June 29, 2010

More Help at Indy?

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 29, 2010

Conventional wisdom said that the Pirates had played all their cards after calling up their top prospects - Walker, Lincoln, Tabata and Alvarez. With the MLB record at 26-50, I estimate a 63-23 finish is necessary to make the playoffs. Thus we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned. Three Indianapolis players who started the season with Altoona have shown the potential to contribute this year at the MLB level.

Danny Moskos
After a couple of mediocre-to-bad years as a starter, which induced Baseball America to drop his prospect ranking to #30 in the organization, the Pirates converted their 2007 first round pick into a closer this year. Moskos has been lights out ever since.

The 24-year-old lefthander had an outstanding half season this year at Altoona, with a 1.45 ERA and 17 saves. In 31 innings he gave up 21 hits, nine walks and struck out 30. This earned Moskos a promotion to Indianapolis where he's only thrown one inning so far.

Moskos has an above average major league fastball, topping out at 95 mph. He also has a good slider and a changeup which needs work. Considering his excellent command this year, Moskos becomes the organization's best lefthanded reliever in the likely event that Javier Lopez is traded in July. I would call him up at that point; the Pirates will not.

Jim Negrych
A sixth round pick in 2006, Negrych has played second and third base. He had a breakout year in 2008 when he hit .359/.438/.482 between Lynchburg and Altoona, but he slumped in 2009 and 2010 to become just an average hitter at Altoona.

Called up to Indianapolis to replace Neil Walker at second base, Negrych has had a renaissance at Indianapolis - hitting .411/.459/.625 there. Now, this is only over 16 games, but those stats are still showing a certain level of skill.

The knock on Negrych is that he's a below average fielder with little power. Having developed neither of those skills at age 25, it looks like he's not going to become an MLB regular. Yet if Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker are going to play almost every day, there would appear to be a role in 2010 and 2011 for a backup at those positions who would play primarily as a pinch hitter. If he can hit .280 to .300 in a major league backup role, Negrych will be a valuable bench player.

Alex Presley
An eighth round pick in 2006, Presley did nothing in his first four professional seasons to establish himself as a prospect. The center fielder hit only .257/.305/.379 last year in his second season at Lynchburg and looked like nothing but organizational filler.

Out of nowhere, Presley hit .350/.399/.533 at Altoona this year, necessitating his callup to Indianapolis. He's only played four games there, but he already hit for the cycle in one of them.

In 145 plate appearances over 51 games, Ryan Church has hit a putrid .175/.221/.292. Could Presley possibly do worse as a lefthanded bench bat? Church will certainly be gone after this season, so nothing is gained by giving him more playing time. Finally, based on my Google Image search Alex Presley adds value by being the name of two different hot chicks.

Trade Possibilities: Paul Maholm

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 29, 2010

Returning from a ten day blackout, we present the trade possibilities for the Pirates' best trading chip, Paul Maholm. Note on the blackout: If MLB can black out Orioles games in southeastern North Carolina for being home games, then we can black out the WFC Blog in Pittsburgh. Anyway, Maholm illustrated his value to a contending team with his eight inning, one run game last night.

Why Trade Paul Maholm?
Quite simply, Maholm is the one player likely to bring the most return. He could be a #4 starter for a playoff team, meaning he could bring in more value than anyone else on the roster.

Maholm is the best starter on the team and gives the club six innings or more almost every time out. He's also signed to a club-friendly deal through next season with an option for 2012. Yet, this team is 26-50 and it's hard to imagine anyone in this group being untouchable.

What would the Pirates get?
Looking ahead to 2011, the Pirates have needs at shortstop and right field. I think they wouldn't give up their most valuable trading piece without getting a top shortstop or outfield prospect in return - one who can contribute in 2011. A starting pitcher would also be desired, but that would be a lateral move without the aforementioned prospect.

Who Would Want Maholm?
Almost every team in the league could use Maholm. His 3.98 ERA would be an improvement over everyone's fifth starter, and he's good enough to be a fourth starter on a playoff team meaning, of course, he would start in the playoffs. Here are some of the notables:

1. The Philadelphia Phillies are known to be in the market for a mid-tier starting pitcher. Kyle Kendrick (4-2, 4.71) or Joe Blanton (3-5, 6.53) would head to the bullpen if such a move were made. The Phillies have added a pitcher at the last four trade deadlines and seem certain to do so again. Maholm's pitch-to-contact game would work perfectly with Philadelphia's strong left side infield defense of Gold Glove winners Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins.

2. The Boston Red Sox are always active at the trade deadline and are currently in need of starting pitching. Like Philadelphia they have strong left side infield defense with Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro, and would seem to be a great fit for Maholm. The Sox, like the Phillies, are also a past trading partner of the Pirates.

3. The Detroit Tigers, if they expect to overtake Minnesota in the AL Central, could do without Rick Porcello (4-7, 6.14) in their rotation.

