Results tagged ‘ John Russell ’

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?

Pittsburgh Broom Company

 

brooms.jpgThe. Pirates. Stink. I do not think there is a better way to put it.

Just like the smelly floors of a junior high locker room and the janitor that cleans it up the Pirates know a thing or two about being swept clean.

Pittsburgh will leave the Bay Area having fropped its past six games in which it was swept by the Rangers and most recently the A’s.

The Bucs have dropped 19 straight road games and have been swept 10 times this season, five alone in the month of June.

Sunday was the best opportunity for the Buccos to earn a win. Just like finding a winning season these past 17 years, it just was not meant to be.

kurt.jpgOakland defeated Pittsburgh after a Kurt Suzuki 8th run solo home run to eventually be the deciding blow in their 3-2 victory.

Suzuki is flying under the radar this year just as he has throughout his career. He connected for his tenth homerun of the year to accompany a .264 batting average. Along with a team leading .442 slugging percenatge compiled with 31 home runs Suzuki reaps great production as a catcher. He is among the best in the league and should recieve a call to travel down the Pacific Coast Highway to Anaheim for this year’s All-Star Game.

 

The whole weekend was completely dismal for the Pirates. On Friday they were destroyed   14-4 while losing second baseman Neil Walker to a concussion he suffered during a collision. He has had some time off but will not be placed on the disabled list.

I for one have never suffered a concussion. Rarely do I even get headaches, it is a wonder because it does run in my family. But I would defintely need as much rest as possible and would not feel like doing anything for days. I do think watching the Pirates play this weekend made Walker’s recovery time have to last a bit longer, probably made his head hurt a lot worse.

Saturday night was an absolute disgrace.

 

dancutch.jpgIt was a turn back the clock night as the Pirates paid tribute to their “We Are Family” days of the 1970’s. They did so by only tabbing five hits in a 5-0 shutout. The Pirates of 2010 disrespected the uniform worn by so many legends of the ’71 and ’79 World Champions. Willie Stargell had to be looking down on Oakland shaking his head.

The living legends who played in the black and gold during the glory days have to be embarrased to watch the team play today. Living legends like Phil Garner, Dave Parker and Omar Moreno have to be proud of their play for the Pirates and probably take pride in beautiful PNC Park, but to have a team that stands at 25-50 lose games so handily has to be detrimental to their spirits. If I was one of them I would demand change and demand it now.

The first step needs to be the firing of John Russell. 
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He’s been quite the head scratcher since he was called upon to replace Jim Tracy some three years ago. The expression you see on his face to the right really is permanently tatooed on his face. His indifferent attitude and questionable moves should be reason enough to get him out of the dugout.

The long standing cry has been to fire Russell because he fails to light a fire unde rhis team. Yes, that is surely true. Amongst reports that he can go weeks without talking to some players, it is the baseball mind of Russell that truly is his Achille’s Heel. With the oppotunity to have a Designated Hitter this past week Russell threw Milledge into right field, he would committ a handful of errors. Now Milledge should be an everyday player but when there is that opportunity to have a DH it is best to give him a break from the field and put a stronger fielder, Ryan Church or Delwyn Young into the nine-position. His use of the bullpen, particularly his choice of relief pitchers in certain situations brings out his lack of knowledge. Being a former big league catcher the game management skills of Russell should not be this poor.

Whatever the front office sees in their whipping boy that is Russell is beyond me. The Pirates will not even come close to the promised land of a .500 season this year but why not make a splash. Show the league and the 25 men on the team that you do care and get Russell out of here. Something needs to be done and it looks like the only thing would be to fire Russell.

photo credits: itsonthelist.com, espn.com, postgazette.com/AP, nbc.com

To retaliate or not to retaliate?

andrew mizuno.jpgIt is no question that Andrew McCutchen is the best player on the Pirate’s roster. He is a five tool player that also possess the leadership that this team crucially needs.

He led off Saturday’s game against the Dodgers putting the first run on the board, a solo shot in the first inning.

The blast was his 4th of the year and the homerun that brought him the most attention since last year’s 3-homer night at PNC Park.

