December 2009

Pirates All Decade Team

Before the ball drops and “Auld Lang Syne” is blared over the speakers it is only right to reflect on what this past year has held. Not to mention just this year, but a whole decade of memories that have played out right before us. These ten years have been special and and happy. The same can not be said for this last decades Pittsburgh Pirates team. Lets just say the 60’s and 70’s will forever remained untouched in terms of Pirate supremacy. These past ten years have been below dismal and hard to bear, but if there was to be a Most Valuable Player throughout the decade, I give it to the fans of Pittsburgh. Yes we remain near dead last in terms of overall attendance year in and year out, but can you blame ‘em? With two championship sports team playing in the same city the Pirates have steadily declined in popularity, however the loyal fans remain. Whether they’re enjoying a $4 bleacher seat on a Sunday afternoon, listening to Bob Walk and Greg Brown on the radio while riding in the car, or raising the jolly roger in their own front yard after a Pirates win, the fans are here, anticipating the next 60’s and 70’s-esque decade. Until then I implore you to reflect on what was the 2000’s in Pittsburgh baseball lore. These fine players made us proud and actually gave us something to cheer about.

STARTING PITCHER: Zach Duke


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As the lone representative from the current Pirate squad, Zach Duke stumbles into the Ace role of the 2000’s. The hype surrounding Duke back around 2003 was unparalled with nearly every publication ranking him as the Pirates best pitching prospect in quite sometime. He arrived in 2005 and was everything the doctor ordered. Duke went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA. It looked like his reign was just beginning. However, since then Duke has not had a winning season and has been a mediocre pitcher compared to most in the league. Last year he went 11-16 with an ERA just over 4. Sad to say but it really was his best year since his rookie campaign. He has shown signs of improvements with his fastball and can really be a reliable starter. At just 26, he is still a major part of the Pirates future. There was talks of shopping him around this winter but expect to see him back

Honorable Menions: 1) Kip Wells, 2) Oliver Perez

CATCHER: Jason Kendall

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His trademark scowl and unique batting stance, Kendall was a staple of leadership for the Pirates. He had an image Pittsburghers ate up as he became an all time favorite in the hearts of fans. He hustled and bustled his way around the basepaths and was a brick wall behind the plate. He lacked power but always flirted around and above a .300 batting average. He was one of the longets tenured Pirates having been drafted in 1993 before being traded in 2004. He helped usher in PNC Park and lead hope for the future-a future that never came.

Honorable Mentions: 1) Ryan Doumit, 2) Cody Ross

 

 

FIRST BASEMAN: Craig Wilson

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Probably more famous for his long golden locks of hair than his play on the field, Wilson was a hard-nosed reliable players. Yeah he struck out a lot, 427 times in five seasons in Pittsburgh, but he was a power threat in the lineup (a rarity for the black and gold). Wilson had a monster year at the plate in 2004. The California Crusher belted a career high 29 homers and drove in 82 RBI. He also had 148 hits in that year. He always hit around 15 home runs a year and was versitile having played the outfield and 1B as well.

Honorable Mentions: 1) Adam LaRoche, 2) Sean Casey

SECOND BASEMAN: Freddy Sanchez

freddy-sanchez.jpgOne of the most likeable guys to ever don a Pirates jersey, Sanchez played his heart out everytime he stepped on the field. He is a talented fielder and a star at the plate. He very well could be one of the most well rounded second basemen of the decade in the whole league. Coming over from Boston via trade in 2004, he was a relatively unknown prospect but said to have decent potential. He surely exceeded expectations in 2005 when he stepped right in and batted .291 in his first full season in the league. From there Sanchez took Pirates fan on the ride of their lives. The very next year Sanchez took home the National League batting crown hitting .344. He struggle din his last year as a Pirate but he still has some good years left in San Fran.

Honorable Mentions: 1) Jose Castillo, 2) Pokey Reese

THIRD BASEMAN: Aramis Ramirez

aramis ramirez.jpgOften times criticized, often times praised, Ramirez never could quite find his niche in Pittsburgh. It never did stop him from putting up good numbers. Coming into the league as a scrappy 19 year old in 1998, he was a major performer christening PNC Park in 2001. A-Ram went off batting .300 with 34 HRs and 100 RBI. It looked like the Pirates finally found an uprising star to build around. However he went through slumps the following year with just a 2.34 BA. His trade in 2003 to the Cubs was the first of many “salary dumps” fans would have to endure throughout the decade. 

