January 31, 2010

Huntington: We're Buying At Trade Deadline

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 31, 2010

While Pirates management has largely kept their plans to win the F'ing Championship under wraps, they can't lie when asked pointed questions. In today's Post-Gazette, general manager Neil Huntington revealed that the Pirates would be willing to trade minor leaguers this summer to acquire the finishing touches on the championship team.

It has been 12 years since the franchise's last in-season trade acquisition aimed at contending, that being Shawon Dunston in 1997. Huntington would not rule out spending his untapped payroll that way this summer should something equally surprising occur: "Oh, absolutely. We're working toward the day when we can trade prospects for veterans, where those kinds of deals can put us where we want to be."

While it's a bit early to speculate on trade deadline acquisitions, I could see the Bucs trading for a fourth ace pitcher for a playoff rotation of Ace, Ohlendorf, Duke and Maholm. Shortstop looks like the only hole in the lineup, but unfortunately is the hardest position to upgrade at the trade deadline.

The symbolic value of a deadling trade is almost as important as the baseball value. Adding Cliff Lee or another pitcher of that caliber will show that the Pirates, and this city, are serious about winning a championship.

January 29, 2010

I Guess Pokey Reese Was Not Available

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 29, 2010

The Pirates made a major upgrade to their lineup in the offseason by trading for Akinori Iwamura. One of two new faces expected to start on Opening Day, Akinori was an accomplished star in Japanese baseball before establishing himself as a solid leadoff hitter and defender from 2007-09 with Tampa Bay.

In a lineup full of young players with breakout potential, Iwamura is an established and consistent veteran. At age 31 there's no reason to think he won't continue his solid play. He should have a steadying force both in the lineup and at second base.

Just as importantly, the acquisition of a player with only one year remaining on his contract signalled that the Pirates cared about 2010 after punting 2009 and 2008. Although I liked the wild but effective reliever Jesse Chavez, the Chavez-Iwamura swap clearly is a positive move for those of us who want to see success sooner rather than later.

In Japan Iwamura was a straight up power hitter. In his career year of 2004 he hit .300 with 44 home runs and 103 RBI, and he had 158 home runs total before coming over to the U.S. for the 2007 season to play for the Devil Rays.

He showed good on base and run scoring skills in '07, hitting .285/.359/.411 with 82 runs scored in 123 games. He also played solid defense at third base. The following year, he moved to second base. He scored 92 runs hitting leadoff in a lineup that led the Rays to the AL pennant, and hit .274/.349/.380 in the regular season and .273/.342/.409 in the postseason. Last year he was hurt for more than half the season but still put up similar numbers at .290/.355/.390. On the field, like at the plate, he's steady if not spectacular, and is one of the more respected defensive second basemen in baseball. His ability to play third base as well is a definite plus, especially compared to Delwyn Young who couldn't even play second.

While former Pirates 2B Freddy Sanchez was a good line drive hitter, Akinori Iwamura is much more effective at the top of the order with his .354 career on base percentage. I'd expect that OBP to rise with the move to a much easier league and division, and considering the history of several Japanese players who maintained and improved their skills into their 30s as they got used to the U.S. game.

For 2010, Bill James has Iwamura hitting .290/.367/.389. Coupled with above average defense, that's just what the Pirates need for their #2 hitter. He's not going to be a star - but championship teams are built on above average hitters. It also helps that he bats lefthanded given the dimensions of PNC Park. His acquisition eliminates a huge hole in their lineup and gives Bucco fans one more player who is definitely not a question mark.

Most championship teams have maybe one Hall of Famer, a couple stars, and a couple guys having career years. But what they also have are solid if unheralded players. "Above average major league player" has become a Neil Huntington cliche, but it's also exactly what Iwamura is and what wins championships.

January 28, 2010

The Decade in Bobbleheads: 2001

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 28, 2010

Continuing "The Decade in Bobbleheads" we look at the Pirates' first year at PNC Park. The bobblehead craze was still in its early days in 2001, but it was clearly gaining momentum. Led by the Cleveland Indians who honored seven players, Major League Baseball teams gave away more bobbleheads by Memorial Day 2001 than in the entire previous season. Yet the Pirates, knowing a new stadium would attract fans in droves, once again gave away only one bobblehead.

Roberto Clemente
September 8, 2001
Worthiness: A+
Execution: D-

The Pirates repeated their 2000 mistake in 2001, choosing an all time great player to honor and then dropping the ball with a poorly done bobblehead. Roberto Clemente is the best and most famous player in Pirates history and deserves a better bobblehead than this.

While Bill Mazeroski looked disgusted in his depiction, Clemente is pictured smiling. Or is he foaming at the mouth? That's a lot of white in the teeth area. And the face has no particular resemblance to Clemente at all. The shoes and uniform are better done than Maz, but the jersey lettering doesn't look that much like the Pirates' actual jerseys of the era. Finally this bobblehead depicts one of the most exciting and athletically gifted players in baseball history in a pose better suited to a batboy. I'd like to see Clemente batting, throwing or even running the bases.

33,800 fans saw the Pirates beat the Reds 3-1 that day, a good crowd until you consider that the average game drew over 30,000 that year. Apparently it wasn't until 2002 that these giveaways became a major factor in attendance.

Bobbleheads as a whole still had a long way to go, with many MLB teams using the same unimpressive supplier as the Pirates. Still, this cereal box quality piece should have been done better.

January 27, 2010

Anybody's Game - 1979 WS Game 2 Live Blog Continues in 7th, Tied at 2

BALTIMORE, Md. / October 11, 1979

Top of the 7th
9:14 - Welcome back to Baltimore and it couldn't be a closer game with the teams knotted at 2 in the seventh.
9:15 - And there you can see behind the score is Murray getting thrown out at the plate on a huge play in the field by Dave Parker, an MVP candidate.
9:16 - John Milner leads off with a fly out to Al Bumbry in center field.
9:17 - It's raining pretty hard now but Palmer is totally unfazed by anything. Bill Madlock up with one out, nobody on.
9:17 - Madlock fouls off a pitch way outside. He can hit any pitch and he takes advantage by swinging at any pitch.
9:18 - Diving stop by DeCinces and then he throws the ball away. Ball goes into the dugout, and Madlock goes to second.
9:18 - He should have eaten that ball. Doug's third error and it's only Game 2 of the series.
9:19 - Ed Ott is up, a good hitter for a catcher at .273 with seven home runs.
9:20 - Rumor has it Ed Ott's eventual goal is to manage an independent league team playing at a softball stadium in Allentown.
9:21 - Ott strikes out on a great changeup. Strategy time.
9:21 - They can walk Phil Garner and force Blyleven to the plate in a key spot. But the Pirates have good pinch hitters on the bench.
9:22 - You know Palmer wants to go right after him. But they're putting him on. Decision time.
9:22 - I would just let Blyleven hit, he's done a great job tonight.
9:23 - Nope, it's the lefty Mike Easler pinch hitting. A good pinch hitter this season. He's a .278 hitter with two home runs, 11 RBI, and only 62 at-bats.
9:24 - Blyleven doesn't like always taken out like this. He completed only four of 37 starts. Tippy Martinez is warming up but this is a spot where you want Palmer on the mound.
9:25 - Easler crouches a lot and is a small guy, makes for a tiny strike zone. Don Robinson is the only man warming so he'll be the new Bucs pitcher.
9:26 - Blyleven goes six innings, 2 runs, and now a 1.80 ERA this postseason. Easler is battling with two strikes now.
9:27 - Full count now. Easler really battling the Hall of Famer here. That'll start the runners.
9:28 - Catcher Rick Dempsey visits the mound. And it's a fastball low loading the bases with Omar Moreno coming to the plate!
9:29 - Omar Moreno, a good year in the leadoff spot, .282, 110 runs, 8 home runs and 69 RBI - a lot of RBI for a leadoff man. He's cold at the plate right now but he has the ability to give the Buccos a big hit.
9:29 - Palmer hated that ball four call but it looked low to me.
9:31 - Palmer really taking his time here.
9:32 - STRIKEOUT! The veteran Palmer comes through again. He is so tough in the clutch.
9:33 - The Pirates now have eight hits, two walks and a Baltimore error and only two runs to show for it in this huge Game 2.