The Verdict
Keep him. Unless the Pirates are overwhelmed by a deal for Maholm, there's no reason to jettison their ace. Last week's disaster start notwithstanding, Maholm gives six to seven innings every time out. I'm generally opposed to any deal which sacrifices the next season and it's hard to believe the Pirates could get enough in return to be better in 2011. That being said, this is a qualified "Keep Him" since I would certainly listen to offers.

June 18, 2010

Trade Possibilities: Zach Duke

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 18, 2010

I really thought this Trade Possibilities series might generate a lot of work. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Pirates have very few players who it would be reasonable to trade. So far I've considered Octavio Dotel, who I would trade, and Ryan Doumit, who I'm against trading. Today, Zach Duke.

Why Trade Zach Duke?
Management made a statement about Zach's future with the team when unlike their handling of Paul Maholm, the Pirates didn't sign Duke to a contract even to guarantee his salary through his arbitration years.

While Duke has had his moments including starting the past two Opening Days for the Pirates, the fact remains that he's 40-63 with a 4.41 ERA for his career, 3-8 with a 5.49 ERA this year. He's earning $4.3 million this year and hasn't been worth that amount. On a playoff team he'd be a fifth starter; it's difficult to imagine Duke as a key piece on the next contending Pirates team.

What would the Pirates get?
Not much considering his recent past. Maybe one mid-level prospect or two marginal ones. Duke's above average 2009 is fresh enough in teams' memories that the Pirates at least wouldn't have to send money in the deal.

Who Would Want Duke?
I highly doubt Duke's pitch-to-contact game would play well in the American League, apart from possibly the American League Central. He's a better fit for an NL club. Unfortunately there's only one National League contender whose rotation members are not all pitching better than Duke right now.

The Philadelphia Phillies' Joe Blanton is 1-5 with a 7.28 ERA. Duke would arguably be an upgrade over Blanton or Kyle Kendrick. The Phillies' playoff hopes are far from secure, so even adding a fifth starter would help them to reach the playoffs. Yet it seems likely to me that Pedro Martinez will come back to the Phillies, in addition to a possible move for a top level starter.

The Verdict
Keep him. Duke's value is too low right now to be worth trading. At least his poor season will prevent him from getting much of a raise for 2011. With the lack of other starting options, penciling Duke into the 2011 rotation is a better idea than any of their other internal options. If the Pirates are out of contention again in 2011 and Duke is pitching well, that would be the time to trade him.

June 17, 2010

Great Pirates In History: Ralph Kiner

In each of the past 18 losing seasons, the Pirates have had one or two players whose standout performances were wasted. In an earlier post I looked back on the best seasons of 2000-2009.

Incredibly, the Pirates went through an even worse stretch from 1946-53 in which they won an average of 62 games a year despite having undoubtedly the best slugger in baseball - Ralph Kiner.

Today's Post-Gazette refers to Pedro Alvarez as "the second coming of Ralph Kiner." I can hardly think of a more unfair comparison. After missing most of two seasons to serve in World War II, Kiner made his major league debut at the age of 23 and proceeded to lead the league in home runs for his first seven straight seasons. It's one of the most impressive feats of power hitting in history, and one that won't be repeated by Alvarez or anyone else.

A three sport star in high school, Kiner was signed at age 18 and reported to spring training in 1941. Major league baseball only went as far west as St. Louis in those days, so the '41 Pirates were the first major league club he had seen. The '41 White Sox were the second, and he went 3-for-5 with a home run against them in his first spring training game.

Kiner was optioned to the Pirates top minor league affiliate, the formidably named Albany Lawmakers, and started all season hitting .279 with a team high 11 home runs. In '42 he returned to Albany and hit .257 with 14 home runs.

Promoted to the Pirates' new affiliate in Toronto in 1943, Kiner was hitting just .236 with two home runs when he was called to the Navy in June. He missed the rest of 1943 and all of 1944. I would say his return was eagerly awaited, but no Pittsburgh newspaper mentioned his name throughout the 1944 and 1945 seasons.

With the end of the war, Kiner returned to spring training in 1946 and began to show his prodigious power, with ten spring home runs including a 440 foot walk off on March 26. The Post-Gazette reported that he "hits a ball longer and more consistently than either Vince DiMaggio or Johnny Rizzo." Good to hear!

Home runs were really rare in 1946, but Kiner's rookie year was a success as he led the league with 23 of them. He finished fifth in RBI with 81, a real accomplishment on a 63-91 seventh place team. It was the worst year he would have as a big leaguer.

In 1947, the slugger returned with 51 home runs and 127 RBI, scored 118 runs and slugged .639 with a .417 OBP. He almost singlehandedly drew a then-record 1.3 million fans to Forbes Field as the team dropped to 62-92.