As McCutchen was rounding second base he looked to give a little fist pump. There was no doubt he was excited as he is a fiery player who tends to show his emotions, a good thing in my opinion.

The Didgers did not think so. And neither did Pirates color analist Bob Walk. Walk, a former pitcher, said he was and would have been upset with McCutchen’s actions when he was a MLB starting pitcher and as a player today.

In the fifth inning Dodger’s relief pitcher, veteran Ramon Ortiz sent messages to Cutch. Not a message. Messages.

Two pitches brushed the back of McCutchen. Back to back pitches, no way they could have “gotten away” from Ortiz. The two pitches come after a pair of Bucco batters were plunked earlier in the game as well. After the at-bat McCutchen was visibly upset as he walked to the dugout jawing at the field and what looked like other teammates.

Pirates starting pitcher Zach Duke had an oppotunity to settle the score against Ortiz and the
duke.jpgDodgers. He went back on the hill and went back to work as usual. Even when Ortiz stepped to the plate, such a rare occurance for a relief pitcher, Duke did not come inside.

Now I am torn. Part of me thinks Duke and manager John Russell took the high road. They looked at this objectively and knew that throwing at Ortiz or any Dodger would be disrespectful and even childish.

However, if I was McCutchen I would feel betrayed. I would expect my teammates and my manager to stand up for me. He goes up there night in and night out and busts his butt for the team to apparently not be as appreciated or valued.

After the game when asked about the scenrio Duke said he “dropped the ball” in regards to not protecting McCutchen. Post-Gazette reporter Dejan Kovacevic reported that the mood was very somber and angry after this 5-1 loss to LA.

Outfielder Ryan Church seemed offended regarding the issue saying “It stinks. You don’t throw at somebody’s head.” Referring to McCutchen’s noggin.

Now when Duke was pulled from the game in favor of reliever Jack Taschner, he came in with a bang. The first batter he faced was Andre Eithier. The first pitch he threw sailed behind Eitheir. The dust settled there for the night.

The Pirates are now 10-15. They return home to face the Cubs. And I must go back to my finals studying.

photo credits: mizuno.com, AP-dodgers.scout.com

War is Over!

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So this is the Brewers

And what have you done?

Took two out of three

It sure was a lot of fun.

Thank you John and Yoko, a great song for a great series.

The Pirates defeated the Brewers ending a 22 game losing streak in Milwaukee on Tuesday with a 7-3 victory.

The man of the hour looked to be Trevor Hoffman.
 

“Hells Bells” resounded and chants of “It’s Trevor Time” could be heard around Miller Park. After all, the MLB saves leader deserves an ovation like that.

Ryan Doumit must have took offense to the fanfare as he took matters into his own hands.
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Hoffman checked into the game with a 3-2 lead. Ronny Cedeno got under his skin launching a solo home run.

A few batters later, with the bases loaded Doumit jacked a grand slam deep into the second deck over the right field wall. That sealed the deal and ended the torment.

It never seemed like it would come.

The series began right where it left off in Pittsburgh following that 20-0 history making contest.
Pittsburgh fell 17-3. It was just an ugly game, something Pirates fans have been used to this past week.

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On a play at the plate that Gregg Zaun was clearly safe, manager John Russell got his butt of the bench for the first time in quite some time. Originally I believed Doumit made the tag and Zaun was out. Russell obviously did not get to see the replay multiple times like I did at one of Morgantown’s famed bars, the Boston Beanery. I was glad to see Russell defending his players and actually talking during a game. He looks like he is going to fall asleep at any time and also can hardly be heard during post game interviews. WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins is the same way in the interviews. A very low talker who is quite soft spoken and talks in “coach speak.” However, Huggins is the most in your face, smash mouthed coach in any sport. Russell needs some lessons from Huggy Bear.

The rubber match on Thursday was big. A win by the Pirates would actually tie the Brewers for fourth place in the Central. Now it is quite an accomplishment considering the beat down the Brewers have laid on the Bucs.

Welcome to fourth place boys!
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Andrew McCutchen teed off for a pair of homeruns and Andy LaRoche kept his big bat hot with a homerun and two hits of his own.

