Results tagged ‘ James McDonald ’

Just like the chance of rain in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are threatening

By a show of hands, how many people check the weather reports first thing in the morning? 

Obviously I can’t see the response, but I’m certain a grand majority of you readers do. On any given night in the Pittsburgh area, rain is a common theme. I have to be sure to check, re-check and for good measure, check yet again on nights I anticipate going to PNC Park. Nearly every night has been at least a 40-60 percent chance of precipitation. In fact, two games I was all set to go to were rained out. 
My luck changed Saturday.
With a 60 percent chance of rain, 32,298 other people joined me in the stands to witness a  6-1 Pirates victory. 
It was my first win at PNC Park this season. 
The Pirates have taken notice as it jump started a three game winning streak, at home nonetheless. Each game has been relatively equivalent to each other with strong starting pitching, quick defense and clutch hitting late in the game. 
Charlie Morton went 7.2 innings with five strikeouts giving up just one run on Saturday.
James McDonald earned a career high eight strikeouts and let up three hits in 6 innings in a 5-4 win on Sunday.
Jeff Karstens continued the trend going 5.2 solid innings allowing just one run to set up a 4-1 victory on Monday. 
While Saturday was the only sure fire contest, Sunday and Monday were come from behind affairs. Ryan Doumit’s three-run blast set the Pirates ahead in the eighth inning in honor of Mothers Day. On Monday, also in the eighth, Neil Walker began a hit parade scoring Xavier Paul on an RBI double. Lyle Overbay followed suit with a RBI double of his own. To conclude the scoring, Doumit came through again. He ripped a double down the right field line scoring Overbay. 
The win put Pittsburgh at 18-17.
Yes, that is indeed a game over .500. 

Buccos hit the road

The Pirates took their show throughout the tri-state are of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia this past week. The region that I like to call “my home.” The Youngstown-Pittsburgh-Morgantown area is where I’ve grown up and have many memories throughout. 

I created a new one in Uniontown, PA on Monday. 
Buddies of mine took the quick, 20 minute trip from Morgantown up and were spooked by the odd nature of the city. I’ve been to Uniontown before but am always taken aback by the unique, but odd set up of the city. Its almost like a big crater is splashed in the middle of town and a cross section of one way roads make it disturbing to drive around. 
The event was held at the Uniontown Mall and was to start at 6:30 p.m. 
We arrived precisely at 6:30 and found that nearly 300 people beat us to the punch. 
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Bet you didn’t think Roberto Clemente would show up. The wait was actually enjoyable as its not often you find hundreds of people decked out in Bucco gear together in one place. Not just in January, its sparse in the middle of summer at PNC Park, too. In the line we mingled with other patrons sharing stories of memories at the park. Pirate fans are such a close knit community. However, you find three distinguished groups. The first being the die-hards. I have a blog. I am a die-hard. These also include people at the Caravan who know the players, can understand what the front office is doing in an attempt to get the Pittsburgh baseball train back on its tracks and the people who cheer for wins and success at games they attend, watch on TV and wins in off season moves. The second are fans. They really are. The Penguins and Steelers come first but they are loyal because its a sporting event in the city they love. These people are uneducated, but need to be appreciated, nonetheless. Thirdly are the imbeciles who take any opportunity to trash the Bucs and everything that has to do with baseball. There is no hope or willingness to believe that one day the Pirates will be respectable. 
I despise that third group, almost as much as the Phillies and the University of Pittsburgh-it runs deep. 
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Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.
As we approached the line, we were there for a little more over an hour, we were greeted by Tim Neverett.  
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The Pirates broadcaster has a beaming personality to go along with his booming set of pipes. We had a nice chat regarding West Virginia sports. I had seen him during WVU football season at the Mountaineers game against UNLV. I was in the press box covering the game for the school newspaper while he was up there for FSN West representing the UNLV broadcast. He also covers basketball games for Versus. Neverett also praised Morgantown and the university for having top-notch facilities and a warm, homey atmosphere. Always good to hear that from an outsider, I know its true and its great to be recognized. In fact, when in Morgantown for the caravan stop around lunch time they stopped at the football weight room and got in an afternoon workout. 
We finally got to the table where team members were signing autographs. Pitching coach Ray Searage had some very interesting stories to tell.