Honorable Mentions: 1) Jose Hernandez, 2) Andy LaRoche

SHORTSTOP: Jack Wilson

 

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Jumpin’ Jack Flash. A name forever synonoumous with the Pittsburgh baseball club. Words simply cannot describe Wilson’s effort, desire and heart. Game in-game out it always was expected to see his uniform dirty. Wilson had tremedous range at SS. Turn on Baseball Tonight and Wilson is seen on Web Gems with his tremendous glove work. Kendall may have been a clubhouse leader at the beginning of the decade but this was Wilson’s team during the waning years. His production is underrated amongst the entire league. He wasn’t the best at the plate with a career .269 but he could do everything asked of him. His presecence was always missed in the lineup when he was injured and now no longer part of the Pirates, he simply can never be replaced. Honorable Mentions: NONE

LEFT FIELDER: Brian Giles

brian giles.jpgNamed to the All-Decade MLB team for a reason, Giles patrols LF for the Pirate’s decade team as well. A dead heat between him and Jason Bay, Giles gets the upper hand due to statistical better seasons with the Pirates. Bay is surely the better player-post Pittsburgh and may have been in the black and gold as well. However, numbers don’t lie and Giles had some of the best out of any Pirates player ever. Four straight seasons of 30+ home runs, three straight .300 batting average season-unheard of numbers for a Pirate. But the best decision the Pirates made during the decade was trading Giles for Bay and Oliver Perez.

Honorable Mentions: 1) Jason Bay, 2) Nyjer Morgan

CENTER FIELDER: Nate McLouth

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An all star and a gold glover, Nate truly was Great during his four and a half year tenure in Pittsburgh. McLouth was used as a bench player primarily in his first two seasons, he just needed a bit of playing time to show he truly belonged. He was a speedy center fielder who played impeccable defense and was rewarded with the gold glove following the 2008 season. 2008 was really his attention grabbing campaign. McLouth knocked 21 home runs and batted a solid .276. The power shown surprised many fans and notched him a spot on the National League All Star team. In the game he threw out Dioneer Navarro at the plate and his arm surprised the baseball world. He ended up racking up good numbers for the year finishing up in Atlanta in 2009 after hitting nine homeruns in 45 games in Pittsburgh.

Honorable Mention: 1) Andrew McCutchen, 2) Tike Redman

RIGHT FIELDER: Reggie Sanders

reggie sanders.jpgThough he played just one season in Pittsburgh, Sanders patrolled the gaping hole that is RF for the Pirates masterfully. It has been tough to find a solid player to be a right fielder for the Pirates, but Sanders brought fanfare in 2003. He was an off season acquisition along with Kenny Lofton. These two aging vets breathed a new life into the club and brought greater attention to the team. Playing 130 games Sanders hit 31 home runs and hit for a .281 batting average. He had quite the high OPS at .912 and was a threat at the plate at any given time. What really sets Sanders in a class of his own is his own poise. He was a great guy off the field. Having only been in Pittsburgh one season, you would have assumed he was a local citizen all his life.

Honorable Mentions: 1) Xavier Nady, 2) John Vander Wal

RELIEF PITCHER: Mike Williams

mike williams.jpgThe “Cardiac Kid” played with fan’s emotions for five years as a Pirate. He was a reliable closer, but seemed to take forever in mowing down the last three outs of a ball game. It wa sthe way he worked giving up doubles, walking batters, loading the bases. It all came together as a whole mismatch, but he eventually would get the job done. He had two tenures as a Pirate, 1998-2000 and 2002-2003. In 2002 he went down in the Pittsburgh record books with 46 saves in a season, a team record. The flamboyant Virginia Tech grad was infamous for snubbing West Virgnia fans hunting for autographs.

