I’ve been to three Pirate games thus far, this season. The young season has not treated me well, personally, as I am 0-3 when seeing live games.
There may not be a more refreshing sight that will grace the PNC Park jumbo tron, this year.
es against the Brewers coming up this week, I plan on returning to my summer home to catch some more baseball. We all have a special place where we need to go to take time off, relax and be entertained. For ten years, PNC Park has been my spot. With 78 more home games to go I plan on enjoying every single one I get to go to, win or lose.
Well, the fun kept coming last week as Pirates baseball remained fresh on everyone’s mind.
From the 2010 season.
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.
John 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.
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.
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
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
When I visited Washington D.C. this past weekend I met up with my friend Marc who is currently in the nation’s capital on an internship. Being a Cubs fan he and I talked about the NL Central and how far out our respective teams are in terms of games back from the Cardinals and surging Reds. We also talked baseball in general. I had told him
“With Pedro Alvarez up we should be a better team with better run production.” He responds with a “Who is Pedro Alvarez?”
Well, I guess to those outside of Pittsburgh the legend of Pedro Alvarez has not been regularly relayed. So it is my civil duty to tell his tale. A tale of a shaky past, current talent and simply the future. The future for himself and an entire franchise.
Alavrez hails from the street of New York City. An area mostly billed for producing basketball
greats, Alvarez is a rare gem to step from the baseball diamond. His talent allowed him to go to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Turning down an offer to be drafted right out of high school Alvarez went on to set records for VU and helped the Commadores win an SEC Championship. Alvarez continued his stories undergraduate career on the USA national baseball team. His power and handiness with the glove at third base allowed him to always be the target of scouts and high draft classification.
He would be picked up after his sophomore season. The Pirates jumped on him at pick number two, but getting him in a black and gold uniform would not be easy. Even getting him through the system would not be easy. Heck getting him INTO the system would be one of the hardest things the Pirate’s management had ever done.
Being picked second demands and deserves big money. After a back and forth volleyball match between Neil Huntington and Frank Coonelly with Alvarez’s agent Scott Boras both sides reportedly came to an agreement just minutes before the August 15th signing deadline. But it still took until September to make both sides happy with a $6 million dollar deal. It was a messy situation that really made the Pittsburgh organization and Alvarez look bad and downright slimey. However inking Alavrez prompted Pirates owner Bob Nutting to claim Huntington and Coonelly as the “best management team in all of sports.” Take that in for a moment. It’s a wonder that the “best management team in allllll of sports” cannot put together a competitive club or show the comptence to do so. However, that is a whole other argument.
Alvarez was watched under a tight microscope throughout his short time in the minor leagues. He helped the Lynchburg Hillcats win their League title and rose through to the AA and AAA levels with his resounding bat, most notably being a strong power prescence.
He was brought up to the majors on June 16th to an adoring PNC Park crowd of 15,000. He did recieve a standing ovation as he walked to the plate just to strike out at the hands of John Danks. He finished that game going 0-for-2. It would take three more games to cross that proverbial threshold where he would collect his first big league hit. From there he would collect a sac fly to cap off a victory over the Indians last Sunday.
He still only has three major league hits but will always be regarded as the best Pirates prospect since Barry Bonds. I’m no scout but at the age of 23 I still think Alavrez needs a tune up and some extra time in the minors would not hurt him. He is playing along a host of other first time big leaguers like Jose Tabata and Neil Walker. The 2010 season is already a wash why not groom him for a month or two more then bring him up when he is ready?
It seems as if Alvarez is over swinging at pitches and not locating them off the pitchers hand. He definitely needs work in the batting cage to develop a keener eye at the plate. He has warning track power that will slowly come more and more with more repitions. He will strikeout; alot. But that is what power hitters do. I will gladly take 95 strikeouts from a guy that is going to flirt with 45 homeruns each season.