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He, too, has West Virginia ties. He went to college at West Liberty, a small school in Wheeling, WV. He obviously played baseball for the Hilltoppers and went on to have a thriving Major League career, most notably for the Brewers. Searage went on, in a very intimidating tone, to address his party days at the small school even going as far as saying “there were keggers every damn night!” now I go to a top five party school in WVU. We have never gone to Wheeling for a kegger. 
He really denounced any form of education and really seemed to enjoy chatting it up with some college aged kids. Maybe we brought him back to his glory days, too bad he didn’t offer to buy us a beer after the event. 
Now we got to the players.
I had James McDonald sign a photo taken at the season ticket holder shopping spree held in the Pirates clubhouse just a few days before Christmas. His game used jersey was for sale, I pickedit up, my brother got a picture of me holding it. When I presented it to him to be signed he was flabbergasted.
“How the heck you get a hold of this,” McDonald exclaimed. “I don’t even have one.”
The fun didn’t stop there.
Wearing my “Wiz Khalifa” gray and yellow bill hat, McDonald wanted a piece of it. In fact, he called it “too, too fresh.”
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He wanted to wear it. I let him.
PC9.jpgMcDonald even went as far as to pull out his camera phone and snap a pic of himself with my stylish cap. It fit him better than it fit me. In all honesty, it looked better on him than me. I said, “When you get your hands on your own game used jersey, let me know. I’ll trade you.” He didn’t like that very much. 
He really wants his game worn jersey.
Next guy up was Jeff Karstens. 
The picture with him came up a little blurry, so its not worth putting up. This is him anyway, you be the judge if it was worth putting up in the first place.
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Last, but not least, was the “Pittsburgh Kid,”
Neil Walker. Perhaps, the most famed Bucco currently on the roster, Walker is a hot commodity. A majority of the people at the Uniontown Mall were prepared with cards and photos of Walker while wearing his jersey. A notorious stand up guy Walker was everything and more. Complimentary to everyone who came out and honored by my congratulations to him.
He was recently engaged. 
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An excellent night was capped off by a superb Italian meal at a local Uniontown eatery. The fun doesn’t stop here as Friday night begins Pirate Fest in Pittsburgh. As always, stay posted for a post recapping what is sure to be an unforgettable night and follow twitter (@pittpeaswv) for updates from the event. 

Pirates cure the winter doldrums

While December remains the “most wonderful time of the year,” this week in January isn’t far behind. 

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A pair of events in the Pittsburgh region help promote baseball in a time when below zero wind chills, winter weather advisories and 4-6 inch of snow projections are the norm. Heck, especially here in the surrounding areas of the Steel City there are other things to combat around this time of year. Pittsburgh is going to the Super Bowl!
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I’m not complaining one bit. I’ve posted facebook and twitter statuses saying “love ‘em or hate ‘em, you got to respect ‘em. People need to rationally realize that the Steelers are achieving amazing things. Come February 6th I will have witnessed my NFL team in four super bowls, an astounding feat. Some people, die hard fans of many teams may never get to see one.
I feel bad, but I guess its all trumped by the Pirates. I will have cheered for more Super Bowls than Pirates winning seasons. Unbelievable. The first three years of my life the Pirates went to the playoffs and obviously had an above .500 record. I don;t remember it, nor should I, but every year since then baseball has been regressing in Pittsburgh. 
It’s a story that unfolds with every blog post I have ever written and it is all too details to re- hash so I will save everybody the trouble of my personal depression with Pirates baseball.
Any who, I’m pumped. The Caravan was in Morgantown, WV this afternoon but I chose to be a good college student and attend class instead of seeing pitchers James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, second baseman Neil Walker, announcer Tim Neverett and pitching coach Ray Searage. I do get a second chance this evening 20 minutes up the road in Uniontown, PA. The guys are making a stop at 6:30 p.m. to sign autographs and chat with fans. 
For those interested, or those that find themselves board later this Monday night I will be tweeting live from the event. Follow me on twitter @pittpeaswv, for all kinds of updates and exciting thoughts, exciting in my mind, at least.
Also, this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday Pirate Fest occurs. An indoor baseball carnival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, Pirate Fest is a yearly tradition and a very popular event, despite the lethargic fan base of baseball in the area. 
Following that Steelers win Sunday I am riding high. The Caravan and Fest will further fuel my joy and happiness and tells me the Pirates baseball is right around the corner. 
Maybe it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. 
photo credits: pirates.com, postgazette.com

Let’s run away and don’t ever look back

From the 2010 season.

sad.jpg57-105. Wow.

Andy LaRoche popped out in the top of the 9th to conclude one of the worst seasons in the Bucs storied 124 year history.

It’s hard to say there was much promise to be held in 2010, but no one expected it to be this bad.

