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
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
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
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
One 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
Often 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
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
Named 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
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
Though 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
The “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.
Three “Baseball Tonight” web gems, one of which was by the guy above Andy LaRoche, was not enough to keep the Pirates in the game. Ronny Cedeno’s backhanded grab and diving double play didn’t allow Pittsburgh to put runs on the board. They fell to Washington 8-4. It is tough to swallow a loss like this. One because it was the Nationals, two because it was the Nationals, and three BECAUSE IT WAS THE NATIONALS!
Sorry, but its true. Even though most normal fans would say, “Matt come on its the PIRATES.” But the Bucs had no business losing this game. The bullpen faltered and gave up 4 runs after following starter Charlie Morton. Morton pitched pretty well through 5 innings of work. He shut out the Nationals and struck out 2 batters. The straw that broke the Camel’s back came in the sixth when Adam Dunn belted a homerun. It was tough to swallow and the runs kept coming from hits and a triple by Christian Guzman. It made me very upset to see Charlie let picthes get away from him. After meeting him in Arizona I really have admired his attitude and I know he has it in him to go out and do a solid job night in and night out. I’ll still be rooting hard for him, I just hope the stuffs there longer in the game next time he goes out. The following inning the bullpen came in to give up 4 runs as well. A homerun by Ryan Zimmerman headlined the inning follwed by a bunch of small ball that gave the Nats a good sized lead.
The Bucs offense is not off the hook here either. What started out as a promising game turned ugly and filled with goose-eggs. Andrew McCutchen struck again leading off the first inning with a homerun. He now has 7 on the year and is 2nd on the team with homeruns. It’s great to see that his 3-homerun night was not a fluke and he does have some power built inside.
Its a great seeing this sight. The 1-2 punch of McCutchen and Milledge is a match made in heaven. Kind of like and M&M, no pun intended. The charisma they have and established chemistry is great in the clubhouse and at the top of the lineup. Although Milledge did not see the basepaths this game and was 0-5 he still has what the Bucs need. This was the only game Lastings has played in for Pittsburgh without collecting a hit. His failure to reach base may have been a reason for the Bucs failure to put more runs on the board but the rest of the lineup is not off the hook.
3 runs were scored in the first inning and it looked like they were set up nicely to cruise for the W. Steve Pearce, Garrett Jones, Ryan Doumit, set up runs and Delwyn Young scarificed a run in. The rest of the game was dull as the Pirates couldn’t score a run until the bottom of the ninth when Doumit doubled in a run.
On top of Milledge’s o-fer, Ronny Cedeno and Delwyn Young were as well. Ryan Doumit really needed this game to turn his game around. He did not get a hit in the first 3 games of the series. Tonight he was 3-5 with a run and RBI. From the cleanup spot he needs production and he showed it tonight. If he can turn things around quickly and recover from his early season injury he will be a coveted player at the catching position.
The Pirates finished off this series splitting four games with Washington. They start right back up tomorrow hosting the Diamondbacks. I will be attending this game and am very excited to do so. Its kind of funny that of the last three MLB games I’ve been too, the D-Backs have been involved. (Arizona was in Colorado when I was there, at home in Chase Field when I was there, and now here in Pittsburgh.) It is safe to say they are quite familiar. I just hope this result is a little different. The Diamondbacks took 3 of 4 from the Pirates out in the Grand Canyon State.
Tonight, I leave with a great quote from a great player.
“I loved the city of Pittsburgh,” Sanchez said. “I loved going to the ballpark every day and playing for those fans. They’ll always have a special place in my heart for the support they showed after I won that batting title.
“That’s a baseball town in my eyes. I hope all the trades work out, because they deserve a winner there. I’m sure it’s hard for them right now, but I’ll always be watching to see how they’re doing.”
This quote was taken from an ESPN.com article by Jerry Crasnick. It’s greta to see Freddy speaking with such admiration and understanding. I still wish him the best even though he is 3,000 miles away. It does however pain me to see this….
After a mediocre Home Run Derby took place in St. Louis last night. Sorry to offend Prince Fielder. He had a great showing and earned the win no doubt.
“Cecil’s son is crowned Prince.”
A good way to sum it up and a great journalistic touch. Too bad he is a history major, but nonetheless it would have been a great newspaper headline.
Tonights game is sure to be a doosy. The Nl is due for a win, and I truly believe that the National League will pull it off. Lincecum and Halladay will duke it out and have a showdown for teh ages. Although they both will probably be in the game for a mere 2 or 3 innings I’m predicted a handful of strikeouts from each of them.