Bottom of the 7th
9:36 - Don Robinson is the new pitcher.
9:37 - He threw two scoreless innings last night and is back out there again. 8-8, 3.87 on the year as a starting pitcher. He's used to three or four days rest and now he's out on back to back nights.
9:38 - Robinson is a fastball pitcher, hard thrower, and we'll see if he has the same gas he had yesterday when the Oriole hitters were really overmatched.
9:38 - Bobby Smith fouls out to first. Rick Dempsey is up with one out.
9:39 - I almost forgot Moonraker on my list of great films of the 70s! Holly Goodhead, what a name.
9:40 - Dempsey walks and now it's the pitcher's spot, and Jim Palmer's night is over. Pat Kelly pinch hits. A left hander with a .288 career average, and a whopping .458 on the year.
9:41 - When Moonraker came out the Pirates were in fourth place and having a disappointing season. They've been on fire ever since but they need this game here.
9:43 - The count quickly 2-1 on Kelly and Ed Ott is out to the mound with the rain coming down really hard now. It's to the point where they might have to think about suspending the game.
9:44 - The Pirates would look great in yellow and black plaid uniforma, wonder why they don't wear them.
9:45 - Ball four! Al Bumbry is up now with two on, one out, and I wonder if Robinson has his good stuff tonight.
9:46 - Bumbry is not an RBI man but he's a good hitter, .285 this year and two .300 years in his career.
9:48 - Straight gas now. Robinson won't mess around with more breaking stuff in this situation.
9:49 - And the Orioles road uniforms would look good in black and orange plaid. Plaid looks great for my formal furniture, why not for uniforms? I just never will get fashion.
9:51 - Bumbry strikes out. A huge strikeout. And Mark Belanger due up with no hits this World Series.
9:51 - They're calling him back. Terry Crowley will pitch hit, a dangerous bat off the bench.
9:52 - The Orioles released him in 1977 at the age of 30, but he signed a minor league deal and had a career year in Rochester. He came up that September and has been their top pinch hitter since, hitting .317 this year.
9:54 - Crowley works a 3-2 count. Kenny Singleton in the on deck circle with 111 RBIs and one hot wife this season.
9:56 - Walk. Robinson has walked the bases loaded. He's thrown 28 pitches this inning and is playing with fire, the dangerous Singleton could break it wide open.
9:56 - Still two out, but I might bring the hook for Robinson here. You could lose the Series in this at-bat.
9:58 - A lot of drama here. Kent Tekulve is ready and they're sticking with the young Robinson. Not even a mound visit.
9:59 - Three pitch strikeout! Singleton goes down on a pitch way low and inside. 2-2 tie still, and I could have had a heart attack in that inning.

Top of the 8th
10:02 - There's Singleton striking out in the biggest at-bat yet in the series.
10:04 - Tippy Martinez is in now for the O's, a lefty bullpen ace who went 10-3, 2.88 on the season.
10:05 - Jim Palmer really battled and gets a no-decision with a great game. Don Stanhouse is warming up too. Tim Foli leads off.
10:06 - I don't get why you choke up on the bat rather than using a smaller bat, but I'm not a gritty middle infielder like Tim Foli.
10:06 - Foli flies out to right field, Ken Singleton catching it right by the wall.
10:07 - Fastball pitcher against fastball hitter here with Dave Parker up, and Stargell on deck.
10:07 - Groundout to third. The Pirates haven't been pulling many balls tonight. But Willie Stargell could put them ahead with one swing of course.
10:08 - Do you realize that if the Pirates had made the 1977 or 1978 Series in New York I could have gone to Studio 54 after the games? Instead I'm doing late night crab fishing.
10:09 - Stargell strikes out looking on a pitch that was clearly outside. 2-2 middle of the eighth.

Bottom of the 8th
10:12 - Eddie Murray leads it off with a looping hit into center field.
10:12 - Robinson in for another inning despite struggling in the 7th. The O's can't hit him, it's just an issue of control.
10:13 - Coffee being delivered in the visiting bullpen. They don't do that in New York.
10:15 - Doug DeCinces up with the outfielders playing deep. DeCinces is a fastball hitter, but I don't know if he can catch up to Don Robinson.
10:16 - By the way, my idiot friend bet me $100 that the USA would medal in hockey at the upcoming Winter Olympics. Unbelievable, and he wasn't even drunk at the time.
10:17 - DeCinces tries a bunt and they don't get the lead runner! Both runners are safe and there are two on, two out for John Lowenstein - a guy with 11 home runs in a part time role.
10:18 - Lowenstein is bunting again, the Pirates get the force out at second and then the tag play on Murray going to third! Double play! Billy Smith is up with one on and two out, and what looked like a great rally is about to be over.
10:19 - Cosell with a great observation. Why swing or bunt at the first pitch on all these at bats with Robinson lacking control. Unbelievable. Chuck Tanner is clearly outmanaging the great Earl Weaver.
10:21 - Smith grounds out to Garner and it's still tied, 2-2, going to the ninth inning.

Top of the 9th
10:24 - Bill Robinson leading off, pinch-hitting for the lefthanded Milner against the southpaw Tippy Martinez who's in for a second inning of work.
10:25 - Robinson hit 24 home runs this year, what a guy to bring off your bench in this Game 2. But this one could go all night with these quality bullpens.
10:26 - By the way, how about this horrible new comic strip in the Post Gazette. For Better or For Worse. My opinion: Worse. Is it funny that two people are married and have kids?
10:27 - Robinson singles and that chases Martinez already. FULLPACK Don Stanhouse coming in.
10:31 - Earl Weaver is always more inclined to make a move than not with his pitching staff. Stanhouse gets his nickname because Weaver claims to smoke a full pack of cigarettes while he's on the mound due to his wildness.
10:33 - He's 7-3 on the year with a 2.85 ERA over 52 games.
10:34 - Bill Madlock up, and Matt Alexander runs for Robinson. Alexander stole 13 bases and was caught only once.
10:35 - The designated runner. A specialist who is here to stay in baseball. Alexander batted only 13 times this year.
10:36 - By the way, the U.S. Pioneer 11 visited Saturn. I'm not impressed. I took two pills with Dock Ellis a few years ago and we both visited Jupiter.
10:37 - Finally Stanhouse is going to throw a pitch with Tim Stoddard warming now.
10:38 - Bill Madlock is up, probably the best pure hitter on the team along with Dave Parker. Stanhouse still hasn't thrown a pitch.
10:38 - Alexander runs on the first pitch, and he got a great jump and is thrown out anyway! Wow, I can't believe Rick Dempsey threw him out on that one. Cosell hates the steal attempt. Madlock steps back in with nobody on now.
10:40 - Hardest rain of the night. If the game is suspended while tied, they'll replay it from the beginning.
10:41 - Stanhouse has been in the game for ten minutes and is on his first batter. The slowest worker in baseball.
10:42 - Madlock hits a fly ball in front of the left center field warning track. Two outs for Ed Ott. Looks like if the Pirates win this it'll be in extra innings.
10:43 - It's quickly 0-2 on Ed Ott. Rick Dempsey, a pinch hitter for Stanhouse and then Al Bumbry are due up for Baltimore in the 9th.
10:43 - Now Steve Stone is warming along with Stoddard in the Baltimore 'pen.
10:44 - The 1-2 pitch just misses and it's 2-2 now. Stanhouse and Dempsey wanted that call.
10:44 - Sharp ground ball directly at the second baseman, and Billy Smith can't play a bad hop. Ott on first with two outs for Phil Garner. I sure wish the Pirates didn't try to steal earlier in this inning.
10:45 - Phil Garner has to be the best #8 hitter in baseball, and he hit .377 in September.
10:47 - 3-0 to Garner. Robinson is on deck but I'm sure they'll pinch hit for him if necessary.
10:48 - Four pitch walk! I see what Earl Weaver was getting at with the nickname. And it'll be Manny Sanguillen to pinch hit.
10:48 - He's a .297 career hitter and hit .377 in the '71 World Series when we beat these same Orioles. Now he's well past his prime, and hit just .230 this year with no home runs. Can't believe this is our best option.
10:49 - They'll try to score Ott from second on just about any hit by the way, with Moreno on deck hitting poorly the last two nights.
10:51 - Manny out in front of a great pitch to hit, and it's 0-2 now.
10:54 - SINGLE TO RIGHT! AND OTT IS COMING AROUND TRYING TO SCORE...SINGLETON THROWS...MURRAY'S RELAY IS LATE! OTT HOOK SLIDES INTO HOME! 3-2 PIRATES!
10:55 - Moreno lines out to Smith on the first pitch. But it'll be Kent Tekulve in to close it out, and come home tied 1-1.
10:56 - What a rally! It looked like there was literally no chance. Two outs, an 0-2 count... And Sanguillen comes through. A 1971 hero is a hero in 1979.
10:57 - A questionable addition to the postseason roster to some, Sanguillen with perhaps his last big hit in a Pirate uniform. You just can't predict baseball.

Bottom of the 9th
10:58 - Kent Tekulve is on to close it now.
10:59 - He pitched in 94 games this year, a real workhorse. 10-8, 31 saves and a 2.75 ERA.
11:00 - Matt Alexander stays in to play left. Enrique Romo and Grant Jackson are still active in the bullpen but who are we kidding, this is Tekulve's game.
11:02 - Two strikes quickly on Rick Dempsey, the .239 hitting catcher.
11:03 - Struck him out on a great curveball. No chance for Dempsey. And Kiko Garcia will pinch hit for Stanhouse. .243 with 5 home runs this year.
11:04 - Earl Weaver does not look happy. The O's blew it in the bottom of the 8th.
11:05 - Tekulve is a sidearmer and it is hard to pick up that arm angle after three or four at-bats against conventional overhand pitchers.
11:06 - And Garcia strikes out! Two out and Al Bumbry is the last home. I'm thinking this will be tied and Three Rivers will be rocking tomorrow night.
11:07 - I'm jinxing them. Bumbry is a tough out. Lee May is in the on deck circle with 19 home runs on the year. Potential winning run if Bumbry gets on.
11:09 - Routine grounder to the shortstop Foli! He throws to Stargell, Bumbry is out and this series is tied!
11:11 - And there's your losing pitcher Don Stanhouse, looking not too happy. At least he's got great hair and facial hair.
11:13 - Not perfect baseball by the Pirates as they had to overcome a few mistakes, but great pitching and a timely hit from Sanguillen. What a huge win.
11:14 - Jim Palmer and Bert Blyleven both pitched great. One for the ages.
11:15 - No rain please tomorrow. The series resumes with Game 3, which I'll be Live Blogging next Tuesday. A pivotal game. The Pirates' ace, John Candelaria, 14-9 and a 3.22 ERA, against Scott McGregor for the O's, 13-6 with a 3.35 ERA. See you then.