General Manager Neil Huntington told Jennifer Langosch that “We are moving forward. And 2010 will be a much better year,” back in January.

In fact it was a gargantuan step back, six more losses than in 2009. I can’t help but feel cheated and lied to, but as sad as it is, I’m used to it.

There were dissapointments.

Aki Iwamura was expected to be a solid advancement as an everyday second baseman. That was an experiment gone wrong as Iwamura failed to sniff the Mendoza Line forcing a demotion to AAA eventually leading to an outright release.

The pitching was horrible, to say the least.

Losing 84 games the starting pitchers failed to put the team in a position to win a game. But its not like the offense was much better either.

Garret Jones led the team with 21 homers and 86 RBI, still very much lacking in the power department. The BUcs scored 587 runs and had a .242 batting average and .304 on-base percentage, 2nd lowest in the majors across those catergories.

Fingers can be pointed in many directions but I say it starts at the top.

JR.jpgJohn Russell is a disgrace as a manger. Tabulating a 186-299 record over three seasons he honest to goodness ranks in the top-ten worst managers of all time. Statistical evidence was provided by sports writer Joe Starkey. The face you see on the right side is indicative to his mood throughout the year. He is stone cold and provides little if any backbone to an already defalted team.

Rumors have circulated throughout the weekend that this is the end of Russell’s tenure in Pittsburgh.

The sooner the better.

Now Russell has not had much to work with in his three years as manager including a lineup that was never set in stone. Also with an influx of youngsters and an always changing roster it was hard to find stability. Actually, it wasn’t. Under Russell’s watch the only stability founded was in the L column.

There were so many negatives in 2010 but believe it or not there were positives.

Here are teh top three.

1. The calvary.

Established by post game show host Rocco DeMaro, the calvary describes the young Pirates that made their way into the big league lineup in 2010. The core includes Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata. This trio really has been something to give Pirate fans some sort of hope. All three are crowd favorites and for right reasons.

 

 

 

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  Alvarez has had a series of ups and downs. He has a potent bat, but also a high strikeout tendency. He did smack 16 homers but the real kicker is his astronomical OPS. He has a strong glove and striking arm. Fellas, he’s just 23.

 

 

 

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Walker and Tabata are carbon copies of each other. Each with speed and a strong bat they have staying power. Flirting with a .300 batting average throughout the course of their half-a-big league season the kids have a knack for getting on base. Walker is easily the new “Jack Wilson” of the team. Clubhouse leader and good guy. He is actually from Pittsburgh making the hometown hero legend a reality.

2. James McDonald

j-mac53.jpgIn a rotation strapped for pretty much everything nothing was more welcomed than the trade deadline acquisition of James McDonald.

Consider the fact that no Pirate starter had double digit wins but McDonald provided a little spark, even with his 4-6 record. McDonald went deep into games and actually put the offense in charge of coming through with something. He really was in charge and control of the mound. Barring an offseason addition to the rotation McDonald really does have ace potential.

 

 

 

 

3. The Fans

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What else do I have to say?

Did somebody say McDonald?

jmac1.jpgThey say first impressions mean everything.

James McDonald’s first impression with Pirates fans was as beautiful as his performance on the mound.

Pittsburgh defeated the Rockies 5-1 thanks in part to the Southern Califonia native’s stunning debut.

McDonald went six full innings allowing just four hits and one walk. The golden number for McDonald on Thursday was eight.

The newly acquired Bucco struck out the side to start the first inning. Came out firing in the second mowing down two more and at one point after facing just seven batters McDonald fanned six of them.

I was very excited to turn on FSN Pittsburgh to watch his debut. Las Angeles used him mostly as a reliever but the 25 year old has been fairly touted throughout his career as a future starter. I was proud of the Pirate’s decision to give him the starting nod and all who watched the game cheering for the black and gold were pleased as well.

jmac2.jpgWhile I was excited I was also nervous. Listening to the pre game show on TV McDonald seemed very timid and not sure of himself. He was very soft spoken and only talked in that “player speak” giving vague responses.

He let his pitching to the talking.

What is even more impressing is that his battery mate is also new to the club. It’s not like he was throwing to someone he was used to or somebody within the organization who is used to the ways and tendencies of PNC Park.

McDonald solidified himself as the Pirate’s ace with his masterful start tonight. He has earned a spot in a struggling rotation and has the potential to be the leader that trickles strong starts into other pitchers.

