If you were anything like me growing up there was always a few days throughout the year that we looked forward to most. Christmas, Birthdays and Opening Day go without saying, but there was always a time, usually in mid-January, when Youngstown, OH would get a little nutty. The world famous Harlem Globetrotters would pay a visit to YSU’s Beeghly for their famous act.
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.
Since the Pirates are faltering at an alarming rate (they fell 10-1 to the Rockies yesterday only managing 3 hits) I really need another team to support. Not saying I’m dismissing the Bucs, no not at all. I just need a team to root for. I’m not going out and spending money on jerseys, shirts and memorabilia. I’m just saying I would like to find a team in the American League that I can kind of call my own.
I do like other teams. After being to 25 MLB teams home games there are al ot of teams I like. The Rays are one (because come on-who doesnt like the Rays since their Cinderella story of last year). I like the Giants because of the beautiful city of San Francisco and the ballpark is top notch. I own a Red Sox shirt, only because it is Jason Bay-my all-time favorite player. And I also like the Tigers and Twins. Mostly because they are AL Central rivals of my least favorite team, the Indians.
But I want a claer cut-this is my team American League club. After much thought and consideration I’ve decided on the….
I’ve never been to Seattle and Safeco Field is one of the only five teams that I have not seen at their home field. The mariners have always been in the hunt for the playoffs, save for last year, and that is why I kind of enjoy their style of play. They lost 100 games last year and have gretaly improved to an above .500 record and an outside shot at making the playoffs. When the Pirates lose 100 games one season they may improve and only lose 80 some the next year. Thats is their idea of improvement.
Earlier in the summer for the WVU school newspaper The Daily Athenaeum asked four of the sports writers to come up with the most surprising teams of the first half of the season. I chose the Mariners because of their complete 180 turn around from a year ago. You can read my article, and see what my other colleagues had to say here.MARINERS ARTICLE
Now I wrote this article before the tradeline just when the Mariners caught my eye. After the trade dealine some of my heart flew to Seattle.
Were shipped off to the Space Needle City, sorry I’m not sure of its nickname. It was so sad to see them go. We all know how much I enjoyed Ian Snell. His style of play, fiery attitude, and down to earth comments made him my favorite Pirate. I bought his jersey and have many autographed items from him. When he fell from the good graces of Pirates fan this year I supported him and knew he could come back and become an MLB ballplayer. He has been decent in Seattle, except for last night when he was rocked for 5 runs by the Yankees. I still will always support him, wear the jersey and follow his whole career.
I took Jack Wilson for granted. He was a Pirate for nearly 9 years and showcased some of the best defensive skills in the game of baseball. He was so underrated by not only major league fans but the Pirates as well. Whenever he was out of the lineup, the Pirates truggled mightily. He was always the face of the organization and represented the Pirates everywhere he went. I’m sure he will be a fan favorite in Seattle as well. With all his communtiy involvement and fan friendliness the Mariner faithful better treat him well.
I can’t just let 2 of my favorite Buccos go without cheering for them every step of the way. All the Pirates that have been traded over the year are still always going to be favorite of mine. It just so happened that two of my beloeved Buccos wound up on the same team.
Good Luck Mariners, make up some ground. It will be tough without Adrain Beltre in the lineup, the injury of Erik Bedard and the trade of Jarrod Washburn have hurt. There is still time this season and even next year if they can reload and retian Jack for next year.
But as always…
LETS GO BUCS!
7:05– Bucco game starts. Excitement runs through my veins as another Philies-Pirates game begins. I enjoy this cross state rivalry and look forward to the games each year.
7:15- Pirate right fielder Garret Jones launches a home run to right field. I was skeptical of Jones at first. He never did intrigue me. He has since proven me wrong. Since his time in the big leagues he has connected with the ball well and been an asset in the outfield. He showed tonight that he has the power that the Pirates need.