'79 Buccos Take 2-1 Lead Into the 4th as Live Blog Continues

BALTIMORE, Md. / October 11, 1979

Top of the 4th
8:23 - Stargell, Milner and Madlock to start the 4th.
8:24 - There's Doug DeCinces checking a swing in the last at-bat. And the Pirates start the inning with the three guys who got consecutive hits in the 2nd. Let's get Palmer out of the game here.
8:25 - Willie Stargell golfs a pitch that's almost in the dirt and it's home run distance but foul. Can't believe he even hit it let alone that far.
8:25 - Diving catch in left by John Lowenstein and Stargell is robbed of a hit! One out.
8:27 - Disappointing inning. John Milner pops out to first and Bill Madlock grounds out. Still 2-1.
8:28 - Palmer looked to be struggling and now he is getting the Pirates out. Looks like a pitcher's duel again.

Bottom of the 4th
8:31 - John Lowenstein leads off the bottom of the inning.
8:32 - Base hit for Lowenstein on a tough hop at second base.
8:34 - That ball must have had eyes like Lowenstein's specs there. Billy Smith up.
8:34 - Billy Smith grounds into a double play! Great takeout slide by Lowenstein but Scrap Iron, Phil Garner, gets the second out.
8:35 - And now Rick Dempsey grounds out to shortstop. 2-1 after four innings.

Top of the 5th
8:38 - Ed Ott bunts at a changeup and is thrown out. One away.
8:39 - Totally legit move for your slow catcher to bunt for a base hit.
8:40 - Can't believe the Federal government still hasn't given Chrysler the $1 billion loan it needs to stay in business. Just a great American company who fell on hard times due to some temporary problems in the Middle East. Help them out here and they'll be profitable for 100 years.
8:41 - Scrap Iron singles, and now Blyleven will probably be up to bunt.
8:42 - Blyleven bunts into a double play! Beautiful play by Murray at first, who throws to Belanger and then a quick relay back to Jim Palmer covering first. The last two men on that play are Gold Glove winners.

Bottom of the 5th
8:44 - We're back in Baltimore now. A pitcher's duel of a game, and a pitcher's duel at0bat right now as Jim Palmer leads off the inning against Bert Blyleven.
8:45 - Bert really has had great stuff. Apart from a mistake over the plate to Eddie Murray, he's been pretty hard to hit.
8:46 - I'm keeping up with current fashion while also paying homage to the Punk movement tonight. Although I'm wearing my customary brown, tan, orange, yellow, light brown and white outfit, I'm sitting on a black leather couch.
8:47 - Palmer flies out and Al Bumbry is the one out hitter.
8:48 - Bumbry grounds out sharply to Bill Madlock at third. Bumbry is just 3 for 31 against Bert Blyleven in his career.
8:49 - Earl Weaver loves those batter vs. pitcher statistics and uses them to form his lineups. But he needed Bumbry's glove in the lineup anyway in center field.
8:49 - And Mark Belanger flies out to center field. 2-1 Pirates after 5 still. What a game for Bert Blyleven.


Top of the 6th
8:52 - Omar Moreno leads off the 6th now with Palmer dealing following a shaky start.
8:53 - Moreno, first pitch swinging, grounds out. Tim Foli is up now, 1 for 2 tonight.
8:54 - Earl Weaver smokes a cigarette in the tunnel by the dugout every time his team is in the field. And with Jim Palmer on the mound sometimes he doesn't finish it before the side's retired. Foli flies out on the second pitch.
8:55 - Dave Parker is up looking to atone for his earlier error. He hit .310 but can't do as much damage with nobody on base.
8:56 - And Parker lines to center field. Just a great pure hitter. Willie Stargell up with a chance to make this game 4-1.
8:56 - Howard Cosell visited with Tommy Lasorda before the game. One of the most re-maah-kah-ble people in the game.
8:57 - Amazing to see Stargell still such a threat at 39 years of age. You might never see another 39 year old hit as many as 32 home runs.
8:58 - Soft grounder to third and Pittsburgh is gone in the sixth inning. Pirates still lead 2-1.

Bottom of the 6th
9:01 - Bottom of the 6th and the Baltimore fans really know how to look classy while supporting their O's.
9:02 - Ken Singleton leads off with Murray and DeCinces coming up.
9:03 - This is a huge inning for Bert Blyleven as he nurses just a 2-1 lead. He's pitching like a Hall of Famer tonight.
9:03 - Singleton loops a base hit to left. Hope this isn't the start of a rally.
9:04 - Sorry, hate to keep bringing up politics, but this Marxist Sandinista government can't be good for U.S. interests in our hemisphere. Isn't there some way to secretly fund rebels in Nicaragua or something?
9:05 - Big time clutch hit for Eddie Murray as he doubles to the wall scoring Ken Singleton. 2-2 tie. DeCinces is up and he'll probably bunt.
9:06 - Grant Jackson and Enrique Romo are warming up now. Blyleven has thrown 80 pitches so far and is in danger of letting Baltimore take the lead.
9:06 - Swinging away, and a great play by Tim Foli on a ground ball to barely throw DeCinces out at first. One out but the go-ahead run Murray moves to third. Infield comes in now and a real tight situation with Johnny Lowenstein up.
9:07 - It's time for Bert Blyleven's money pitch. Look for mostly curveballs the rest of this frame.
9:08 - Lowenstein thinking the same thing and Bert blows a fastball by him, 0-2.
9:10 - Fly ball to right field caught by Dave Parker, and he throws out Murray at the plate! Just an amazing play by Parker.
9:11 - The ball is seemingly out of his hand before he catches it. Parker has the quickest release I've seen other than Clemente. And Murray doesn't even slide or try to knock over Ed Ott, runs right into the out.
9:12 - Cosell comparing Eddie Murray to the Marquis de Sade. Yes, they're virtually indistinguishable.

1979 World Series Live Blog: Game 2 - Palmer vs. Blyleven

BALTIMORE, Md. / October 11, 1979

6:58 - Greetings from Baltimore. It's going to be another cold one tonight, it's 45 degrees now and dropping. Field conditions are still soggy like in Game 1, but the game's supposed to start once Jim Palmer finishes his warm up pitches.
7:01 - It will be nice to get home, not only to the home fans, but to my Atari and the entralling game Adventure. But for now we've got another one in Baltimore.
7:02 - Palmer's feuds with his manager Earl Weaver are legendary.
7:04 - Boy, Jim Palmer loves to warm up. He's saying in a pregame interview that he won't be affected by the lack of the high fastball strike with a National League umpire.
7:05 - And a reminder, with the Pirates already down 1-0 in games, there's a lot at stake for me personally as I've vowed to shave my head and write a depressing song about this year if the Pirates can't win it.

Top of the 1st
7:07 - We're finally going to get underway. John Lowenstein is in left again despite his injury.
7:09 - I only thought we would get underway. Howard Cosell has been saying one sentence for the past two minutes. There's Eddie Murray at first, a great hitter and fielder for a young guy.
7:10 - A side note to my readers, post comments if you're interested in taking a little trip this December to see The Who in Cincinnati. We're going to get there early and try to beat the crowds to front row seats.
7:11 - Omar Moreno is working the count here and hitting a few foul balls. He was one of the goats yesterday going 0-5 with a few key outs.
7:12 - And he grounds a 2-2 pitch up the middle for a hit. Palmer said in today's Pittsburgh Press that he would rather make Omar hit a fastball than walk him, because he'll automatically get to second. I bet he's stealing on the first pitch. Tim Foli up.
7:13 - Moreno's going on a 2-0 pitch, and Foli - a great hit and run man - pops out foul to first. And a big mental mistake by Moreno as he fails to get back to first. What a horrendous decision. Now there's nobody on for Dave Parker.
7:15 - Parker grounds to third and is barely thrown out by Doug DeCinces. 0-0 with the Orioles coming up.

Bottom of the 1st
7:18 - And we're back. Al Bumbry leading off for the O's against Bert Blyleven.
7:19 - As you know Blyleven is a control pitcher who has has the best curve in baseball.
7:20 - My wife called during the break to ask if we have 200 dollars to spend on some kind of a tape player that you can carry with you. Ha! I cannot imagine walking around on the street, listening to music on headphones like you're in a recording studio. What a joke.
7:22 - Al Bumbry grounds out finally. Mark Belanger up.
7:24 - Apparently Belanger is an amazing hitter against Blyleven, and Bert starts him 3-0. But he flies to the warning track in left. Didn't think he could hit it that far.
7:25 - By the way, Ed Ott is catching today. And WHOOAH current batter Kenny Singleton has quite a wife.
7:26 - Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell agree.
7:27 - And Singleton grounds out to Phil Garner at second. I'll try to get a picture of Ken's wife up during the break.

