Tagged: Orioles

Pirates nab Cole at No. 1

The chants of fans approval and criticisms were not heard at MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Save that for the NFL draft.

Ping pong balls did not determine the draft order.

Save that for the NBA draft.

Nor were there green rooms, specialized draft hats or tricked out Armani suits. Rather, this draft, the MLB draft, was headlined by some of the game’s greatest legends and a new class of potential major league ballplayers.

The Pirates have faith that Gerrit Cole will lead that new generation.

Cole, a right handed pitcher from UCLA, went first overall to Pittsburgh. Cole is said to have the best “natural stuff” in this draft class. It took more than that generic term to take Cole, though.

He stands at 6-4 and weighs in at 220 pounds. That large and powerful frame may have been the biggest drawing factor in the selection. It surely wasn’t his 6-8 record and 3.31 ERA from his last year as a Bruin. But, his 376 strikeouts in 322.1 innings through a 3-year career opened eyes. Add a mid 90s fastball and strong breaking pitches and Cole could be a unique pitcher in a few years.

Obviously Cole doesn’t have the flair of name recognition of the two No. 1 picks that preceded him (Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper). He will, however, be forever grouped with three other pitchers chosen directly after him. Danny Hultzen (Mariners), Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks) and Dylan Bundy (Orioles) all are unique pitchers in their own way and have the distinction of being the only four pitcher chosen in a row to start the MLB Draft.

A decade from now, one of these pitchers will have at least one Cy Young trophy sitting on a shelf of their five story mansion.

I sure hope Gerrit Cole gets a space cleared off soon.

photo credits: pirateprospects.com


Pitt Peas tours the beltway

I couldn’t take it any more. 

