games, I couldn’t speak because I was yelling so loudly.

 

4. I Will Do Anything To Get On TV/Jumbotron: Whether it was being the section of the game, or being a complete idiot, I seemed to get on jumbotron quite a bit to get on TV or jumbotron. I played the National Anthem on my clarinet at the Pirates game with the rest of the band and did make it on jumbotron (check my Facebook Profile for proof). I did this despite going to the game the night before and yet again screaming for death and losing my voice. During the game, I warned my bandmates that I will scream and sure enough when Freddy Sanchez got a hit, I screamed at the top of my lungs for him to go to third and then screamed for him to slide. A couple of my band mates looked at me as if they had seen a UFO. We all sat in the upper deck that day, and my friend later told me that he was watching the game, and that my scream was so loud, that he could actually hear it. How about that?

 

 If you thought that was bad, then you are sorely mistaken. My same friend and I went to a separate  game and I did Karaoke for the first time (if you want to see it, go on youtube and search Pirate Game Karaoke and I am the first result). It was an ok performance and I can’t believe I did it and as you read my friend recorded it (I sang Don’t Stop Believing by Journey). If that wasn’t bad enough I ended up dancing, and I can tell you honestly, that I am horrible and spastic dancer. Yet, common sense did not stop me from being a moron. My moves made no sense at all, and when my friend put them up on Youtube he edited them to make them look even stupider.

 

Pirate game karaoke

Caption: Me doing Karaoke (this could help you if you are looking for it on Youtube)

 

 However, I was not done. After dancing during several inning breaks, I somehow did get on jumbotron and I proceeded to do the Soulja Boy Dance (and let me tell you I hit it spot on) and then did a couple other things (unfortunately my friend did not record it, I would have loved to see how it came out).

 

5. Sights and Sounds From The Pirates: PNC Park was full of great moments during thr 2008 season. One great moment was at the Pirates Q&A session at PirateFest. Nyjer Morgan was battling Nate McLouth and Chris Duffy for the centerfield job and a fan asked Nyjer to describe himself. He first started out talking about being from Walla Walla and his love for hockey. That was when the magic occurred and he talked about his Caddy SGX: “She drives real smooth, so I called her Charlene.” This magic was nearly topped by a fan by the name of Action. Action was sitting right in front of me during Pirates Deal or No Deal at PirateFest and freaked out over a Pirates t-shirt (“Ooo. Pirates….t-shirt”). He made me laugh even harder when he got on Pirates Trivia and took the box and won an autographed Matt Capps jersey. 

 

 If I had one vendor that I could buy from it would be the Lemonade Man. The Lemonade Man also known as Ken, is this skinny senior citizen who sells lemonade at all of the Pirate games. Ken has a constant routine that he has not changed for years that always works. He screams (well sort of) Lemonade repeatedly and then if someone wants one, he says, “$4 for 1,” and after he gives you the lemonade, he tells you to, “take it easy.” Every time the Lemonade Man is at PNC Park he is definitely one of the most recognizable faces in the Park.

 

 

Lemonade Man

 Ken the Lemonade Man
 
 Another recognizable sight has to be the grounds crew. When there is a rain delay, the crew makes a huge mistake wearing these ugly looking yellow boots. I know you want to wear home team colors, but yellow? Come on, it looks like what a first grader wears on a rainy day. Next season, please pick another color (except pink).
 
6. The End Of a Career: When I got Matt Morris’ autograph at PirateFest, I told him one thing, “watch out for that first inning,” and he said “hey, that’s right, I will.” He then proceeded to pitch horribly and give up all kinds first inning runs and be taken out early further proving the fact that hitters hit more than .300 against Matt Morris in the first inning. I actually got to see Matt Morris’ last start as a Major Leaguer and oh was it ever bad. He gave up three runs in the first inning and only pitched 1 2/3 innings in the game. He actually was at right around 80 pitches when he was taken out. When he was released by the Pirates the next day, he retired and was owed $11 million. Way to go Mr. Littlefield.
 
 

Matt Morris

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

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 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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