Top of the 2nd
7:30 p.m. - There she is. I'd let her buy a 200 dollar miniature tape player for sure.
7:31 - Willie Stargell batting with the bases empty. 32 home runs on the year plus another one last night.
7:32 - And 461 career homers. A sure Hall of Famer facing another one in Jim Palmer.
7:33 - Palmer just 10-6 on the year but he won 20 games eight times this decade. And Stargell singles to right!
7:33 - John Milner batting. He's the lefthanded part of the Pirates' left field platoon, .276 on the year with 16 home runs.
7:34 - And Milner singles too. Bill Madlock batting with a chance for a real good early rally.
7:36 - Speculation about bunting. No way I'd bunt with a man batting who owns a .320 career average.
7:37 - Madlock gets a fastball high and lines one to right center! Stargell is in to score and Milner is on third in scoring position for Ed Ott. 1-0.
7:38 - Ed Ott has been talking about wanting children in the next couple years, maybe a girl named Michelle. And he hits a sacrifice fly to right scoring Milner! 2-0 Pirates.
7:39 - Phil Garner is up, a dangerous hitter in the 8 hole with 11 home runs to go with his .293 average.
7:40 - Madlock tries to steal second and he's a dead duck there. What a terrible decision. Two out now with nobody on. Palmer can't find the plate unless it's a fastball down the middle, and you give him another out.
7:41 - And Garner grounds out to Belanger. I love the 2-0 lead but Palmer didn't have anything that inning. We could have chased him. Sammy Stewart was already warming up for Baltimore.

Bottom of the 2nd
7:44 - Eddie Murray up as the O's look to get something back here in the second.
7:44 - He's established himself as a top RBI guy for the O's, but the question is can he keep it up over a long career.
7:45 - Did he hear me? Home run and a long one down the right field line. Back to 2-1 that quickly, and Doug DeCinces is up now.
7:46 - And he grounds out to third. John Lowenstein is up now. He hit .254 this year with 11 home runs in his first year with the O's.
7:48 - Full count. We're informed that Bert Blyleven's father delivers molasses to cattle ranches out West.
7:49 - And he walks. There's Bill Madlock at third base in the picture. Second baseman Billy Smith is up.
7:51 - By the way, this is the first World Series since Pol Pot's government was overthrown in Cambodia. You would have expected forcibly evacuating the cities and having everybody farm the land to work great.
7:52 - Billy Smith lines to his second base counterpart Phil Garner, who almost doubles off Lowenstein. Two out.
7:54 - Blyleven is being really careful hear with the 8 hitter Rick Dempsey.
7:55 - Dempsey grounds one up the middle. Foli makes a good play to get to the ball but bobbles it while Lowenstein goes to third.
7:55 - And now Jim Palmer is up. If memory serves he was a pretty good hitter before the DH went in six years ago.
7:56 - Yep, he hit .224 in 1972. But it's 0-2 quickly. Doubt he ever got a hit off a Blyleven curve.
7:57 - Jim Palmer strikes out, and it's 2-1 heading into the third inning.

Top of the 3rd
7:59 - Back underway in a minute with Bert Blyleven leading off.
8:00 - Of course the Pirates could have turned the lineup over without Madlock's ill advised steal.
8:01 - He hit that one pretty well but Al Bumbry runs it down in center field.
8:02 - Omar Moreno up, 1-1 on the day.
8:03 - Moreno strikes out. Two out.
8:03 - Moreno now is 1 for 6 on the series, and he made a dumb out on the basepaths the one time he got on.
8:04 - What is your pick for best movie of the decade? Mine is Alien but there were a lot of great ones. I can't wait for 1980s cinema though, I'm rooting for another Godfather movie and maybe more in the Rocky series.
8:05 - Tim Foli singles on a pop up down the right field line. He's on now with two out for Dave Parker.
8:06 - Wild pitch, Foli to second and now Parker can make it 3-1 with a hit - and he had 193 this year.
8:07 - And Jim Palmer gets Parker to ground out, still 2-1 going to the bottom of the 3rd.
8:08 - Palmer gets credit for keeping his team in the game on a night when he clearly doesn't have his best stuff.

Bottom of the 3rd
8:12 - Al Bumbry flies out to lead off the 3rd.
8:14 - Mark Belanger, .167 on the season, is up and he's hitless in the series.
8:14 - Dave Parker drops a fly ball and Belanger makes it to second base! Keith Jackson on play by play criticizes him for trying the one handed catch.
8:15 - Costly error with Ken Singleton due up. .295, 35 home runs, and - the best measure of hitting - 111 RBI.
8:16 - Oh and just a gem of a play by Phil Garner on a ball in the hole between first and second. Belanger to third on the groundout but there are two out for Eddie Murray.
8:17 - Speaking of movies, I'm already seeing ads for a new one called Star Trek. I'm excited to see a good sci-fi flick without having to sit through three movies to know the whole story like Star Wars.
8:18 - Murray walks, and they pitched around him right there. Doug DeCinces is up, an accomplished hitter but no Eddie Murray.
8:20 - And DeCinces grounds out to shortstop. Keith Jackson still harping on Parker's carelessness catching the ball with one hand. After that play, I bet you'll see a lot more people using two hands in the coming decades. And the Bucs lead 2-1 heading to the 4th.

January 26, 2010

1979 World Series Live Blog Tonight - 7 p.m. - Game 2

Although 1979 World Series Game 1 ended in disappointment, the Live Blog was a success. Yet the live blog left many fans wanting more, by which I mean one person asked me when the next game would be.

So I have decided to Live Blog every game. The first game will start at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) night. The rest of the games will be at 7 p.m. each Tuesday. Depending on how long the Series goes, that should take us about up to the start of Grapefruit League action.

Playing in cold and wet conditions in Game 1, the Pirates fought back from a 5-0 first inning deficit but lost 5-4. They'll look to salvage a series split tomorrow but have a tough task ahead of them, facing eight-time 20-game winner and future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer (10-6, 3.30). Bert Blyleven (12-5, 3.60) gets the ball for Chuck Tanner's Pirates.

The full schedule follows.

Game 1: 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 20 Live from Memorial Stadium in Baltimore
Orioles 5, Pirates 4 (Live Blog Innings 1-3) (Live Blog Innings 4-6) (Live Blog Innings 7-9)
Game 2: 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 27 At Baltimore
Game 3: 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 2 Home at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh
Game 4: 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 9 Home at Pittsburgh
Game 5: 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 16 Home at Pittsburgh (If Necessary)
Game 6: 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 23 At Baltimore (If Necessary)
Game 7: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 2 At Baltimore (If Necessary)

January 25, 2010

The Decade in Bobbleheads: 2000

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 25, 2010

While the 2000-2009 decade was a pretty awful one on the field, the Pirates excelled in issuing more bobbleheads than just about any team. Sadly, the giveaway of bobbleheads has decreased to the point that Andrew McCutchen is the only player being honored this year. In this installment of "The Decade in Bobbleheads" we take a look at those halcyon days of 2000, when Tom Gorzelanny was but a twinkle in his father's eye. The Pirates gave away just one bobblehead, making this an easy post to write.

Bill Mazeroski
July 29, 2000
Worthiness: A
Execution: F

Bobblehead giveaways in Pittsburgh got off to quite an inauspicious start with this disaster. While the 1960 World Series hero and seven-time All Star Mazeroski clearly deserved to be honored with a bobblehead, he looks like he just lined into a triple play, or did something worse. I can kind of see how it looks like him, but there's not much detail. The jersey lettering is poorly done, and if he's holding a bat where's the end of the bat? Furthermore the box picture looks better than the real thing, evidence of poor production. A final complaint, I would prefer to see Mazeroski in a fielding pose since he got into the Hall of Fame for his glove.

The Pirates drew 30,118 fans for the only bobblehead giveaway ever at Three Rivers Stadium. This was a disappointment as they had ordered 35,000 bobbleheads. At least those fans got to see Brian Giles go 5-for-5 in a 10-2 win over the Padres. Maz and other members of the 1960 Pirates were there signing autographs.

The disappointing bobblehead was not a Pirates-specific problem that year; pretty much every team's giveaways that year were apparently made by the same company which did a poor job. I guess you have to start somewhere.

Pirates Owner: Championship Is 2010 Goal

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 25, 2010

When your team's owner is named Bob Nutting there is just no way to write a heading including his name but excluding a double meaning.

Anyway, in today's Post-Gazette, Mr. Nutting mentioned that he will be "pleased" with a championship in 2010.

Q: What would you consider a successful 2010?

A: Honestly, I won't be satisfied with any season until we win a championship. Incremental improvement might be encouraging at some level but, in terms of what's satisfactory ... I'll be pleased with a championship season.


It is good to see that Pirates ownership is on board with this blog's goal for 2010. Also encouraging is the rather reserved plans. "Pleased"? Why not "excited" or some stronger reaction? Probably because 2010 will only be the Pirates' first championship in a row.

January 24, 2010

The 2009 Draft Class Would Make An Awesome 7-in-1 Bobblehead

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 24, 2010

While trades and signings at the MLB level get much more attention, the amateur draft is the most important aspect of building a small market team. Poor drafting was the #1 reason for the failure of Dave Littlefield as GM. It is hard to explain how terrible Littlefield's drafting was. It was pretty bad when he drafted Bryan Bullington with the #1 overall pick in 2002, but arguably even worse when he drafted Bryan Bullington with the third round pick in his 2010 Fantasy NASCAR draft.

In order for the Pirates to build on the success of their 2010 World Series victory, they will need to develop draft picks who can replace players who become too expensive and move on to the big market teams. Let's look at how the Pirates' 2009 draft picks did in their first professional season.