Watching the first two Pirates games on Pittsburgh’s recently updated Root Sports Channel, had me very pumped up. Both games were competitive with great starting pitching. It’s safe to say myself, along with many others, are pumped up about the now 2-1 Buccos. They head to St. Louis for three games with the Cardinals and arrive back in PNC Park Thursday for the home opener.
That is too long. 
My friend Andrew and I packed up and ventured to Washington, D.C. for the rubber match between the Braves and Nationals and our first taste of big league ball this season. 
Our nation’s capital is really hopping this time of the year. For good reason because it may be the prettiest spot in America in the springtime. The cherry blossoms were out from every stretch of the city. In full bloom, they were beautiful. It was a great way to welcome us back to a place where all citizens should visit at some point in their lives. The trees were also a perfect gateway to a great day of the national pastime. 
Adorning my Expos shirt to honor the fallen franchise, we arrived at Nationals Park right as they gates opened.
It was a beautiful day for a game. 
Temperatures flitted with 60 degrees but remained fairly enjoyable. There was a slight chill and a majority of shade in the stadium but it was the perfect setting for a game in early April.
Our first view of baseball batting practice from the stands in left field. Nats Park is very underrated when spoken of comparing it to other ballparks. In my opinion, it is the fourth best place for baseball behind St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, San Francisco’s AT&T Park and, obviously, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. We stayed for a lot of batting practice, and while I’m not into the ballhawking scene it is entertaining to see others lay out for balls. The best part is seeing the happy faces of small kids receiving a big league ball. 
Every Sunday in D.C. is “Signature Sundays.” There was a sparse crowd that early for the 1:35 game so we thought, what the heck, let’s chat it up with some ballplayers. Relievers Tyler Clippard, Brad Broderick, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Burnett were waiting for fans on the dugout. This is me with former Pirate Sean Burnett. He was very outspoken, trashing the organization from his time with Pittsburgh. I confirmed it. He did say he enjoyed his time, but its not a baseball town. Come on Pirates, change his mind this year.
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Like I said, Nationals Park is a great place to watch a game and an even better museum for the great game of baseball. Honoring their former comrades of Montreal, Joe Carter and Andre Dawson are forever engraved in the walls of the stadium. And in a very cordial move, it honors a slew of Hall of Famers on the polls around the main concourse. As you can see, I had to grab a pic of “The Great One,” Roberto Clemente.
Milwaukee has the Sausages. Cleveland has hot dogs. San Diego has Friars. Colorado has dots. Of course Pittsburgh has pierogies, but no racing item in Major League baseball is more politically correct than the presidents of Washington. Now, I am a loyal homer, but the race here is very anticlimactic. The jumbotron pre-race video is very funny but the race itself does not correlate with the goofy antics of the presidents, themselves. Come on, look at Teddy Roosevelt. 
Andrew and I noticed the crowd in Washington is very intelligent. And we’re not necessarily referring to baseball smarts. A majority of the crowd looked like college professors and there were many people wearing local university attire to attest to that. Some fans even brought books to read during the game. We had great conversations with some people at the game. D.C. is a melting pot for many people across the country so being a Nationals fan looks to mean that they play second fiddle in many hearts.
The game itself was a laugher in the home team’s expense. For the Nationals, the most rewarding part of the game may have been the Virginia Harmonizers who sang the National Anthem and God Bless America in the 7th inning. They were a great male vocal group who performs for the president. The game was an 11-2 shellacking. The Braves we
re paced by a six run 8th inning where they batted around. There was great production from top to bottom. Tim Hudson also pitched a gem. He surrendered just three hits in seven innings.
The baseball fun didn’t stop there.
We jumped on the beltway and made the 45 minute trip to Camden Yards. There was not a game there as the Orioles were finishing up a series in Tampa, but there was still much activity in the stadium’s vicinity. I felt like we were in the opening scene of “Rookie of the Year” as workers were hustling preparing the ballpark for the team’s home opener against the Tigers.
Andrew is a Yankee fan. His family is embedded in the pinstripes and their loyalty never wanes. Being in an AL East foe’s stomping grounds didn’t stop him from enjoying himself, though. As Babe Ruth’s birthplace, Baltimore is a historically rich baseball town. The statue honoring the Babe proves just that. 
After a lap around Camden Yards we called it a day and left the area making the three hour trip back to Morgantown, West Virginia. It was a little somber leaving a day that was filled with baseball, but it served as a prelude to the glory that this Thursday will hold. It’s opening day in Pittsburgh. The faith is still growing for fans across the nation. If your team is undefeated, congrats. If your team has yet to win a game, that’s why they play 162 games. The season is still young but many eyes have opened with sparks of hope seen inside. 
This really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Long history with Orioles continues in Spring and beyond


The 1970’s were a time of puffy hair, bell bottoms, disco and apparently some funky golf carts. Not to mention some pretty good baseball as the legends of the day took the field throughout this legendary decade. Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemsk
were just a few of the go-to names of this era. Perhaps the greatest
players came from Pittsburgh and Baltimore, though. 