I’m ready for Jason Bay to have a big game. This will be the second time he will be starting an All-Star game. He did so in 2006 in Pittsburgh and notched a hit. This year in his first ASG as a Red Sock I think he will collect 2 hits, one of them being an RBI double. While I will be watching the game in my favorite Bar and Grille, Jeremiah Bullfrogs. It is a cool place to watch a sporting event with 25 plasma screen TVs and surround sound it will be a great atmosphere. Paying homage to Bay I will be wearing my “Bay” Red Sox shirt. While I feel I techniquely have to cheer for the National League (because of the Pirates) I will be rooting for Bay.
By predicting that the NL will win I have to give a prediction for MVP. At the plate, in playing in front of his home crowd Albert Pujols is going to have a day. He was a bit of a dissapointment in the HR derby. But he will turn things around tonight and will go deep. The crowd will set into a frenzy and rivaling the Disco Demolition of Chicago in 1979, the crowd will go insane. Pujols will go 3-3 with a homer and 2 singles.
Throwing out the first pitch will be a familiar face, our commander and chief, Barack Obama.
Obama will have his arm warm and ready delievering a perfect strike to the catcher. I’m sure those in attendance will give the Pres a warm ovation.
Now onto two guys that will provide me with pride for the evening.
Freddy and Zach are the two representatives from the Bucs. While Freddy will probably get an inning or 2 of playing time I do not think Zach will get into the game. Honestly, I do not feel he deserves to be here in the first place. He is replacing the injured Matt Cain. Duke has a mediocre 8-8 record but has performed well. If he had some health from the offense his record would look alot better. I bet these two had a great week in St. Louis and I know I will be looking for them throughout the game.
As batting practice is occuring on the TV behind me I’m heading out to the restraunt ready for an exciting night of baseball.
GO NATIONAL LEAGUE
GO MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER…21-24
Freddy Sanchez went bonkers at the plate going 6-6 with 3 RBI and a homerun. Nate McLouth added a homerun as well and the Pirates beat the Cubs 10-8 at Wrigley. Andy LaRoche also enjoyed contributing to the offensive explosion. He now has a ten game hitting streak with his 3-hit performance on Memorial day.
Paul Maholm started the game for Pittsburgh but Tom Gorzelanny picked up the win. Sean Burnett earned his first career Major League save. Long overdue for a guy who was supposed to be a cornerstone to the Bucs future pitching staff way back in 2003. He only was given the reins last night after Matt Capps was struck with a Geovanny Soto line drive. Capps was pulled from the game and taken to teh hospital for X-rays, they came back negative. (GOOD SIGN).
Just like the rest of the Major League Baseball team the Pirates took part in Memorial Day festivities.
By adorning the red caps the Bucs did not match at all. The ***** Eye for the Straight Guy folks would have a field day making over this uniform combination. But what matters is that those who fought to serve our country were honored. I for one really like the hate. I’m a sucker for flashy hats and that one that Jack Wilson is wearing in the picture to teh right is just that-flashy. I may have to take a trip to the mall and hit up Lids. It would go well for my summer wardrobe, plus it would come in handy come 4th of July.
The Pirates weren’t the only ones in the patriotic spirit yesterday.
Although he was the “Southside Slugger” in rocky 3, Clubber Lang appaered on the other side of town. The beloved Mr. T was on hand decked out in perfect Red White and Blue attire to throw out the first pitch in the ballgame. Still looking buff-minus the earings he delievered a perfect strike across the plate.
5…5 WINS…5 WINS IN A ROW!
It was a pitcher’s duel throughout the course of nine innings but the Bucs pull off another win, 2-1 over the Nats.
The Bucs played small ball to move rnners over with Delwyn Young, Freddy Sanchez and Nate McClouth all collected singles in the last frame. The offense was not there for the Pirates or the Nationals all game. Pittsburgh left 13 men on base, 9 times out of ten you lose a game when you leave that many on base. Thank goodness for John Russel’s crew, they were playing Washington.
The Nats are losing by the pound these days. Alot of the blame needs to be placed on their atrocouis bullpen. The Nats pen is 1-15 when givin the opportunity to win a game. John Hanarahan picked up the L for the Nats yesterday. An era of 6.97 and an 0-2 record just won’t cut it if you’re trying to win ballgames.
The losing tendency is wearing off an outfielder Adam Dunn. The offseason acquisition must really be rethinking signing with the club.