The marathon game went to the 14th inning. It should have been over way before that.

Hoffman came in again. Blew it again. Without saying, Pirates closer Octavio Dotel forfeited his own save a few innings later.

After going hitless the entire game Garrett Jones drove in the winning run to cap off the win and take the series. A great series. There is nothing better than raising the Jolly Roger in Miller Park. After all it was 22 game since it last happened.

photo credits: AP/postgazette.com

March 2, 2010- a good day

From embarrassment to back on track the Pirates defeated the State College of Florida 6-1 on Tuesday afternoon. The embarrassment came last year as the community college defeated the Pirates. Yes, that really happened. Although obviously not the entire major league roster an MLB or even minor league club should handily beat any college team.

It did happen today.

There were a handful positives for Bucco fans steaming from the win today.

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1). It is the start of baseball season. What is better than seeing our boys take the field for an official organized game against competition.

 

 

 

 

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2). Pedro Alvarez very well could be the read deal. The “prodigy” went 3-for-4 with three straight hits including a solid double. If it is any sign of things to come, which I’m sure it is, Alavarez will be on a fast track to the hot corner in Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3). Donnie Veal-remember the name. Veal was a rule 5 pickup last offseason and is said to have killer potential. He was injured for a majority of the year in 2009 but showed promise in a depleted bullpen. He was a part of th Arizona Fall League and tore up the mound last Autumn. Today he went just one inning, but did not allow a hit and struck out a batter. He will begin the year in the Pirate bullpen, but has the talent to make a run at a rotation spot later on in the season.

 

The players in the lineup for the Bucs today were all minor league prospects who will not sniff the big leagues for a while. Alvarez and Jose Tabata are two of the exceptions. However, Brandon Moss too was in the lineup. Moss had a sensational game hitting a home run, but to be playing with these youngsters would have to be pretty demeaning if I were in his shoes. 

moss.jpg Moss has failed to live up to lofty expectations the past two seasons. It is questionable whether or not he will make the big league roster. He surely needs the work in AAA, but there is a fighting chance he will be the last bench spot. He will be in tight competition with Delwyn Young and another rule 5 acquistion, John Rayner. I personally hope Young is part of the opening day 25-man roster

 

 

There are two more reasons why today has been a good day.

Over the weekend I set out with some friends to the Morgantown Mall, anticipating a big purchase. I had my sights set on buying a new hat. I had bought a gray Pirates earlier this year but Saturday I really wanted to be unique with a new team. After much consideration and second guessing I left with this:

SF.jpgYes my friends a San Francisco Giants hat. Odd? Maybe. Unique? Indeed. It is something different and I like being a trend setter here. I have seen these on campus before, but it is very rare. I recieved about three compliments on my new cap and I am proud of my purchase.

Reson number three, last but not least is some big news.

After interviewing for an internship with the West Virginia Power minor league baseball team,
wv power.jpg class A of the Pirates, a few weeks ago I recieved a call back today. I was selected to be an intern. I am overjoyed at this opportunity as it will help further my career and give me a leg up in a field I hope to work in. There are still specifics that need to be worked out, I need some extra cash and a place to stay as the Power makes their home in Charleston, about a three hour drive from Morgantown.

I still have time to think it over, but good news is always welcome.

Everybody who has MLB Network should tune into it tomorrow at 1pm as the Pirates take on the Yankees. I do not pickup the station but my buddy’s girlfriend does. Manager John Russel has said both Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf will pitch in the opening game against NY. Get pumped! Because I am!

phot credits: sarasota.com, zimbio.com, bucsdugout.com, sportsillustrated.com, lids.com,    wowktv.com 

 

Pirates Caravan-Morgantown, WV

caravan.jpgIt was the moment I have been waiting for since the date was announced back in December. The Pirates Caravan rolled into Morgantown West Virginia to appease the 125 fans waiting for them at Damons. On top of having a great selection of barbecued items, Damons was gracious enough to host the Morgantown stop for the caravan.