The fun started in 1971 when the Pirates and Orioles met up in the World Series. Baltimore already had its foot in the door of 70’s supremacy as it won the 1970 world title. It was a legendary occasion during game 4 of the series. My father and grandfather were in attendance for the game in Three Rivers Stadium as it was the first night game in World Series history. Going the same route of many of his baseball cards and other precious heirlooms, the ticket stubs and other memorabilia from that game probably went by way of the trash can. 
Roberto Clemente would be named MVP as the Pirates won the series in 7 games. Perhaps the most beloved Bucco of all time, Clemente hit safely in all seven of the games not just in the ’71 series, but also in his previous World Series appearance back in 1960. A pair of other honored Pirates, who still have deep ties to the team, today, were integral in bringing a ring and trophy back to Pittsburgh.
Pitcher Steve Blass and catcher Manny Sanguillen, currently the color announcer and special instructor, respectively, were battery mates in the classic victory which also equated to one of the most epic photographs taken on the diamond. Their dramatic pose is pictured above. 
These two teams would indeed meet again, this next time some eight years later. 
In the 76th edition of the Fall Classic Pittsburgh and Baltimore again clashed for a seven game series with the Pirates coming out on top once more. 
Again, the game was clinched in Baltimore with the visiting team winning. Willie Stargell, Bruce Kison and Sanguillen were the only remaining members of the club that defeated the Orioles at the beginning of the decade. You could call these Bucs the original Florida Marlins of the late 1990’s early 2000’s, but not really. That’s just one comparison to a franchise that unloaded and rebuilt within a relatively short time span to win a pair of World Series titles. 
This game 7 for the Pirates was earned the hard way.
Pittsburgh found itself down three games to way so it took a valiant comeback to bring another Championship home to the Steel City. It was also a stunning year when the Steelers would do the same for Pittsburgh when they won their Super Bowl title. 
The decade saw a passing of the torch, of sorts, as one legend (Clemente) passed the reigns of the program to another (Stargell). 
They had all their brothers with them, not sisters as Sister Sledge originally sang. Stargell lived up to his nickname of “Pops” and was the leader, father, of this team. Every player was easy to recognize and had his own flare and personality about him. They were a breath of fresh air to Pittsburgh as many were still coping with the tragic death of Clemente, much to soon from his still budding career. 
The Orioles and Pirates fail to live up to the plateau of greatness these teams before them have paved.
However, they still duke it on when possible.
It is the Orioles, this time, that have gotten the best of the Pirates. Already facing each other three times with Baltimore coming away victorious each time. The most recent loss for the Pirates came Monday, 8-2. The chance comes again, Thursday, to get off the snide. After that, one more game of Spring Training will come between the two old rivals but it will not be the last they see of each other in 2011.
The O’s come to PNC Park for an Inter league tilt on June 20, 21 and 22. It will be a homecoming of sorts as two games will commemorate both the ’71 and ’79 series. Promotional items to be given away include a canvas wrap of Blass and Sanguillen as well as a Ceramic Beer Stein with the 1979 “Fam-A-Lee” engraved. 

Building to the model

baseball-salary-cap.jpgI remember seeing a sign at PNC Park in 2002 that read “Small Market Domination.”
The Pirates started out 5-2 that year so obviously that sentiment was a bit premature. It got people excited, though. A winner was in Pittsburgh and to get off on the right foot like that fueled some excitement that has long lacked in the Western Pennsylvania baseball community.
It is still not there today.


Other small market areas, however, have found their their happy place with baseball. Minnesota, Tampa Bay and this past year, Cincinnati were successful despite the economic restraints placed upon them. Minnesota has one of the best run organizations in the game with their knack for competing year in and year out. It remains to be seen if Tampa Bay will remain with its head above water as key


 departures this past season such as Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena have left to bigger areas. Cincinnati has a nice core in place with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce bolstering the line up. It should see the same post season strides like the Twins and Rays before it. 
These three teams have something in common. Their use of the draft.