Tony Sanchez (1st Round) A+
The Pirates took a lot of criticism with the pick of Sanchez at 4th overall. Many experts viewed Sanchez, a college catcher out of Boston College, as no better than the 20th best talent on the board, and it was thought that the Pirates took him mainly because he would sign for a low signing bonus. Well, it's still early but Sanchez was great. After playing only four games at short-season State College, where most college draft picks go, he was promoted to full season West Virginia and immediately became the best hitter on that team. Sanchez hit .316 at West Virginia with 7 home runs, 46 RBI and 29 runs scored in only 41 games. He also had 21 walks and was hit by 8 pitches for an outstanding .415 on-base percentage. The Pirates then brought him up to Lynchburg where he started throughout the Carolina League championship run. He played good defense and threw out a respectable 30% of baserunners. Sanchez was invited to spring training this year and he'll stay in Bradenton to start 2010 with the Pirates' new High Class A team there. If he plays well he could be in Altoona by midseason. With the Pirates trying to trade Ryan Doumit it's possible that Sanchez will be in Pittsburgh by 2011 although 2012 is more realistic.

Victor Black (Supplemental Round) B
With their 49th overall pick the Pirates chose Victor Black, a righthanded college pitcher from Dallas Baptist University. Black profiles as a closer prospect with a mid-90s fastball and a good slider. He didn't pitch that much.with State College but showed good strikeout potential with a 3.45 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 31 innings. He also showed his main weakness, control, with 15 walks and 4 wild pitches. This pick, like the Dotel signing, showed the Pirates' preference for relievers who can miss bats in contrast to the pitch-to-contact starting rotation. Black will play at West Virginia or Bradenton in 2010. I would bet on Bradenton. Many teams prefer their better pitching prospects in the warm-weather Florida State League, a luxury the Pirates will have thanks to the move of thir high class A affiliate.

Brooks Pounders (2nd Round) B
This pick was another surprise, but how can you go wrong with a great name like Brooks Pounders. Brooks is a big righthanded starting pitcher, drafted out of high school in California. He has four pitches: an 89 mph fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. It is very hard to evaluate high school pitchers in their first minor league season. You just hope that they don't totally bomb, and Brooks didn't. Pitching in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, he had a 3.04 ERA in 24 innings with 11 walks and 20 strikeouts. We'll be able to learn a lot more in 2010 when Brooks will probably throw around 60 innings at State College. If he develops properly Brooks could be a similar MLB pitcher to Paul Maholm.

Evan Chambers (3rd Round) B+
I love players who walk and strike out a lot, so of course I loved Evan Chambers' 2009. Drafted out of a fine academic institution, Hillsborough Community College, Chambers played center field all season with State College. He walked 50 times and struck out 78 times in just 58 games. He hit just .176 in July but finished well to improve to .245. With all those walks, however, he had a .393 on base percentage, allowing him to score 45 runs. Six steals with no caught stealing helped too. Chambers slugged .380, a number that will improve if he can cut down on strikeouts. I love his 19.8% walk rate as that's really the one skill you can tell a lot about from a player's first season. Chambers will play at West Virginia in 2010. His one weakness is that he's a center fielder with a left fielder's throwing arm. If he developes power he could start in MLB, and if not he'll be a solid fourth outfielder.

Zack Dodson (4th Round) Incomplete
Dodson, a high school lefthanded pitcher from Texas, was a tough signing, demanding a seven figure bonus and eventually settling for $600,000. Because he signed late he only got into one game with the Gulf Coast League Pirates, pitching one perfect inning. I guess a 0.00 ERA is the best you can possibly do anyway, but I had to give him an incomplete grade. Dodson is a lefthanded fastball/curveball pitcher who will start 2010 with State College.

Nathan Baker (5th Round) B+
Baker is a lefthanded pitcher from the University of Mississippi. He throws a fastball, slider and changeup. At State College, he put up a 1.69 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 16 innings, with only 2 walks. The reason I gave his season a B+ is that he only had 9 strikeouts, suggesting that his other great numbers were probably in part due to luck and small sample size. He'll start 2010 with West Virginia, probably in the starting rotation.

Zachary Von Rosenberg (6th Round) Incomplete
Von Rosenberg signed for an eye-popping $1.2 million, the highest bonus of any player picked below the first round. Yes, the Pirates are cheap at the MLB level, but ownership can't be totally cheap if they're giving over a million to two lower-round draft picks. Due to signing late, he pitched only one perfect inning, with one strikeout - an identical stat line to Zack Dodson. He'll be in State College too in 2010. His high school, Zachary High School, and hometown of Zachary, Louisiana are already named after him, not bad by the age of 18. He throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup, and was rated as a second round talent before dropping due to signability concerns.

My God, I had no idea how long this would take. There's no way I am grading 50 rounds worth of picks. Anyway, you can see that the Pirates drafted some players who put up good to great numbers in their first seasons, giving us hope for the future.

January 21, 2010

He's Half Mike Gonzalez, Half Mike Williams

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 21, 2010

Apparently Pirates GM Neil Huntington skipped last night's Live Blog to upgrade his current bullpen. As I'm sure you've read, the Pirates have officially signed Octavio Dotel to be the team's closer.

The Dotel signing addresses a common complaint about Matt Capps. Even in Capps' best years, he was never your stereotypical hard-throwing, strikeout guy that fans expect to see closing games. Dotel has struck out more than a batter per inning throughout his career. Pirates fans probably remember him as a shutdown setup man with Houston. He's almost a pure fastball pitcher and can still bring the heat, having struck out 11 batters per nine innings last year. Dotel also has a slider which he throws about once every seven pitches.

While there's been a fair amount of excitement expressed, I would expect Octavio Dotel to be at best an average closer. The four main problems with Dotel are:
1. Injury risk. Dotel missed most of 2005 with injuries, was ineffective and missed most of 2006, and then pitched in only 32 games in 2007.
2. Home runs. Hard fastballs can get hit hard. He's given up 1.2 home runs per nine innings in his career.
3. Control. He's walked 4.1 batters per nine innings in his career, 5.2 last season.
4. Age. At 36 Dotel could lose his effectiveness at any time. Some relievers are done at 30, others at 45, but it happens at some age to everyone. This is also a concern for the primary setup man, 38-year-old Brendan Donnelly.

The key to this signing is, those problems are also what makes Dotel a good value. He's overcome the walks and home runs to post good ERAs for his whole career. He's the Pirates' best option to close for around $3 million, and is much less risky than the 26-year-old Capps who was just awful in 2009. While it was probably pretty dumb to get nothing for Capps, Octavio Dotel is likely to be a better closer at the same salary.

The contract also includes a club option for 2011, which could indicate a lack of desire to flip Dotel at the trade deadline.

Alas the Anthony Claggett era was all too short. He was a Pirate for only a week worth of games, and was designated for assignment to make room for Dotel. He'll be forever remembered for pitching the 8th inning of the Pirates' 8-4 loss to the Reds on October 3. There are many candidates but Anthony Claggett could be the least significant Pirate of the 2000s. Of course there is a chance that no one claims him, which would allow the Pirates to send him to Indianapolis in a swing man/long relief role.

UPDATE: While I say Dotel's upside is an average closer at best, that's not necessarily a bad thing. An average closer has an ERA in the low 3's which is what Dotel has done the last two seasons. The real risk is an age or injury-related dropoff; if he continues to do what he did the last two years that'll be fine.

January 20, 2010

Rally Cap Time, 1979 Game 1, Innings 7-9

Top of the 7th
9:43 - Continuing our 1979 Game 1 Live Blog. Orioles starter Mike Flanagan is still in, hoping to preserve a 5-3 lead.
9:44 - Tim Foli first pitch swinging, grounds out to Belanger on a nice play.
9:45 - How great is Phil Garner's mustache?
9:46 - Dave Parker grounds out to third on the second pitch of the at-bat. He was almost safe on a routine grounder, this guy has great speed.
9:47 - Bill Robinson flies out to Al Bumbry. Wow, just a horrendous inning from the Pirates' 2-3-4 hitters against a tiring Mike Flanagan. He threw only four pitches that inning.

Bottom of the 7th
9:49 - The picture I used for inning 1 was Bruce Kison. Garner looks just like hiim with a bigger mustache. Robinson is back out for inning 7 with the Orioles big boppers due up.
9:50 - By the way, my hotel has this new channel, ESPN. The whole channel is going to show sports. What a joke. Are people going to sit there and talk about football on a a Tuesday, on TV?
9:51 - Ken Singleton walks on a close 3-2 pitch. Eddie Murray is up.
9:55 - Murray sees a lot of pitches before finally flying to center. There he is batting in that shot. John Lowenstein is up with one out. Absolutely pivotal to hold them here.
9:56 - Keith Jackson, now doing play by play, compares Robinson's velocity to Nolan Ryan and Jim Kern. He just threw one at 96.
9:58 - Robinson is careful with Lowenstein and gets him to 3-2 before getting him to fly out. DeCinces is up now. Lowenstein doesn't run well on his way to first; speculation that he might have gotten hurt in the swampy outfield.
10:00 - Amazing catch by Parker on a long fly ball! He can do it all in the outfield, range, throwing arm, and sure hands.