PHOTO CREDITS: Gene Puskar, espn.com

Trade Deadline Wrap Up

 

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Not quite Nomar, that title belongs to April and Opening Day. However, come July 31st I think it is safe to say it may be the most exciting.

Another Trade Deadline has come and gone. Heading into August I have a new feeling for the moves made by the Pirates. Joy.

Uncharacteristically the Pirates were not sellers at this trade deadline. But they were the farthest thing from being buyers as the team stands 20.5 games out of first place.

The moves the Pirates made were designed to swap talented players for relatively players of equal skill level.

The first move of the day sent bench players Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby and reliever D.J. Carrasco to the Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Chris Snyder.

chris_snyder_200707_ap.jpgSnyder doesn’t bring much to the table offensively. His .230 batting average is about 20 points lower than normal starting catcher for the Bucs Ryan Doumit. However, Snyder does have more pop with 10 HRs this season. He also has something Doumit infamously lacks, a glove. Snyder has a .career .998 fielding percenatge. That is the most welcomed aspect from the deal. Doumit is widely regarded as “No-Mitt” a clever play on his last name and it surely is true. Pittsburgh has tried to position Doumit at first base on occasions just to take back some of the grunt work of being a major league catcher. That was an experiment gone wrong as Doumit was just as grim at first as he is behind the plate. Doumit is currently on the Disabled List. I anticipate Snyder will get the starting nod and will remain in that capacity even when Doumit returns to the clubhouse.

pedroc.jpgPittsburgh also landed minor leaguer Pedro Ciriaco. Look into those eyes, this shortstop looks intimidating and I think I’m going to like it. Ciriaco is probably light years away from the big leagues but he is servicable at the position. He has a respectable average hitting right around the .270 mark. He could make a run at shortstop in a few years. The organization is relatively weak at short in terms of future talent.

Deal two came a few hours later and probably made the biggest splash among fans of both organizations.

The Pirates recieved relief pitcher James McDonald an 21-year old minor league outfielder Andrew Lambo. In order to recieve this pair the Pirates surrendered Octavio Dotel.

I was a big fan of Dotels and will be sad to see him go. He was rented out just for this season and probably was not going to be a Bucco in 2011. I guess it is the best thing to give him up and still get a solid return.

jamesmac.jpgMcDonald is long and lanky, much like myself. I don’t want to say I have followed his whole career, that would be a lie. However I have paid attention to what he has done throughout his relative short emergence out in LA. He is just 25 and still has plenty of time to develop into a solid big league player. He has shown flashes of excellence out of the bullpen but still has yet to be even the least bit respectable. I’m glad he is now in Pittsburgh, this will be a great chance for him to revive.

This Lambo guy may be the most intriguing of the bunch.

lambo.jpgI trolled the Dodger’s Message Boards to see reactions from their fans on the deal. Many were cintent with seeing McDonald go but the cost of trading Lambo seemed way too high for them.

I can see why they were disapointed.

Lambo is a highly regarded prospect coming out of the 4th round of the 2007 draft. This year in AA he has a solid .270 batting average and maintains a career average of .286. He draws comparrisons by some Pirate bloggers to current rightfielder Jose Tabata. Both players will hit for a high average and provided a spark at the top of the lineup. Tabata is currently riding a ten game hitting streak into tonight’s game at St. Louis.

The Pirates completed the day shipping another relief pitcher to the state of California.

Javier Lopez went to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Joe Martinez and outfielder John Bowker.

JoeMartinez.jpgThere is not much information out on Martinez. He is a career minor league pitcher and does have a shot at landing a major league position at some point. Any pitching is good pitching in my eyes.

bowker.jpgBowker may have the best shot of any player in the whole trade deadline package to make a legitimate impact. He can probably make the team right away but will have to earn a starting spot in the outfield. He has been milling around in the minors recently but does have experience in the majors. I like what he offers. He will push an already talented Bucco outfield for playing time.

There you have the new faces of the freshest crop of players in the Pirates organizaton. Last year the influx of trades made left fans with a wait and see attitude. This year we have a lot of the pieces needed for success and we can watch them develop keenly.

In years past the masses of Pittsburgh have bellyached about the trades made by the Pirates. This year should please everybody. Much of the bullpen was traded away and it was the Buc’s strongest suit. All players from the pen will be replaced and replaced fairly easily. I’m proud of Neil Huntington for making these level headed moves.

Phot Credits: boston.com, beat.bodoglife.com, sbnation.com, latimes.com, baseballbeginnings.com, leftysportsacademy.com, espn.com

 

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