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With lineups predominately filled with players homegrown through the farm system, the Twins, Rays and Reds have all took their rime with a unique path towards the top. All three teams made the playoffs last year thanks to these young players that have risen through the system, but it wasn’t just those players that got the respective teams to prominence. They had to go out and spend some money.
The Twins added Carl Pavano to their pitching staff. He not only got the job done on the mound, he won over the fan base with his phenomenal mustache. Jim Thome also helped in garnering attention. For the Rays it was Pat Burrell and Cliff Floyd that helped anchor a potent offensive threat. Cincinnati, on the other hand remained fairly quiet. Alrodis Chapman was their big money investment, though. It was his stellar pitching that ultimately positioned the Reds for a spot in the 2010 playoffs. 
For the past three years Neil Huntington has been the general manager of the Pirates. During these three tumultuous seasons he has cited the aforementioned teams as being a model for Pittsburgh to build off. 
They have.
With aggressive spending in the draft the Pirates have acquired top talent and could be seen as having some of the youngest players with the most potential compared to any low farm system across the majors. 
Keeping with the plan that once the upper level prospects reach the major league level and show signs of success, then the free agent market will be attacked with the few missing pieces the team needs to contend. The Reds, Twins and Rays have all utilized their money properly with sufficient going to free agents, but still remaining loyal to their own homegrown players. The Pirates are taking this route, too with Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez all taking great strides at the major league level last year.
One team this off-season has taken a different approach.
The Orioles have one of the best young pitching staffs in the BO.jpg
game, today. As of late, they now have a lineup that mirrors a classic Yankees roster. With its aggressive stance in the Free Agent pool the Orioles have added Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. hardy and Derek Lee to accompany their own Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. While this hungry spending spree may pay off, it will be tough to compete, as always in the American League East. While some may argue that they are at least a year from reaching its competitive potential, the Orioles set out to silence the critics by going against the grain and landing some of the hottest free agents this off-season. 
They spent money. 
It is not exactly the plan the Pirates are heading on. As they finished with near identical records last year, the Orioles feel now is their time. It’s different strokes for different folks because Pittsburgh is still premature in its development. 
I applaud the Orioles for their plan, but Huntington will still laud to the Twins, Rays and Reds as the Pirates blueprint towards success.
I don’t blame him. 
photo credits: yublog.com, nodaktwinsfan.com, sportsblog.projo.com, cobf.mlblogs.com, piratesprospects.com, sportslogos.com

Former No. 1 pick decides he overstays his welcome


krisbenson.jpgKris Benson announced his retirement Tuesday, quite frankly I thought he left the game of baseball years ago.

After being picked up by the Pirates with the No. 1 pick in 1996 he ended his career nearly 14 years later with a record of 70-75 and an ERA of 4.42. He had just one 10 win season in his injury laden career.


He left Pittsburgh in 2004 when he was traded to the Mets in exchange for Jose Bautista. Benson faltered even more with another elbow injury in New York and from 2006 on he spent time in Baltimore and Texas but never amounted to even the miniscule success he found in Pittsburgh. It was reported that Benson was toying with the idea of signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks at the end of 2010 but the 36 year old felt it was in his best interest to offcially retire from baseball.

I don’t blame him.

The dissapointing career might not totally be his fault, though. Perhaps the only mistake he made was the fact that he agreed to sign with the Pirates back in ’96. He was just another pawn in the losing chess game otherwise known as the Pirates in the MLB draft.

Let’s start back in 1992, the last winning season for Pittsburgh and look year by year at the first round picks for the Bucs.

1992: Jason Kendall

1993: Charles Peterson

1994: Mark Farris

1995: Chad Hermansen

1996: Kris Benson

1997: J.J. Davis

1998: Clint Johnson

1999: Bobby Bradley

2000: Sean Burnett

2001: John Van Benschoten

2002: Bryan Bullington

2003: Paul Maholm

2004: Neil Walker

2005: Andrew McCutchen

2006: Brad Lincoln

2007: Daniel Moskos

2008: Pedro Alvarez

2009: Tony Sanchez

2010: Jameson Tailon

Four of those players are on the current Pirates roster, four spent ever-so bried stints in Pittsburgh, three look to be major pieces in building the next wave of successful baseball in the Steel City, one had a fruitful major league career, one currently is sweeping the bullpens in Washington and the rest probably haven’t been heard from since draft day.

Even though the Pirates, as well as Benson, have been losers for nearly two decades there is something Kris has that very few others do.

A lingerie model.


anna-benson.jpgPerhaps it was Anna Benson that made Kris famous in the end.

photo credits: foxsports.com, si.com

The Hall calls to the deserving and snubbed


Last spring the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown welcomed me with open arms for a glorious day.