“I’m tired of talking about losses, period,” he said.
“You can only say the same thing over and over and over before you get fed up with it, and that’s kind of what’s going on right now.”
The opposite feeling is abounding over at the Pirates camp.
“It’s unbelievable. You can just feel the electricity in the clubhouse,” John Grabow said after he picked up his second win of the season to remain undefeated. “It’s so awesome knowing that when you win, how much it changes the mood. Everybody’s a lot more confident. When you come to the field and you’re expecting a win, it makes all the difference.”
With the Buc’s on a brink of a 4-game sweep. Fans are ready but quite hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. The brroms will surely be out in the capital tonight. From watching the series on FSN Pittsburgh there seems to be a large contingency of “Burghers cheering on the Bucs at National’s Park. The drive to D.C. is not very far and fans must be taking advantage of the short trip to take in a game as well as a history lesson about America.
Posters on the Pirates message board on piratec.com claim that a large population from the Steel City migrated to the east for work in the latter part of teh ’70s. After being in Baltimore myself last year for an Orioles-Pirates game I can definately agree. There were many many Buccos fans joining me to cheer on the Pirates. It’s laways nice seein us Pittsburgh fans invading another teams stdium. We surely get enough of them at PNC Park in the summer when Cardinals, Cubs and Philies fans invade the Park.
OH and by the way…
RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER…19-21
QUOTE CREDIT: espn.com/AP report
Another great night a PNC Park….
RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER…8-6
It was another tiny crowd, in fact my brother’s soccer game drew more people. The announced paid attendance of over 9,000 was so inaccurate. I’d say abou 3,000 people actually came through the gates last night. WIth the Pens game going on at the exact same time, and the weather conditions less than ideal there are some valid excuses for not turning out. But come on, ITS A MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL GAME!. The Pirates are playing great baseball. Freddy Sanchez is on a tear, briging his average up to .367, it looks like we’re getting back the Freddy of old. His 3 hits last night, including a solo homerun paced the Bucs and ultimately concluded the game with the 3-2 win over the best team in baseball, the Florida Marlins.
Our starting pitching was on the ball once again. Jeff Karstens had a quality start going 6 innings only allowing 3 hits and one run. OUr bullpen was shaky however. Tyler Yates came in and gave up a home run to Cameron Maybin. It was a deep shot into the second deck of the bleachers in left field, right over my head. In fact it was the first home run hit into “MORGANTOWN”. In honor of left fielder Nyjer Morgan me and my buddies made a sign that simply said Morgantown. We hung it over the railing in left field, chanted “Nyjer Morgan” (like the bleacher creatures in Yankee Stadium), and “Welcome to Morgantown”. He got a big kick out of it, and threw us ball he was warming up with. The people around us enjoyed it too chanting right along with us. Its also kind of punnny becuase as students of WVU we’re resients of Morgantown, WV. Just another catchy reason to do it in the first place. The sign is good in Pittsburgh as well as on campus in Morgantown. Look for “Morgantown” at many games throught this season, the city is always growing and can use more residents too!
Kip saw his first action in the major leagues this year on Monday. The now reliever for the Nationals threw one full inning only walking one batter. He shut down the next three in order. While he was only out there for an inning the Nats picked up the win 3-2 over the Braves
2008: BA=.318 HR=15 RBI=69
2009: BA- .285 HR= 22 RBI=95
2008: BA=.270 HR=25 RBI=85
2009: BA=.280 HR=27 RBI= 90
2008: BA= .271 HR= 9 RBI= 52
2009: BA= .268 HR=13 RBI=60
2008: BA= .152 HR= 3 RBI= 12
2009: BA= .270 HR= 17 RBI= 70
2008: BA= .272 HR= 1 RBI= 22
2009: BA= .248 HR= 8 RBI= 45
2008: BA= .294 HR= 0 RBI= 7
2009: BA= .250 HR= 4 RBI= 38
2008: BA= .276 HR= 26 RBI= 94
2009: BA= .270 HR= 18 RBI= 80
2008: BA=.222 HR= 6 RBI= 23
2009: BA=.240 HR= 17 RBI= 45
The one thing missing in this lineup is definitely the power. It will also be interesting to see how many of these penciled in starters will still have their jobs in tact come September. Morgan, Moss and An. LaRoche are the biggest liabilities at their respective positions. With top notch prospects and a solid bench knocking down the door, competition will be prevalent throughout the season. “Only the strong survive” Who will be the strong for the Buccos this season?