It is going to be alot of trial and error with Pedro Alvarez (he already has one in the field) but if he even comes close to living up to his hype he will have a prosperous career and the Pirates will gladly reap the benefits.
photo credits: ducksonthepondkid.com, straybaseball.com, reclinergm.com, facebook.com
His every move was watched as 44,000 in Nationals Park and millions around the world were focused on this kid who is only six months older than myself.
It was like a presidential procession as he left the dugout to warm up in the outfield as a handful of security guards surrounded him as media and fans attempted to get a glimpse of the hurler.
With all the craze and hype developing since he was drafted as the first overall pick in 2009 Strasburg handled the moment the best way he knew how, striking out 14 Pirate batters.
It was the most unique way I personally have ever watched a baseball game as I focused solely on the 6’4 220 pounds pitcher. He is straight up Nasty, with a capital N.
He throws so hard hitting the upper nineties like it is nothing. His changeup clocks in at 91. His changeup! His sinker and curveballs would make Pedro Cerrano cry. They are simply unhittable.
He gave up a two run homerun to Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche recorded the first hit off him in the third inning. Strasburg will be great, time will tell if he will be mentioned in the same breath as the Randy Johnson’s and Roger Clemens’s and if he will end up on the Yankees. But I think it is safe to say he will be the 2010 Rookie of the Year.
A much less hyped up debut of a pair of major leaguers will also be occuring soon.
The Pirates’ outfielder Jose Tabata and pitcher Brad Lincoln will make their first appearances sometime this week.
Lincoln was the Buc’s first round draft pick in the 2006 draft, 4th overall. He’s had a solid minor league year at AAA Indianapolis going 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA. It has been his best year since returning from surgery in 2007. He has the potential to be a number one starter in the rotation but alsi has to develop himself into that role. Soemthing that homegrown Pirates pitchers fail to do.
Tabata is a unique story. He came over to Pittsburgh from the Yankees in the trade that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to New York. The Pirates also recieved Ross Ohlendorf in that swap. Tabata is best known for having a 35 year old wife who kidnaps children (long story). His on the field reputation is good as he has great potential at the plate. He is batting just over .300 with three homeruns this season. His best year came in 2008 when he arrived in AA Altoona. He hit for a .348 average. Tabata will split time in the outfield with Ryan Church, Lastings Milledge and Garrett Jones, when he is not manning first.
Both players will get early playing time by being thrown into the fire right away, I like that. That kind of development and on the job training is necessary to succeed. That is why they are up here anyway, to play.
The Pirates and the rest of Major League baseball all took a step in the right direction towards their future.
I was pleased with Pittsburgh’s draft class as I have been the past two years. It picked up who Baseball America called the two hardest throwing pitchers in the draft in 2nd overall pick Jameson Taillon and second rounder Stetson Allie. Not only do they both have sweet names, they have sweet pitches. Both can hit the 100mph mark which I think is ridiculous for both of them coming right out of high school. I still have doubts that the Pirates will be able to sign eitehr of them. They will demand a boatload of money and I am sure the Bucs will short change them. I can only hope owner Bob Nutting is ready to open up the checkbook.
I was most ecstatic about former West Virginia short stop Jedd Gyorko going 59th overall to the San Diego Padres.
I have covered Gyorko and the Mountaineer baseball team for the past two years and he is head over heels the best collegiate player I have ever seen. He leaves WVU as the best hitter in school history with a .404 Batting Average and 35 home runs. He will help the Padres up the middle as well with a good gloves and wide range.
Kaybee and Hyun Young; enjoy him. He is a pleasure to watch and an even greater guy. He stabnds just a generous 5’10” but plays much bigger. He does have a stocky build and natural raw power. He was definitely picked up because of his bat and will be able to transition from aluminum to wood nicely. He is such a nice dude who was a pleasure to talk with and develop a trusting relationship. Yesterday was a big day for him and his family yet he took time out of it to do an interview with me. You guys can read my article about Gyorko here at The Daily Athenaeum website, the official school newspaper of WVU.