Top of the 8th
10:03 - The Orioles are still up 5-3 with Flanagan still out there. Gary Roenicke has replaced Lowensten in left field. Roenicke is the better fielder anyway.
10:04 - Cosell knows all. He says Willie Stargell's hotel room was robbed last night and he lost a stereo and $2,000.
10:06 - HOME RUN STARGELL! THE PIRATES MAKE IT A ONE RUN GAME! His first career World Series home run. Unbelievable.
10:07 - Conference at the mound, but no change. Don Stanhouse is warming up now, the fourth pitcher the O's have warmed up. Bill Madlock flies out to Bumbry in center.
10:09 - Nicosia reaches for an outside pitch and Ks. Garner now batting with two outs. Remember he has some pop with 11 home runs on the year.
10:10 - DeCinces drops a Baltimore chop, that is the figurative Baltimore chop, although we are in Baltimore. Infield hit.
10:11 - Rennie Stennett will pinch-hit for Don Robinson, .238 with no home runs on the year.
10:12 - What a hit for Stennett! He lofts one right over first sending Garner to third. 5-4, two outs, two on, for Omar Moreno. Flanagan is still in!
10:13 - Omar Moreno strikes out looking on a curveball that is clearly outside. 5-4 Orioles, middle of the 8th.

Bottom of the 8th
10:16 - There's a shot of Stargell's home run swing. I know it's blurry, but I'm photographing an 18 inch cabinet TV on film and then developing it within minutes, give me a break.
10:18 - Grant Jackson is in, 8-5, 2.96 in 72 games. A veteran lefty and we get a shot of his wife too. Does anyone not have a wife?
10:21 - Rich Dauer, pinch hitting for Smith, singles up the middle. Rick Dempsey is up. They won't pinch hit for him with a lead, as he can control the Pirates' running game should anyone get on in the ninth.
10:23 - Earl Weaver's bullpen is quiet now and Mike Flanagan is in the on-deck circle. Big time show of confidence in Flanagan.
10:24 - Dempsey flies out to Moreno. Flanagan probably is up to bunt. He gets a standing ovation from 53,000 fans.
10:25 - He is up to bunt, and he isn't even holding the bat right.
10:26 - Still bunting with two strikes out, Flanagan strikes out.
10:28 - Al Bumbry grounds to shortstop, forcing Dauer out at second. Nice play by Foli who was well positioned there. And it all comes down to the top of the ninth. Tim Foli, Dave Parker and Bill Robinson are due up.

Top of the 9th
10:31 - Tim Foli will lead it off. .288 with one home run on the season, but he's tough to strike out with only 14 K's all year! Could be a tough out. Rich Dauer stays in to play second base.
10:31 - Mike Flanagan has thrown 126 pitches already.
10:32 - Foli grounds out to Mark Belanger on an 0-1 pitch.
10:32 - Dave Parker is next, 3 for 4 today, and an MVP candidate with a .310 average, 25 homers and 94 RBI.
10:33 - Parker is a lefty but he kills lefthanded pitching, with 13 of his 25 home runs against southpaws. He singles up the middle, and he has good speed so Flanagan better not forget him.
10:33 - Stanhouse and Martinez are warming now. And they pick Parker off! No, wait, they're calling him safe at second. He slides safely into second on a slow throw by Murray. Great speed for Parker like I said. A man in scoring position with one out.
10:35 - Bill Robinson steps back in, .264, 24 home runs, and absolutely kills lefthanded pitching.
10:36 - Surprising that Weaver doesn't argue that call as it looked close.
10:36 - Weaver stays with his starter. John Milner, a strong lefthanded pinch hitter, is on the bench so there's no point in going to a righty - especially with Stargell on deck.
10:37 - He grounds out to second, Parker goes to third with two outs. And here's Stargell.
10:37 - 1-0 to Stargell. You say you never put the winning run on base, but this is Willie Stargell.
10:39 - Pop up to the left side, and Belanger catches it. That's it for the Pirates. They'll have to get Jim Palmer tomorrow. 5-4 loss.
10:42 - And the Pirates just couldn't come back from those five first-inning runs today. A really tough loss especially in wet and cold conditions.
10:43 - They'll have to face Palmer tomorrow, 225-122 in his career, 7-2 in the postseason, and 10-6 this year in an injury shortened season. For the Pirates, Bert Blyleven, no slouch himself but no Palmer. Blyleven is 148-128 on his career and went 12-5 this year. He beat the Reds in the NLCS with a complete game.
10:44 - And I can't believe I managed to live blog this whole game. To my audience which I suspect was five people, thanks. What a night. I think I will wait a week before Live Blogging Game 2. Take care Bucco fans.

Live Blog Innings 4-6, Can the Pirates come back?

Top of the 4th
8:21 - I'm Live Blogging Game 1 of the 1979 World Series. The first three innings are in the post below. Welcome back, the Pirates still trail 5-0 on a cold rainy night at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.
8:22 - Tim Foli grounds another one foul down the left field line, then singles.
8:25 - How great does this ball girl look? Dave Parker up with a chance to make this a rally.
8:27 - Parker wanted to make it 5-2 but swings and misses. Jim Rooker's wife has more hair than all the Sex Pistols combined. Parker eventually singles, Foli to third.
8:29 - The Pittsburgh wives are cheering with Terrible Towels. Huge move. And I can't overemphasize how bad of a move it was for Foli to try for third there even though he made it on a close play.
8:30 - Bill Robinson grounds out, Parker to second with Foli holding. Willie Stargell is up needing a hit to make this a game again.
8:31 - Stargell grounds out to second scoring Foli. Bill Madlock is up with two out and Parker now on third.
8:32 - Madlock, a former two-time batting champion, was a real key to the Pirates' turnaround this year, hitting .328 after the trade that brought him to Pittsburgh. He fouls two balls down the left field line. I am in love with this ball girl. The TV camera shows Madlock's wife but Howard Cosell, doing color, points out Tim Foli's wife "a lovely young blonde lady" behind her.
8:34 - Madlock walks. Runners at the corners.
8:36 - Wow, Steve Nicosia's wife looks like you would expect the backup catcher's wife to look like in 1979. Don Drysdale with the play by play apparently did a great job of memorizing wife appearances. And there's a groundout to end the inning. 5-1, end of the 4th.

Bottom of the 4th
8:39 - Rooker out for the 4th. He's done a great job but this could be his last inning, trailing and due to bat in the 5th. Mike Flanagan is batting, a lot of fun to watch the AL pitchers bat - and a rare opportunity that happens only every two years.
8:40 - Flanagan is a Cy Young hopeful and just bought a house in New Hampshire with his wife, who is currently tied with Bill Robinson's wife for hottest player wife. The American dream.
8:41 - A grounder goes under Stargell's glove. Oh well, it's a no brainer that you have to play your aging 100 RBI first baseman in the World Series. E-3. Enrique Romo is warming up.
8:43 - Al Bumbry wants to bunt but works a 3-1 count, yet he still bunts Flanagan to second. I'm sure it's a good move to play small ball with your pitcher on base for the first time of his career.
8:44 - If there was a designated hitter, I'd use him for Mark Belanger rather than Flanagan. Madlock is looking for yet another bunt but Belanger pops out to center.
8:45 - First pitch swinging, and Ken Singleton flies out. 5-1 after 4.

Top of the 5th
8:49 - Phil Garner hit .293 with 11 home runs on the year, what a hitter for the 8 hole. He doubles to left, bringing up Manny Sanguillen pinch hitting for Rooker.
8:50 - Manny Sanguillen was a hero in '71, but he grounds out to Belanger on the first pitch here.
8:51 - Omar Moreno batting as his wife makes her first appearance. And ABC has her miked. "Come on sweetie, you can do it." What a gal.
8:53 - Moreno's batting stance looks like he is looking for a lost contact lens. He scored 110 runs on the season but strikes out here.
8:54 - Tim Foli, "a feisty kid" as per Cosell, apparently was influenced by his mother who told him he never would be a star.
8:55 - Foli grounds out. 5-1 Orioles after 5.

Bottom of the 5th
8:58 - Enrique Romo in for the Pirates. A righty workhourse who went 10-5, 2.99 in 129 innings, all in relief.
8:59 - Speaking of workhorse pitchers, I got drunk with former six-time All-Star Sam McDowell recently. Wow, what a guy. He once jumped off a hotel balcony into a pool. Sudden Sam is back in his hometown of Pittsburgh selling insurance and we're glad to have him.
9:01 - Romo is a classic junkballer but he manages to get a fastball past Eddie Murray. But Murray eventually walks to bring up Lowenstein. A true Baltimorean, we are told, calls the team "the Birds" not the Orioles.
9:03 - Earl Weaver's career record is 1,101-743. Lowenstein flies out to center to bring up hero Doug DeCinces.
9:06 - With Murray apparently distracting Romo on the bases, DeCinces flies out to Dave Parker. Parker is playing right field in a swamp.
9:08 - Murray steals second standing up. Now they're going to walk Billy Smith intentionally with Rick Dempsey due up.
9:09 - Dempsey is a .237 career hitter, .239 this year, with little power. Cosell: Baltimore is a dangerous club because it's full of good hitters who lull you with their poor stats.
9:12 - Dempsey works a full count, fouls off a couple but can't get the hit to put the Pirates away. He pops out to Robinson in left field. 5-1 after 5.