7:18- Delwyn Young homers to left field. I love Young. He seems like a good guy with a nice personality and a good fit in the clubhouse. He brings a fire and passion to the team and always seems to get on base. A home run from him is always welcome.
7:48- Andrew McCutchen continues the trend and blasts an HR to left field. I had actually called this homerun. With Adam LaRoche on first I was ready for him to score. I figured no time like the present. I said Cutch is due for a dinger and he delievered right on cue. With a 5-0 lead I figured the Pirates had this game in the bag.
9:07- The Pirates got 2 more runs here in the 7th in thanks to a handful of miscues by the Philadelphia defense. Garret Jones drew a walk scoring Jack Wilson. Later in the inning Ryan Doumit knocked in McCutchen to earn his first RBI since returning to the big league club.
9:40- With the Pirates in the field and the Philies searching for any form of life at the plate Jack WIlson showcased his glove making a diving, over the shoulder catch in mid left field robbing Shane Victorino of a hit. Being the always aware, always attentive shortstop he is, Wilson flung the ball over to LaRoche at first doubling up Jimmy Rollins. It was an amazing play and sure to be a web gem and top 10 play on tomorrows ESPN broadcasts.
10:00- Matt Capps comes in with a 7-3 lead. I am always weary of these situations. I’m talking baout when a closer is brought in during a non-save situation. Capps had a little breathing room so I was sure he could seal the deal and give the bucs a win.
10:02- Just a few minutes after coming into the game Capps gave up a solo shot to Matt Stairs. I wasn’t worried yet. I like Matt Stairs, he too is a good guy and a fan favorite no matter where he plays. With the Pirates in 2003 he hit 20 homeruns. He leads all current MLBers with 18 pinch hit homeruns.
10:11- Ryan Howard steps to the plate with 2 men on and one out. This was the first meeting between Howard and Capps. Howard took advantage of the Big Bull Rider and absolutely blasted a shot over the centerfield fence. With one swing of the bat the game was tied and another chapter was written in Howard’s legacy book.
10:22- Ten minutes later the ball game was over. The bases were loaded and Paul Bako singled to left field scoring Raul Ibanez, who would be the dreadful winning run.
With the loss the Pirates slip to 11 games under .500. There is little hope for the rest of the season. There is also little hope for the future of Matt Capps. It is inexcuseable for a closer of his nature to blow a game like this. The Bucs recently brought in Joel Hanrahan from the Nationals. I do believe they have plans for him in the pen as a closer here in the near future.
Ryan Doumit performed well in just his second game back from the DL. He was 0-4 in his first game but turned it around tonight with 2 doubles.
Andy LaRoche turned on the jets when he laced a triple in the 8th inning. I did not realize it but it was his 4th triple of the year.
Andrew McCutchen had a heck of a game. He had 2 hits, one being the HR, a stolen base and scored. This is the kind of production we need from him in the leadoff spot.
Virgil Vazquez will square off against J.A. Happ tomorrow for game 3 of the series when Pittsburgh hopes to avoid the sweep.
I kind of jumped the gun a little with last nights post. I had just seen Snell get yanked from the game and assumed that the Bucs were detined for another loss, their 29th of the year. However, by the glory of Andy LaRoche teh Pirates pulled together a 5-run 8th innings and propelled Pittsburgh to a 8-5 win over teh Mets. I love answered runs and the Pirates had 8 of them last night.
The Buccos put together a string of 13 hits in the game and were relentless at the plate. Nyjer Morgan went 2-4, Adam LaRoche went 3-5, Jack Wilson went 3-4, Jason Jaramillo went 2-4 and Andy went 3-4 with 3 RBI and a TRIP_TRIP_ TRIPLE.
The big hit was delievered by pinch hitter Delwyn Young. His single drove in the go-ahead run and gave the Bucs momenum to add their insurance in the same inning.
This was a special game for a handful of reasons.