Honorable Mentions: 1) Matt Capps, 2) Mike Fetters

Yep, there ya have it. Some players you have heard of, some you have not. They all do have one thing in common, none of them ever gave the Pirates a winning season. A few of them played together but still couldn’t get the job done. It is hard to tell whether or not this starting lineup would compile a competitve team with a shot at the playoffs, let alone a .500 season. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Twas the days before Christmas

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                    Twas the days before Christmas and all through Youngstown,
                                    I was all too excited, no need to frown
                              You see December 25th is my favorite Holiday
                    The food, family and gifts, I wouldn’t have it any other way
                    Yep I am home for the Holidays, it is such a great feeling
                        Done are the stresses of school, finals and reading
                                   
                                       Being home means a lot of things
                       
prechristmas 007.JPGSeeing everybody who loves me makes my bells ring
On my first day back we took a trip to Cleve-land
Not my favorite city but the reason was grand
West Virginia was taking on CSU in a game of basketball
We jumped on the chance, through the snow and made the hour crawl
The Vikings had my Mountaineers on the ropes
But seeing the sea of gold and blue pride was pretty dope.

Thumbnail image for prechristmas 023.JPG                    From the game we drove to a Cleveland Christmas tradition
                No we did not go to Lake Erie, for it was too cold for ice fishin’
                                Instead we made the drive to 11th street
                        Home of an age old movie-which is really a treat.
                         I’m sure you are familiar with “A Christmas Story”
                            Ralphie, the BB gun, the lamp, all so adoring.
   

Thumbnail image for prechristmas 012.JPGachristmassroty.jpgThe movie was filmed here some year ago
Retracing the steps of the characters made me go ho-ho-ho
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Our Christmas journey didn’t stop there
We went to Sharon, PA  where the spirit is not bare.
Another of my favorite traditions are the scenes of the season
Kraynaks is a classic store, in business for the right reasons.
anelf.jpg                            You can see Christmas windows full of Holiday cheer
                                        Santas, elves, bears and reindeer
                        Of course the reason for the season is a baby born today
                                Here they remind us why we celebrate this way.
anativity.jpg
ablackandgold.jpgUpon leaving I ran into this sign of beauty
A black and gold tree-made me want to shout                 “Lets Go Bucs” loudly.

        The break has started off
great

     with just a few days left I will celebrate

                                          I wish you all the Merriest of days
                                        Merry Christmas and happy Holidays!

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Top 100 Players of the Decade

Rob Neyer of ESPN.com recently released a list of the top 100 baseball players of the past decade.

The list can be found here:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?id=4740695

I firmly believe this decade from 2000-til now has been one that was blessed with great baseball talent. Whether or not it was all natural talent remains to be seen but the domination of both pitchers and hitters reigned supreme.

Albert Pujols came in on the list at number one. No surprise there as “Albert the Great” may just become the player of the century if he keeps up his monumental efforts on the diamond.

There weren’t all that many names that really jump out at you. The A-Rod’s, the Ichiro’s the Guerrero’s are all solidified and rightfully so. Mostly dominated with American League Players this list still has a balance of power.

Roy Halladay, clad in his new Philadelphia red, is the first pitcher ranked on the list; he is enrolled at number 9.

Most of the players are still in baseball which should be assumed. A long career usually equals a greater longetivity of success.

It was not shocking that no current Pirates were on the list. Let’s face it Andrew McCutchen grew up ideolizing most of these players, a rookie is still lightyears from making a name for himself. Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke and Brandon Moss don’t fit the bill either. It is safe to say no current Pirate may even make the top 100 fantasy stars of 2010 either.

It was pleasant to see a trio of former Pirates nestled inside the top 100.

Aram.jpg Aramis Ramirez at No. 76. He surely hit his prime in Chicago but still put up solid numbers when he began his career in Pittsburgh. He hit a rut after 3 or so mediocre years after being injured chargin the mound after being hit by a pitch.

The trade of A-Ram shocked me and Pirates fans to the core. We realized his potential and couldn’t believe he would be shipped off. It did free up alot of money for the club, but yet nothing rewarding has come from the salary dump.

He is becoming a strong 3rd baseman, maybe one of the best in the league.

 

briangiles.jpgBrian Giles, maybe one of my top 5 Pirates of all time came onto the list at 54. Pretty awesome to see him that high, although I do not think he deserves the ranking.

