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.
Snyder 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.
Pittsburgh 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.
McDonald 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.
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.
Bowker 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
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
Sunday was one of the greatest days of 2010. After an enjoyable night of enjoying the college lifestyle on Saturday, the action continued Sunday morning. A few buddies of mine hopped in my Nissan Versa and trekked up I-79 for the hour long journey to Pittsburgh.
The cost of admission was originally $12 bucks, however we caught a break. A father with a son had four extra “VIP” passes (which literally meant nothing) he sold them to us for $5 dollars. Scalping tickets to Pirate Fest? Heck yeah!
We rushed to the autograph line where we first hit former Pirate El Roy Face, pitcher Charlie Morton and catcher Ryan Doumit.
Later in the day we came back for another round of autographs.
Firstbaseman/right fielder Garrett Jones and third baseman Neil Walker signed along side another former Pirate in Jim Rooker. It looks like Penguin Sergei Gonchar joined in on the festivities. The Pens were actually playing across town, hosting the Red Wings. Many fans adorning Penguins gear were at the fest and the Penguins won in an epic shootout. The game was playing on an HDTV at a booth.
Although the lines were fairly long, we waited in the lines for nearly an hour each time, it was a fun time. We talked to some cool people around us and I got major flack from an elderly man for wearing my Barry Bonds jersey.
One of my favorite parts of Pirate Fest are the memorabilla tables.
This table was filled with just Roberto Clemente stuff. From cereal boxes to buttons to an autographed baseball with a 10,000 dollar price tag. I cam away with a cool Pirates poster from the 90’s, a 1989 game program and some packs of 2010 Topps baseball cards.
Pirate Fest is also a great time to meet some very cool people associated with the team.
I did meet him on Tuesday but seeing Andrew McCutchen rocking out on Guitar Hero was pretty cool. The guy in the black Cutch shirt was getting owned by the star centerfielder. I think this is a cool picture, considering their both rockin’ the 22.
One of the most bubbly, entergetic and fun people associated with the Pirates is Joe Klimchak. He is famous for his commercials for the Pirates where he mimmicks the “Shamwow” guy. They are very funny and do the job. He is also the in-game host at PNC Park. He hosts the between inning shin digs and brings a good vibe to the ballpark.
The best moment of the day and perhaps my entire life around baseball was meeting General Manager Neil Huntington.
It was a very personal time with Jared and I speaking to the GM for a good five minutes. He was standing in the concession stand area just mingling with some fans. He was very genuine and came across like a strong minded individual. After getting a cool snapshot I gave an ill attempt at a joke saying “We just made a deal and I’m the new fifth starter.” Neil really didn’t laugh and Jared just thought I was stupid. It was a good segway into a discussion regarding who the fifth starter for the Bucs. It is a race between Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen-he talked highly of both and really believes the competition will bring out the best in the two young guns.
Jared brought up his former affiliation with the Cleveland Indians, Jared’s favorite team. He is excited for manager Manny Acta to take over and think he deserved the job. He made a point that Terry Francona and Joe Torre were not successful in their first two managerial positions and that the change of scenery will be good for a younger manager with potential.
Talk around Pittsburgh has been heated with Pirates debate. It was reported that Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle have made an offer to Pirates owner Bob Nutting in an attempt to buy the team. It is a hot button issue that probably won’t go anywhere but it has given Pittsburghers false hope. I’m torn on the matter, obviously the Pens are a better run franchise and Mario may perhaps be the face of Pittsburgh sports history. However, because of the market size and baseball regulations, not much would change. It would be cool to have a Pittsburgh cable sports channel broadcasting the Pens/Pirates and other local teams to bring in more revenue than FSN Pittsburgh does already.
While I did not want to bring this up when talking to Mr. Huntington he did cite a similiar position. He said the key for small market teams is too avoid injuries as well as big, bad contracts. While it is easy to say with Lemieux/Burkle the Pirates could spend more money, will they spend it wisely? I don’t just want millions thrown at top free agents to lock them in for multiple years. Currently, Neil is allocating the money properly stocking up with high level prospects who the Pirates have control over for many years at a small cost. It is a risk, but will prove to be rewarded just a few years down the road.
Now that the ownership tangent is over, we made two more stops in the ‘Burgh. Here are pictures from our Steel City travels.
Readers, you know my disdain for the University of Pittsburgh, it is well-documented. We rode into the Oakland section of Pitsburgh and had a self guided tour of the campus. We walked through the basketball arena and stopped by the famous Cathedral of Learning. I hate to say it, but Pitt is a very nice campus. However, it is my civic duty as a Mountaineer to hate everything regarding our bitter rivals. On Wednesday the Panthers come to Morgantown for a battle of top ten college basketball game.