On Tuesday the Hall opened its doors to Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar to forever be immortalized in its hallowed shrine.
One of the most colorful characters in Major League history sits atop his rightful place among pitching legends. Blyleven’s career spanned six teams and two World Series appearances, including one with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This was his 14th year on the ballot with just a year remaining for his eligibility it was nearly a make or break campaign. He earned the needed percentage of votes by a fair margin and becomes the 60th player enshrined. 
Notoriously seen as a “Happy Gilmore” type player, Blyleven has made a name for himself in the pop culture realm. His famed “I Heart to Fart” shirt and off the cuff tangents in the broadcast booth never really hurt his image, but presented him as a hard nosed party boy. His mound presence was seen with the same intimidating sense. 
Seeing Roberto Alomar get the Cooperstown call makes me feel old. He made his way onto the big league diamonds right around the time i was born. I do remember his Padres and Orioles days and although he will be adorning a Blue Jays cap on his plaque I think he will most be remembered by his time in Cleveland. With him at second and Omar Vizquel at shortstop they formed a double play combo that will forever be looked at as a benchmark for infielders. He brought fire and energy to the Indians during their glory days of the late ’90s and fans of the franchise still bask in those special years. 
Alomar is one of the first players that introduced me to baseball. Of course, there are a host of others, most notably irrelevant Pirates, but he was a centerpiece in developing my love for the game. It is exciting to see him be rewarded for an astounding career.
This years ballot consisted of many other players, much like Alomar. Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff. It is hard to believe that these stars of my childhood are being recognized with the ultimate baseball blessing. I knew at the time they were all the best of the era, but far from Hall of Fame performers. Maybe its just that my mindset of the Hall consisted of the legends. The Roberto Clementes, Hank Aarons and Sandy Koufaxes of the world, not players such as Bagwell, Larkin and McGriff.
While this is a feast day for the baseball world it is also a time of despair for some. Dave Parker missed his chance to be forever seen as baseball’s elite.
The Cobra was snubbed for the 15th and final time and will see his name removed from the ballot and will never again be considered for Cooperstown. 
This is a shame. 
Now I never saw Parker play a game in my life, aside from the 2006 All Star Game Legends and Celebrity Softball Challenge held at PNC Park, but from what I hear he was superstar. Not only does being part of the famed “We-Are-Family” troop bring instant notoriety, but being an integral part of it gets you rewards. Parker was a two-time batting champion, all-star and league MVP, yet future generations will never know it. JIm Rice, inducted last year, but up less stellar numbers than Parker and got in. Parker had no such luck. In fact, he received a slap in the face as he was presented with just one measly vote. The same number as former Baltimore Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff.
B.J. Surhoff? Honestly. 
It had to be depressing for Parker and it surely is for me. I want to be able to go to Cooperstown in the first weekend of August and see a player I fell in love with as a fan get inducted. While today it is an eye sore to even see a Pirate eek his way onto an All-Star roster, I don’t believe I will ever be granted a special moment to see one of my guys get enshrined. 
I still offer my congratulations to Blyleven and Alomar and will forever be grateful that we are fortunate enough to witness a great sport like baseball and see its stars properly honored. I cherish it, I really do. 
But I don’t think I will ever experience it with the proper boyhood joy.
photo credits: minnpost.com, apacktobenamedlater.com, corbisimage.com, baltimoresun.com

Pitt Peas in Baltimore


bmore 002.jpgThe last time i was in Baltimore I guess it could be said that I wore out my welcome.

The Pirates were taking on the Orioles in an interleague play game in which my Bucs were up 6-0 at one point. Final score: 9-6 Baltimore. I was harrased, made fun of and spat at. Well not spat at but I thought I would be.

Monday night was much more charming. After all I was in the Charm City.

The Orioles did fall to the Kansas City Royals 4-3 and the weather was a bitter cold 45 degrees with a heavy drizzle falling throughout the nine innings, but I did enjoy myself as a neutral fan.

bmore 008.jpgAppearing in my National League hat I kept my loyalty to “real, stern” baseball in an American League town. I hate when someone wears an item of a team not playing to a game so I with held from any Pirates gear. My buddies Andrew, Bryan and Ryan were clad in their Orange hoping for some Orioles magic that never seemed to come. Andrew is my friend from WVU and with a name like Schuerholz you have to be a baseball fan, i’ll touch more on that later. Bryan and Ryan are friends of Drew’s who I have become close with over the years.

bmore 006.jpg Bryan had a dang cool homemade poster. Based on the Sesame Street logo and the street running parallel to Camden Yards, Eutaw Street. Brian Bergeson took the hill for the O’s Monday night. Bryan gave Bergeson a cool nickname that completed the sign perfectly, “Big Berg.” No not Big Bird, Big Berg! Pretty cool if I do say so myself.