He has always been underrated in my eyes.  He’s been the ideal power hitter driving out 30 homeruns and 100 RBI. He hit for average hovering around .300. 

His fielding was top notch and I do think he deserved a Gold Glove. I congratulate Brian on this achievement. San Diego never got to see the Giles I adored but he was still a solid role player.

 

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The cream of the crop comes in at number 3. Barry Bonds indeed. Where do I start with this guy? First off, I’m not a hater. Barry did wonders for the game of baseball. He absolutely, single-handedly had the biggest impact on the MLB this decade.

The scandals, the steroid allegations, the homeruns-he captivated a nation as some cheered and others jeered.

I will go into another rant in my next post about Mr. Bonds. I feel it is necessary to give a farewell tribute considering he formally retired from the game last week.

Bonds is deserving of the 3rd spot. ANy other generation he may be number one. His power is and will forever be unmatched.

 

 

 

 

Well there ya have it. Check the list yourself. See if some of your favorite players made the cut.

 

Sinking deeper and deeper into irrelevancy

I want what is best for my Pittsburgh Pirates. I’ve been here long enough and continue to support my favorite baseball team through the thick and thin. Over the weekend the Pirates announced they would non tender pitchers Phil Dumatrait and Matt Capps. Not that I totally support the decision but hey, maybe it is the right move. Dumatrait was injured all of last year and never really amounted to anything but a 5th starter or maybe a middle of the road reliever in the year before. The real kicker about this news is the loss of closer Matt Capps.

mattcapps.jpgCapps was a great guy and a joy to watch for the past five years. He was built from the ground up in the Pirates organization and did quite well in his time in Pittsburgh. He struggled last year, surrendering 12 home runs in just 54 innings pitched. He blew five saves but was still able to establish a career high in the SV department registering 27. Prior to last season Capps was regarded as one of the best closers in all of baseball. His 0.97 WHIP was among the leagues best and his speed pitches and accuracy were a thing of beauty. He only walked five batters in all of 2008 and in 2007 struck out 64 batters in a matter of 79 innings. He was indeed a “Big Bull Rider” and a force on the mound.

Now I never think one bad year can define a career for anybody in sports, baseball especially, a reliever especially as well. Coming out of the bullpen has to be one of the most overlooked aspects of the game of baseball. The tense warmup and spur of the moment action must be hard to jump into with every single fan expecting you to mow down each batter your facing.

The untimely, de-facto release of Capps sent shockwaves down the backs of most Pirate fans. Capps has been trade bait for quite some time and it painned the pundits to see Capps walk without anything in return. That I do agree with-this I do not.

                        Cook: Who cares what Pirates do any

                        Monday, December 14, 2009
                        By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ron Cook is one of the best sports writers in Western, PA. I am a big fan of his and respect his work handling all sports buzz occuring in Pittsburgh. Hoping to one day become a “Ron Cook” of the journalism buisiness I take heed in the words he writer for one of the best newspapers in all of America. article in today’s paper.

Thumbnail image for postgazettepirates.jpg

I can only dream the headline read something like that, instead the article was one of despair, dissapointment and just plain apathy. Those three feelings are not uncommon between Pittsburgh Pirates “fans” in this area. To hear Ron Cook, a Pittsburgh sports columnist who has been around for the past three decades and a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, say this about my beloved baseball team isn’t as disheartening as I hope it would be. In fact he is actually right.

“I guess that’s what really ticks me off most, that the Pirates have become so irrelevant in our sporting consciousness. Baseball is such a beautiful game and we’re stuck with the worst franchise with the worst ownership in the sport. What did we do so wrong?”

He is spot on. WIth the success of the other sports teams in Pittsburgh, who is left to actually care about the Pirates? Cook continues to state the obvious with this next quote, really raising my concern about the most pressing need for this team.

“Teams all over baseball are looking for relief pitching. That includes the Pirates, who, after releasing Capps and left-hander Phil Dumatrait over the weekend, are looking at a bullpen next season of Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek and what other low-priced stiffs they can find to put out there. Good luck with that.