Before departing back to the Mountain State one final stop had to be made, PNC Park. I honored Willie Stargell the only way I knew how, bowing down. Pops would have been a great player to watch back in the day. He is one of three Pirates honored with statues, with a fourth on the way. It was announced at Pirate Fest that a Bill Mazeroski statue will be erected later this season.
The field was just feet in front of me but the dang metal bars were seperating me from happiness. It was still a cool moment enjoying PNC Park at its calmest. It truly is the most beautiful park in baseball and to be able to regularly attend games here is an awesome feeling. I am spoiled that this is my home park and I can watch a major league baseball games at a great price in a beautiful setting.
With February upon us and winter nearly over, actually its not but hey, we can hope, that could mean just one thing.
I wasn’t the only proud Bucco mlblogger enjoying the fest, check out these blogs for more about the weekend event.
I want what is best for my Pittsburgh Pirates. I’ve been here long enough and continue to support my favorite baseball team through the thick and thin. Over the weekend the Pirates announced they would non tender pitchers Phil Dumatrait and Matt Capps. Not that I totally support the decision but hey, maybe it is the right move. Dumatrait was injured all of last year and never really amounted to anything but a 5th starter or maybe a middle of the road reliever in the year before. The real kicker about this news is the loss of closer Matt Capps.
Capps was a great guy and a joy to watch for the past five years. He was built from the ground up in the Pirates organization and did quite well in his time in Pittsburgh. He struggled last year, surrendering 12 home runs in just 54 innings pitched. He blew five saves but was still able to establish a career high in the SV department registering 27. Prior to last season Capps was regarded as one of the best closers in all of baseball. His 0.97 WHIP was among the leagues best and his speed pitches and accuracy were a thing of beauty. He only walked five batters in all of 2008 and in 2007 struck out 64 batters in a matter of 79 innings. He was indeed a “Big Bull Rider” and a force on the mound.
Now I never think one bad year can define a career for anybody in sports, baseball especially, a reliever especially as well. Coming out of the bullpen has to be one of the most overlooked aspects of the game of baseball. The tense warmup and spur of the moment action must be hard to jump into with every single fan expecting you to mow down each batter your facing.
The untimely, de-facto release of Capps sent shockwaves down the backs of most Pirate fans. Capps has been trade bait for quite some time and it painned the pundits to see Capps walk without anything in return. That I do agree with-this I do not.
Cook: Who cares what Pirates do any
Monday, December 14, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ron Cook is one of the best sports writers in Western, PA. I am a big fan of his and respect his work handling all sports buzz occuring in Pittsburgh. Hoping to one day become a “Ron Cook” of the journalism buisiness I take heed in the words he writer for one of the best newspapers in all of America. article in today’s paper.
I can only dream the headline read something like that, instead the article was one of despair, dissapointment and just plain apathy. Those three feelings are not uncommon between Pittsburgh Pirates “fans” in this area. To hear Ron Cook, a Pittsburgh sports columnist who has been around for the past three decades and a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, say this about my beloved baseball team isn’t as disheartening as I hope it would be. In fact he is actually right.
“I guess that’s what really ticks me off most, that the Pirates have become so irrelevant in our sporting consciousness. Baseball is such a beautiful game and we’re stuck with the worst franchise with the worst ownership in the sport. What did we do so wrong?”
He is spot on. WIth the success of the other sports teams in Pittsburgh, who is left to actually care about the Pirates? Cook continues to state the obvious with this next quote, really raising my concern about the most pressing need for this team.
“Teams all over baseball are looking for relief pitching. That includes the Pirates, who, after releasing Capps and left-hander Phil Dumatrait over the weekend, are looking at a bullpen next season of Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek and what other low-priced stiffs they can find to put out there. Good luck with that.
I know Capps isn’t Mariano Rivera, but it is incomprehensible how the Pirates can give away one of their few commodities without getting anything in return.”
Cook gets it, but does the Pirates front office? I would think so and GM Neil Huntington somewhat agrees.
He said a return for Capps to Pittsburgh really could happen, and Matt himself wouldn’t rule it out either. However if I’m Capps I would want to move on and be with a team who trusts me.
Capps will be missed. Ryan Doumit, having been through the departure of many other teammates was shocked by the decision. He told the Post-Gazette that Capps was reliable and “one of the best around.”
I just want somebody to know that these kind of moves are talked about and dissected withing the strong community that are Pittsburgh Pirates fans. I trust in a turnaround and wait for that day to come, sooner than later. Most people in Pittsburgh, like Ron Cook, are tired of their patience running out any longer.
“You might care if the team loses 115 games next season.
I stopped caring a long time ago.”