The event began at noon, perfect timing for my 19 credit hour semester. I had a class at 9:30-11 and my next was not until 2:30. There was nothing greater than having my normal lunch break along side some of my favorite players. Manager John Russell, relievers Evan Meek and Kevin Hart, center fielder Andrew McCutchen and broadcasters Greg Brown and Bob Walk and the Pirate Parrot came to the event.

My buddy Andrew and I arrived at the restaurant ten minutes before noon and took our seats. We scouted the crowd and realized we were the only two college students among the fans. Weird considering Morgantown is a full fledged college town, but also understandable because this generation of Pirate fans really ceases to exist. I am of a rare breed and even Andrew (who is a die-hard Orioles fan) considers himself a bigger Pirate fan than most baseball fans in this area. I agree with him whole heartedly.

 

piratescaravan 007.jpgAs we dined on our pulled pork sandwiches we were joined by two familiar faces, fellow WVU students in the journalism school. Although I give them credit for being at the event they were self proclaimed “not Pirates fans.” However, they had a good time and admitted that they would follow along because they do support the Penguins and Steelers.

piratescaravan 008.jpgGreg Brown got the festivities under way by taking the mic and adressing those in attendance.

“Look at this sell out crowd!” he said in a joyous tone. I turned to Andrew and said, “He doesn’t get to say that very often” A reference to the infamous spotty crowds that PNC Park is accustomed to.

However, he got the ball rolling introducing Meek, Hart, McCutchen, Russell and Walk to us all. Each Bucco member gave a minute long introduction and expressed their gratitude along with aspirations for the coming season.

While everyone pretty much sugar coated how great the upcoming season is going to be it did give me up. Hearing John Russell speak is not the most exciting thing in the world. He speaks softly with a monotone voice and it really could put you to sleep. However, he did seem excited with an intimate group of fans in front of him, but still maintained the montotone clarity, or lack there of.

The crowd cheered the loudest for this guy.

 

piratescaravan 013.jpgNo, not Andrew, o wait, yes Andrew. McCutchen that is, not Schuerholz. When his name was announced there were hoops and hollers. Many questions were directed his way including one of my own. I asked a question opened to all on the panel but only Cutch answered. I asked, “Who was the most missed player traded last season?” A genral question without getting too in depth. I was more interested in what Russell had to say, but he did not answer. Meek was hurt most of last season and Hart came to Pittsburgh mid season by way of the Tom Gorzelanny/John Grabow to the Cubs trade. I did not expect them to form too tight of a relationship with the current Bucs. It was obvious that McCutchen said Nyjer Morgan, I knew it was coming. It was well documented back in Spring Training of 2009 that the duo were best buds and forming great chemistry that rubbed off on the rest of the team. I was happy when a large smile grew on Cutch’s face when talking about Morgan.

I ended up collecting many autographs which are displayed below.

 

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Evan Meek, Kevin Hart, Andrew McCutchen, Bob Walk, Greg Brown and John Russell all signed these beautiful picture cards. Each year I have been a Pirate fan these cards are passed out throughout the year. Usually they are just headshots of the players on a small sized card. This year has one of the best sets of these cards I have seen. The McCutchen pose is one of my favorites. He is thrusting his arm towards the air in celebration after one of his home runs.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Thumbnail image for piratescaravan 019.jpgThe shrine dedicated to McCutchen is one of my favorite. I had him autograph a ball on the sweet spot a picture card that was provided and the November issue of Baseball America which features Andrew on the cover, I had the card signed during a game at PNC Park earlier this year. 

It was an awesome hour and a half, we had a great time. This weekend I have another Pirates event coming my away. Pirates Fest is taking place in Pittsburgh, my WV buddies plan on going up Sunday. The event begins Friday night and concludes Sunday. Talk about an awesome Pirates week!

Here are some more photos from the day:

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The autograph line

 

 

 

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Andrew McCutchen and me. Too bad Andrew Schuerholz couldn’t have taken a better pitcture from a better angle.

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Announcer Greg Brown and myself posing for the camera. I explained to him about my journalism aspirations and that I hope to take his job someday. He was very encouraging and a down to earth fellow.

 

 

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The Pirate Parrot made an appearance and brought laughter to the party.

Thank you all for letting me share this experience with you all!

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