1) My good friend Chris Kiernan was able to witness the game. If you remeber a few weeks back when “A Deeper Look Inside Chris Kiernan” was written, he is from New Jersey. Being in teh New York metropolitan area he was able to catch the game on Chris was fresh off a visit to a minor league game where the Trenton Thunder played against teh Pittsburgh AA farm club, the Altoona Curve. Prior to the game he went down to the baseline and scored me some autographs of future Pirates players. He was very generous and so were the players. He offered them words of encouragement in hopes of seeing them at PNC Park in the near future.
2) Capps got a save. I’ve been very nervous as of late when I see him warming up. However, it seems that the dust has settled and the Capper has found his groove once again.
3) Attendance= 11,812. While the Mets were probably shocked at that number the Pirates probably weren’t. For a weekday game that is actually decent in Pittsburgh. We’re so used to crowds below 10,000 dipping into the 8,000s. With summer quickly approaching and the Pirates looking above average get used to Western Pennsylvania residents flocking the North Shore to see some Bucco baseball
4) Its a win and you know what that means…
RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER…23-28
Photo Credit: AP photo/gene puskar
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.
This is not what I hope to see this week. The road trip to Chicago has not been as friendly as hoped for the Bucs. Sunday was an exciting come from behind thriller as the Pirates won 4-3 thanks to a tying homerun by Jack Wilson, his 1st of the season. And the ultimate winning run scored by Nyjer Morgan and hit by Delwyn Young. All the damage was done with the game on the brink in the top of the ninth.
The Pirates only managed 2 hits against Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd in Fridays 2-0 loss. A different story in the pivital game three. Sunday’s win gave the Pirates 16 hits en route to their 20th win of the season.
Pittsburgh now sits at 20-24 on the year and face the Cubs. I have to applaud whoever does the scheduling of teh season games. To hav ethe Pirates stay in Chicago for a six game stretch was very convienent. I’m sure the players appreciate not having to travel across the country but rather across town. I wonder if they just stayed in the hotel this past week? Doubtful because Chicago is a huge city, but nontheless it is a good move.
The Pirates now face the Cubs in an interesting crossroads. The Cubbies have lost 7 in a row. This could be both an advantage and disadvantage facing Pittsburgh. Can the Pirates kick Chicago while their down? Or will Chicago be hungry and feeding on the Pirates?
With all these questions upon us lets take a look at some of the images from Sunday’s dramatic victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
Eric Hinkse filled in at first base for Adam LaRoche. Hinske did things in a big way hitting a ground rule double in the first and a solo homerun in the 8th. The HR was his first of the year. Hinske’s performance should dictate more playing time at first base or anywhere on the diamond.
Starting pitcher Jeff Kaaaaaaarstens had one of his best outings of the year. (I add the aaaaaaar for the dynamic Pirate-sounding effect. Works dont it?) 5.1 innings pitched, 5 hits and 3 earned runs was his stat line. A no-decision but he definately allowed the Bucs to stay in the game.
Jack Wilson connects for his homerun in the top of the ninth. It was his first of the year and it could not have come at a more opportune time. The dinger tied the game at 3 and ultimately boosted the Pirates to score the winning run a few batters latter.
Nyjer Morgan crossed the plate for that winning run thanks to the RBI at the hands of Delwyn Young. The look in Morgan’s eyes and expression on his face sum up the feeling of winning that every player feels after a crucial moment. Morgan, a sprakplug in his own right will help instill the positive and most importantly winning mentality in the minds of the players to continue to win vicoriously.
Outfielder Nate McClouth, Morgan and Brandon Moss gather to celebrate the 4-3 vicotry after Matt Capps shut down the WHite Sox 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth. Capps struck out the side en route to his 9th save of the year.
After singing the Blues while witnessing 2 straight losses, I was signing the praises of the Bucs while watching this game on my couch, all part of my ideal lazy Sunday type of afternoon. As this week continues in Chicago I hope to see more jubilation in part to Buc victories, theres nothing like a good win to make your day alot better.
PHOTO CREDITS: allposters.com, espn.com