Top of the 6th
9:16 - Dave Parker singles to center with Steve Stone warming. Stone had a good year as a starter, but it's not like he'll ever win 25 games in a season.
9:19 - Flanagan is slowing down his pace and throwing less strikes. He could be tiring. Robinson bloops a hit to right, and the Pirates have two on for Willie Stargell.
9:20 - Stargell hit .281 with 32 homers on the year. The game has the feel of a closer game. Weaver's top relievers, Tim Stoddard and Tippy Martinez, are warming. But Stargell strikes out on a curveball.
9:21 - Singleton with a good jump on Madlock's bloop to right center. Singleton gets a good jump and makes the catch, two out for Steve Nicosia.
9:22 - Don Robinson warming up for the Pirates. Nicosia hit .322 against lefties this year, .188 vs. righties.
9:23 - Boy, this new Iraqi president Saddam Hussein looks like a great ally against evil Iran.
9:25 - DeCinces drops a grounder in the hole. Might not have gotten Nicosia anyway. Infield hit, I say. Bases loaded for Garner.
9:26 - Nope, an error. Phil Garner has the biggest mustache I've ever seen.
9:27 - Dempsey with a great stop of a wild pitch waiting to happen.
9:28 - Garner just misses a hanging curve, fouls it off. Lots of drama in this AB. He's fouled off four or five in a row now.
9:29 - Garner grounds a single to left! Parker scores! Robinson scores! Weaver to the mound, is this it for Mike Flanagan? 5-3 Orioles.
9:30 - Weaver sticks with his starter. Lee Lacy out to pinch hit. He hit .247 with 5 home runs this year.
9:31 - DeCinces bobbles another grounder, tries to make a diving tag on Nicosia and can't! Bases loaded with Pirates, two out, Omar Moreno coming up.
9:32 - No brainer to leave Flanagan in for the lefty Moreno. Moreno pups it up, but the Terrible Towels are still waving as this is a game again.

Bottom of the 6th
9:35 - I really am apprehensive about the Federal Reserve's recent change from an interest rate target policy to a money supply target policy. Potentially that could cause interest rate fluctuations and economic recession.
9:36 - Don Robinson is in the game, he's 8-8 this year with a 3.86 ERA. Flanagan, Bumbry and Belanger due up.
9:37 - Robinson is a 22-year-old flamethrower. According to Drysdale, hitting is like riding a bicycle and you can never forget how to do it. Flanagan could hit in college but strikes out here.
9:40 - Al Bumbry grounds out to shortstop. Belanger grounds out too. Good job by Robinson, now let's rally in the seventh.

1979 World Series Game 1 Live Blog

BALTIMORE, Md. / October 10, 1979

Top of the 1st
6:59 - Welcome to the Live Blog! The weather is horrible in Baltimore but it looks like Game 1 is going to get underway pretty soon nonetheless. Of course this game is a rematch of the teams from the 1971 Series. I can't believe both the Pirates and Orioles were out of the World Series for 7 years!
7:01 - The crowd is really loud here in Baltimore. The field looks horrible. Visible standing water in left field.
7:03 - 1979 has been a great year but if we lose this World Series, I will have to shave my head and write a depressing song about this year.
7:05 - Only 3/4 of the Orioles infield is sporting mustaches. Surprising!
7:06 - The Orioles are going with a young lefty Mike Flanagan over Jim Palmer?! Pirates leadoff man Omar Moreno is a great one. 18 straight stolen bases, and stolen bases are one of the most important stats.
7:08 - Moreno grounds out. Pirates #2 hitter Tim Foli is a great example of the perfect #2 hitter, an infielder with one home run who chokes up on the bat for every swing.
7:09 - Foli pops out, but Dave Parker doubles down the right field line. He's the best player in baseball.
7:11 - Bill Robinson with an early RBI opportunity. One thing about this cold is how awesome the Pirates jerseys look with long sleeved yellow undershirts. I'll try to get a picture.
7:13 - And Robinson strikes out. I'm already a little nervous. Would hate to go down 1-0 and face Jim Palmer tomorrow. Flanagan has great stuff.

Bottom of the 1st
7:17 - The Pirates are going with Bruce Kison, 13-7, 3.19 on the year. He's a huge big game pitcher, 27-7 in September and October in his career. And he pitched great in the '71 Series. You have to go with him in Game 1.
7:19 - Al Bumbry singles to left. Great speed on the bases. We don't like disco anymore, but we still bat our shortstops second. Mark Belanger is up, batting .167 on the season.
7:20 - As the announcers point out, Belanger's batting average is irrelevant since he's a good hit and run man. This is a great night for O's manager Earl Weaver to secretly smoke in the dugout, since you can see everyone's breath.
7:22 - Belanger walks. Ken Singleton is up, 35 home runs and 111 RBI, and Kison bounces one up there. Kison works well with men on base though.
7:25 - Kison blows a double play ball but gets one out. Second and third, one out for Eddie Murray. With big sideburns, a mustache and a big Afro, the 23-year-old Murray must be pretty warm on this 41 degree night.
7:27 - Murray swings on a 3-0 pitch but walks a pitch later. Probably semi-intentional with a platoon man John Lowenstein due up.
7:28 - Bucs second baseman Phil Garner throws away a double play ball. This time we don't even get one out. Two runs score. 2-0 Orioles. And a big time silent S name at the plate with Doug DeCinces up, men on first and third. Jim Rooker is already throwing in the bullpen.
7:31 - Wild pitch on a ball that should have been stopped. Murray comes in to score. 3-0 O's.
7:32 - Well I guess the wild pitch didn't matter. DeCinces homers. 5-0 O's. Wow, just wow.
7:35 - Billy Smith singles to right and here comes the hook. Chuck Tanner wants the lefty already. Jim Rooker, 4-7, 4.59, will try to stop this from becoming more of a blowout already.
7:39 - The grounds crew is out replacing sod during the rain delay. Meanwhile ABC is advertising the big game, #3 Oklahoma against #4 Texas. Reminds me that Pitt would have a great football team this year if they didn't have a big question mark at QB. 10-9 win over Temple, weak. And we're back underway with Rick Dempsey batting.
7:40 - Dempsey lines out to shortstop and Foli throws the ball away trying to double off Smith. Two out, but you can't throw away balls and win World Series. Mike Flanagan is up for his first ever MLB at bat.
7:42 - Jim Rooker is a straight up fastball pitcher. He wants the strikeout, but he gets Flanagan on a ground ball. 5-0 end of the first.

Top of the 2nd
7:45 - I was listening to this new pop star Michael Jackson between innings. Amazing stuff. With this and the Punk movement, it's only a matter of time until bands like Foreigner and Journey are no longer on Pittsburgh radio. Speaking of punk, I like the music but I just can't bear to trade in my tight brown clothes for tight black clothes.
7:47 - Great shot of Doug DeCinces' wife. I'd take her over Mike Flanagan's wife, shown earlier.
7:48 - Willie Stargell strikes out and looks bad doing it. Bill Madlock grounds out. Also, good thing I can safely covet other men's wives since well under half of all marriages end in divorce.
7:50 - Steve Nicosia grounds out, nothing doing. Huge move to start our backup catcher in the World Series.

Bottom of the 2nd
7:53 - "This Weather is For The Birds" - Hilarious sign. The umpires are apparently going to get the grounds crew to soak up some of the standing water in right field. Conditions were horrible back in '71 too. I'm sure in the next 29 years baseball will come up with some solution to playing World Series games on cold, wet fields.
7:56 - Al Bumbry has a small mustache for a leadoff hitter. Tomorrow's starter John Candelaria is eating yogurt in the dugout. Great analysis of how Willie Stargell got the Pirates to the Series by building team chemistry. And Bumbry grounds out.
7:58 - Mark Belanger has a career .281 slugging percentage. What a #2 hitter. He strikes out.
7:59 - Ken Singleton hit 15 of his 35 home runs with Flanagan pitching. Bill Madlock makes a great play to rob him of an extra base hit down the line, but Stargell can't dig out the throw and Singleton slides into first with a single.
8:00 - Base hit for Murray. Any more runs here and this game is over. Rooker's style is to let them hit it, but he has an 0-3 record vs. Baltimore. "Not very impressive" points out the annoucer, especially with such a huge sample size.
8:02 - "Both teams are, in effect, family." Amazing and unsubstantiated claim by the American Broadcasting Corporation. Lowenstein strikes out. Garner, Rooker and Moreno due up.

Top of the 3rd
8:06 - Just a note, Ayatollah Khomeini has been in power in Iran for 7 months now. How can we get a stable situation in the Middle East with a peacemonger Democrat in office?
8:07 - Garner strikes out. Pittsburgh will let Rooker bat for himself, he's doing well enough.
8:08 - Surprisingly a relief pitcher fails to successfully bunt for a base hit. Two out for Moreno.
8:10 - Moreno flies out.

Bottom of the 3rd
8:12 - Dave Parker just warmed his hand in his crotch on camera for a full minute. "Can't nobody mess with me here," he says in a prerecorded interview.
8:14 - Doug DeCinces fouls one down the line. Orioles ball girls look great in orange fleece shirts, orange pants and orange winter hats. He walks a couple pitches later.
8:17 - Billy Smith grounds out, and so does Dempsey. Rooker is doing a great job holding the O's down until this dangerous offense can get something going for Pittsburgh.

1979 World Series Live Blog Tonight

Just a reminder, the 1979 World Series Game 1 Live Blog will be tonight at 7 p.m. All technical issues have been resolved. Since this blog only has a few readers I am depending on all three of you to post comments.