While I did cheer for the hometeam to appease my friends I had a much bigger reason to root on the Orioles. One of my favorite baseball players of all time dons the black and orange, Corey Patterson.


bmore 003.jpgCorey and I have had a long relationship. Mostly just me with Corey but here is how that got started. He was on the cover of Beckett Baseball Card Monthly when he was drafted by the Cubs in 1998. I was impressed with this up and comer and made it gospel that I collect as many cards of his as I could. While Patterson never even came close to living up to his billing I made out like a bandit coming across nearly 30 cards of him. I think it is safe to say I am his biggest fan. It was great to see him play in person for the first time. He scored the only three runs for Baltimore and on Tuesday belted a solo homerun to spark a come from behind win for the O’s. Watch out boys and girls, Corey is back!

Here are some more sights and sounds (well just sights, because you cannot hear any of this blog) from a very fun night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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Unique monument area behind the gate in center field. It honors the retired numbers of the Orioles. I like that it is outside the physical boundaries of the stadium so fans can enjoy it on non gamedays.



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The bird mascot was just chilling on the ledge out of the pressbox. It is a kind of high drop. I was worried he would fall. But he must have much better depth perception than me as he was perched there comfortably for 2 innings. He is a bird after all.

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If only players today could be as respectable as Cal Ripken Jr. He was one of my favorites growing up. I love how he will always be adored by the Baltimore faithful. But PNC, come on! I know you sponsor many East Coast baseball teams but you do the most good for the Pirates. WIth PNC Park you should be restricted to just Pittsburgh. However rumors are floating around that due to the Pirates poor play PNC wants out of their contract early.



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Out on Eutaw Street there are about 25 baseball shaped plaques, like this one, marking where balls have landed over the years. There have been some pretty deep shots including one that hit the famed wearhouse behind right field. This one was hit by one of my favorite players of the 90’s, Mo Vaughn.

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Exiting the stadium on the walk back to the car this church sign delievered a blessing message to its beloved baseball fans, escpecially those in the AL East.



The real reason I was in Baltimore was for the West Virginia-Towson game on Tuesday, no really that is the reason. I had an off day giving tours so I made the trip representing my other job at WVU as beat writer for the baseball team. It was cool to be at my first away game although the crowd was miniscule it was a great time for a handful of reasons.

bmore2.jpgOne, WVU beat Towson 8-4.

Two, the game was free for everybody. 

The Mountaineers need
bmore1.jpg momentum heading into their final series of the year in hopes of clinching a spot in the Big East tournament. I talked to the coach after the game and wrote my articles to be published in the paper tomorrow.

towson.jpgThree, it was great to see a college campus. I love checking out different universities to see how it compares and contrasts with WVU in Morgantown. Like I do on any campus with a statue of their mascot (ie Pitt and Colorado) I have to take it out for a spin. Although he was a little wet from the rain that was drizzling all day the Towson Tiger was a quality landmark on a very nice campus.

The Fourth and final reason why it was an awesome day goes back to the baseball inspired name of Schuerholz. I’ve mentioned before that Andrew’s uncle is John Schuerholz. Former general manager of the Royals and Braves and current President of the Braves. The baseball field at Towson University is named in his honor as he went to school here and played baseball.


bmore3.jpgAlthough small, the field is very nice and something the family and Andrew are very proud of. I enjoyed it too along with my grand two days in Maryland. I capped it off with a delicious crabcake. I only eat them when I am in Maryland, only because I know that any where else they will simply be mediocre. I only dabble with the best!