I know Capps isn’t Mariano Rivera, but it is incomprehensible how the Pirates can give away one of their few commodities without getting anything in return.”

Cook gets it, but does the Pirates front office? I would think so and GM Neil Huntington somewhat agrees.

He said a return for Capps to Pittsburgh really could happen, and Matt himself wouldn’t rule it out either. However if I’m Capps I would want to move on and be with a team who trusts me.

Capps will be missed. Ryan Doumit, having been through the departure of many other teammates was shocked by the decision. He told the Post-Gazette that Capps was reliable and “one of the best around.”

I just want somebody to know that these kind of moves are talked about and dissected withing the strong community that are Pittsburgh Pirates fans. I trust in a turnaround and wait for that day to come, sooner than later. Most people in Pittsburgh, like Ron Cook, are tired of their patience running out any longer.

“You might care if the team loses 115 games next season.

I don’t.

I stopped caring a long time ago.”

 

 

Move over Sidney, there’s a new Crosby in town

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And his name is Bobby.

The Pirates are reportedly close to signing infielder Bobby Crosby to a one year deal on Thursday. The 29 year old shortstop is a former Oakland A with an aresenal of talent hiding within him and six years of big league experience.

As the winter meetings come to a close and the biggest blockbuster officially landing on Wednesday (the 3-way trade of the Yankees, D-Backs and Tigers), it is safe to say this free agent pick up by Pittsburgh will be overlooked, not only by the baseball world, but in the Pittsburgh area as well.

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Theres no question that this guy is not only the most famous Crosby in Western Pennsylvania, but also the most recognizable sports figure in the Steel City in a number of decades. With the Steelers at 6-6 and on the verge of one of their worst seasons in recent history, Pittsburgh is a Hockeytown. Rightfully so, the Penguins are Stanley Cup Champs and with marketable players with such as Mr. Sidney Crosby in town, the Pens not only are a dream on the ice, they really win the hearts of the tween girls of the area.

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In my honest opinion, females are the driving force behind the economics and welfare of professional sports teams. That may be a stretch, in fact it is, but girls enjoy a good team and it doesn’t hurt to have a few handsome players on that team. The Penguins have just that. It is amazing how many Steeler/Penguins shirts, hats, jerseys, jackets and other clothing items you see around the campus of West Virginia University. Any given day they sometimes out number the old gold and blue of the hometown Mountaineers. A majority of the people donning the black and gold of the professional teams of Pittsburgh are girls. It is because they are good and have these marketable players. I can count on one hand the number of Pirates paraphernalia I have seen in the past few years here in Morgantown. It is not many at all, mostly because of the irrelevant nature of my beloved Bucs and because the players are just not that marketable-yet.

The Pirates will be a better team. Maybe not in 2010 but by 2011 they should have a developing young core of guys that will make a push for the playoffs. Once the girls of the metropolitan area catch on, Pirates fever will begin to rank right up there with the recent surge of the Pens. Call me a wishful thinker but if the Pirates flirt with .500 this year and maybe, just maybe make a run at the playoffs Bobby Crosby will be reason for that overdue change of pace.

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He may not have had the greatest year in 2009. In fact he didn’t at all. Being paid over 5 million dollars to hit just above .230 and only knock out six home runs is never acceptable, even for a former Rookie of the Year. In 2004, Crosby earned that award when he hit 22 home runs and carried a .981 fielding percentage. SInce that year he has had a sharp decline in his numbers all around but maybe the six year vet just needs a change of scenery to get things back on track.

He will only be signed for one year at 1.5 million dollars. In no way will he be a starter, but a relaible option of the bench and an ideal utility infielder. Last year he made a majority of his starts at first base surprisingly but he is a natural shortstop. He adds to the expanding depth in the infield as he joins Delwyn Young, Neil Walker and Ramon Vazquez on the bench filling in for Andy LaRoche, Ronny Cedeno and Akinori Iwamura.
Personally I like this signing. It is low risk and worth the 1.5 million for a solid utility guy. For some reason I get a good vibe from he, though just a backup I feel he will give the team a different kind of spark and catch the attention of ladies if, and thats a big, IF, the Pirates catch fire in 2010.

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