I have grown a big mustache and shaggy hair and procured a brown, tan, orange, yellow and white sweater vest for the occasion.

January 19, 2010

Jakubauskas Is More Fun To Type Anyway

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 19, 2010

Further cementing the claim that the Pirates will be a championship team, the club showed today that they have enough good pitchers to give up on a 3.14 ERA reliever by designating Steven Jackson for assignment.

While casual fans probably have no idea who he is, Jackson actually was a pretty solid option out of the 'pen last year going 2-3, 3.14 in 40 games. Despite the slew of relief pitching that the Pirates signed this offseason, this very blog speculated that he would make the team out of spring training, making the move a minor surprise in the universe of Pirates bloggers with two weeks of Pirate blogging experience.

Keeping in mind that this is a stat-focused management group, the release is probably due to Jackson's low strikeout totals and high walk totals, 4.4 strikeouts and 4.6 walks per nine innings. It's unlikely that a pitcher with those numbers would continue to be successful in the major leagues.

Thus, this Blog is fine with the move, as long as it doesn't result in a late inning role for Tyler Yates.

After a player is designated for assignment, the team has ten days to trade or release him. Those ten days pretty much kill the negotiating position in any trade, so the Pirates probably will hope to get a minor leaguer for him.

The Jackson move frees up space on the 40-man roster for Brandon Jones, an outfielder who they claimed on waivers this afternoon. I must admit I've never heard of Brandon Jones, but here are his stats. He'll be in the Indianapolis outfield this summer. He played most of his games in Atlanta in left field, indicating that he's not going to be a legit big leaguer unless he develops some power or changes his name to Nyjer Morgan.

January 17, 2010

ANNOUNCEMENT: 1979 LIVE BLOG

I have recently come into possession of both the 1979 Pirates World Series box set of DVDs and a lot of free time. So I wanted to announce that this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. I will be live blogging Game 1 of the 1979 World Series.

The favored Baltimore Orioles will go with Mike Flanagan (23-9, 3.08) while the Pittsburgh Pirates counter with Bruce Kison (13-7, 3.19). Game time temperature at Memorial Stadium is predicted to be 41 degrees.

While I will attempt to bring a 1979 feel to this Live Blog, the number of cultural references as well as the chance of quality suspension of disbelief will depend on whether someone buys me beer.

Update: Sorry there were some technical issues on Tuesday, namely that I could not figure out how to play this DVD on my typewriter. Therefore I have postponed the Live Blog to Wednesday. Sorry for any inconvenience.

January 16, 2010

No One On The Team Is Named Van Benschoten

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 16, 2010

Relief pitching is fairly unique in sports because is incredibly unpredictabile. As sports fans we generally expect players to do as well this year as they did last year. Evgeni Malkin is having an off year so far which constitutes averaging 1 point a game rather than his career average of 1.2. Matt Capps had an off year last year which consisted of allowing over twice as many home runs and over three times as many walks as in 2008, while batters hit .324 against him.

So while your star center has a bad year and is still a productive star center, your closer has an off year and is completely unusable. Compounding this problem is that pitchers are some of the most likely athletes to get hurt.

So basically to have 12 productive forwards in hockey you need 13 talented guys because one will be hurt at any given time. To have a 7 man bullpen in baseball, with 5 of the 7 being dependable, you need 13 talented guys. Inevitably three will be terrible and get released or traded, three more will be hurt at any given time, one will have a bad year but has to be on the roster because of his contract or option status, and another is ineffective at any given time.

The problem with the Pirates' 2009 bullpen was that there was no one in reserve. At any given time there were only two or three pitchers who John Russell could put into a game without fans getting the feeling that he was giving up. That's why Capps never lost his job. With no one to slide into the set-up or 7th inning roles there was no point in moving Capps.

To avoid that problem this year, Pirates management is taking what I think is a pretty smart approach by compiling a bunch of guys who could be good. Yesterday's signee, Brendan Donnelly, falls into that category. He had a 1.78 ERA last year and an 8.56 ERA the year before. The Pirates signed him for $950,000. It's worth that much for the 50% chance that he'll be effective in 2010.

Of course, there are a few guys who buck the unreliability trend. Trevor Hoffman is a Hall of Famer because he's had 17 consecutive good years in relief. In fact no one else in history has done that. That's why the Brewers are paying Trevor Hoffman $8 million this year. They're guaranteed to have one effective pitcher for their $8 million. The Pirates' philosophy is to invest that $8 million by bringing in 8 different guys, figuring on getting four or five effective pitchers out of the bunch.

Large market teams and championship teams do the same thing. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 in large part by having a great bullpen. Pitching in relief in the World Series were J.C. Romero (claimed on waivers in 2007 after walking 15 batters in 20 innings in Boston), Scott Eyre (36 years old, picked up for a garbage prospect in midseason after pitching to a 7.15 ERA in Chicago), Chad Durbin (signed for $900,000 after posting a 5.75 career ERA), Ryan Madson (setup man, 9th round draft pick, failed starter coming off a major injury) and Brad Lidge (former star closer, traded for marginal players after losing his job in Houston). All those guys had career years and pitched great in the postseason, and none looked like sure things in January.

Assuming the Pirates sign Octavio Dotel as rumored, they'll likely start the season with a bullpen of Dotel, Donnelly, D.J. Carrasco, Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Javier Lopez, and Steven Jackson. That would yield a potential Indianapolis bullpen of Neal Cotts, Craig Hansen, Jack Taschner, Brian Bass, Vinnie Chulk, Tyler Yates and Chris Jakubauskas. Most of those pitchers are capable of a 3.00 ERA and most are capable of a 6.00 ERA. Find the seven who will have a 3.00 ERA this year and you have a group that can be part of a World Championship.

January 12, 2010

Bucs Bloggers Unite Against Baseball Hooliganism

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 12, 2010

Dearest Pirate hooligans,

It is with a heavy heart and much reflection that we write this open letter decrying your recent actions. For while your love of the Pirates is admirable and transcends even our own love of lefthanded pitching, your behavior is simply unacceptable and threatens to besmirch the great reputation of Pirates fans worldwide.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are lucky to have dedicated fans who are willing to travel to support their ball club, and the club certainly appreciates you. Your constant purchases of merchandise and tickets paid Craig Monroe's salary for the entire month of April 2009.

Even some of your illegal actions were lighthearted and funny. In 2007 we smiled when you hitchhiked to Durham, North Carolina, just to add the words "Zach" and "Rules" to every sign at the local college campus. But in 2009 you went too far. Beating retired Jays fans at Spring Training in Dunedin, Florida, with their own canes? We hate those assholes too, but you only do that shit in Fort Myers. And nobody likes to be swept at a field named after a crappy beer...But throwing full 24-ouncers of Iron City at Denver elementary school windows the next morning just took things too far when empties would have gotten your point across.

Baseball is a family sport, and we need families to feel safe at the ballpark in order for the Pirates to crack the top 27 in MLB attendance. That's not going to happen when my aunt from Wheeling gets beaten with an authentic Joe Randa game-used bat for wearing an Indians hat to PNC Park.

And the little things count too. For example, you may have noticed that we referred to the "F'ing championship" in our last post. That's because "World Fucking Championship" is not family friendly language for a baseball site. Even though "World Fucking Championsip" is really cool to type, we just didn't type it because we want, and need, a Family Friendly F'ing Championship.

While we envy your team spirit, Pirates hooligans, you must keep your criminal activity at acceptable levels. Reluctantly, Pirates WFC Blog hereby hopes for a 2010 marked by vandalism, but not violence.

Cordially,

Pirates WFC Blog Staff

January 11, 2010

He's Like A Modern Day Gary Varsho

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / January 11, 2010

Either unknown terrorists have been maliciously spreading 4th oufielder rumors around the NL Central, or the Pirates are close to a deal with Ryan Church. We will assume scenario #2.

This blog's staff wholeheartedly supports the move. Winning a F'ing Championship requires having players like Ryan Church on the roster - a guy who can play all three outfield positions well, is happy with a bench role but is also capable of starting every day.

The 31-year-old Church has put up numbers of .272/.345/.441 for his career while playing mostly in pitcher's parks. He would probably begin the season on the bench with Jeff Clement at first and Milledge-McCutchen-Jones across the outfield. He would serve as a fine insurance policy in case Milledge, Jones or Clement get injured or have disappointing years. Though Church can play a solid center field, DiMaggio's Second Coming started every game there after his 2009 call-up so Church will see most of his playing time at the corners.

The fact that the Pirates are looking for another outfielder is also a promising indication of who might be left off the roster. There's no way the Pirates carry more than five outfielders, so either Brandon Moss or Rule V pick John Raynor will probably not make the team. Hopefully it's Moss. The dude batted fifth for the whole month of April and had one RBI. RBI being a flawed stat and all, you still like to see more than one a month.

Meanwhile, Raynor's offense was absolutely sick for the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks and that's worth two Eric Hinskes. While it's rare for a World F'ing Champion to carry a Rule V player, there's an exception for anyone who averaged more than a run and RBI a game in Seahawk teal.

In conclusion, tie game, top 9, World Series Game 7, you want Church off the bench facing Mariano Rivera rather than Ronny Cedeno. After scoring the winning run, he can stay in in right field for defense moving Jones to first. Hopefully this signing is real and not the terrorists.