Now an established star at age 25, Kiner returned in 1948 and for the only time in his career, singlehandedly led the Pirates to a winning season. He had 40 home runs; Wally Westlake was second on the team with 17. He drove in 123; Danny Murtaugh was second with 71. He walked 112 times; second best was 61. Thee Pirates went 83-71. They began September 1.5 games out of first, giving the fans a taste of a pennant race. Attendance totals at Forbes Field rose to second in the league. This is what would happen again if a modern Pirates team put together a similar season.

The Pirates' left fielder had his finest season in 1949, hitting .310 with 54 home runs and 127 RBI. He slugged .658 and walked 117 times, scoring 116 runs. He hit 18 more home runs than anyone else in the league. Unfortunately the Pirates starting infield combined for 13 home runs while the pitching was last in the league, helping the team to a 71-83 finish.

With Kiner now signed for $65,000 a year, 1950 brought more of the same - 112 runs, 47 homers (11 more than anyone else in the league), 118 RBI, 122 walks. The Pirates finished last in the NL in wins yet third in attendance, and it is not hard to figure out who people were paying to see.

In 1951, Kiner got on base more than ever and led the league in runs, home runs, walks, on base percentage and slugging percentage. The Pirates went 64-90. The movie "Angels in the Outfield" came out, featuring the undeniable premise that at that point it would take divine intervention for Pittsburgh to field a winning team.

Kiner was married in Santa Barbara that October and bought a new desert home in Palm Springs. Yet he could do nothing about his professional life. There was no free agency; he could only return to the Pirates year after year.

For 1952, the six time defending home run champion had the audacity to demand a two-year contract. Pirates general manager Branch Rickey refused, and Kiner was signed only when Rickey stepped aside allowing team president John Galbreath to negotiate a deal. Rickey never forgave him and began publicly attempting to trade his slugger.

The '52 Pirates were a total laughingstock, going 42-112. Kiner had 37 more runs, 21 more homers, 28 more RBI and 60 more walks than anyone else on the team. He did this while publicly feuding with Rickey and while receiving two death threats during the season, including one which attempted to extort $6500 from him.

Throughout the offseason and the beginning of the '53 season, Rickey continued to try to trade Kiner, famously saying the Pirates "could finish last without him." Bizarrely, he publicly demeaned his star, saying that an American Association team with eight Ralph Kiners would have a losing record.

"I would like to make a few requests of Santa Claus," fan Henry Novak wrote to the Post-Gazette that December. "Please bring Branch Rickey a shiny new plank so he can jump from the Pirate ship that he sank...If Rickey trades Kiner, wrap Branch and his cigars up pretty and drop him in Great Bear Lake going home."

Finally in June 1953, Kiner was dumped to the Cubs in a ten-player deal, one of the sort that was only made in those days by Branch Rickey. For the seven time defending home run champ, Rickey's two other best hitters and his second best starting pitcher, he received a veritable All-Star cast of scrubs. Here's what they did for the Pirates:

Bob Addis (three at bats, zero hits)
Toby Atwell (four seasons, .250, nine home runs)
George Freese (one season, .257, three home runs)
Gene Hermanski (one season, .177, one home run)
Bob Schultz (one season, 0-2, 8.20 ERA)
Preston Ward (four seasons, .240, 21 home runs)

Rickey got his wish and finished last without Ralph Kiner.

Kiner's power has been called overrated; the charge is that he hit too many of his home runs into a favorable corner of Forbes Field. Yet 1948 is the only year when he wasn't the league's top slugger in road games. His 23 road home runs in 1947 tied the NL record; his 25 in 1949 broke it. Surely he was helped when the left field wall was moved in from 365 to 335 feet after his rookie year - but 335 down the line is hardly a short porch.

Finally, part of athletic greatness is taking advantage of whatever circumstances one plays in. If he played in the dead ball era, Kiner would have led the league in RBI by hitting doubles and triples. In the low scoring 1960s, he would have walked even more and led the league in runs. And in the 1970s and later, he would have been able to DH long after his back prevented him from playing in the field.

Bill James wrote in 1988, "Ralph Kiner was, in terms of an established ability at a given moment, the second-greatest home run hitter of all time. Only Ruth dominated the home run hitting business the way Kiner did in his best seasons." I thought by now he would be behind Barry Bonds in that category - far from it. Bonds led the league in home runs twice, eight years apart. James's statement is still true today.

Kiner was rightfully enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1975. He was the best Pirate never to play in a postseason, and is truly a great Pirate in history.

Trade Possibilities: Octavio Dotel

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 17, 2010

So I was on hand to watch the Pirates lose again last night. They've now lost ten games in a row and are 23-42. If it weren't for the necessity of redoing the meticulously crafted banner at the top of this page, I'd say it's time to give up on the 2010 championship.

All this means that the Pirates will no doubt be selling at the trade deadline once again. Yesterday I considered the possibility of trading Ryan Doumit, concluding that the Pirates should keep him. Today let's take a look at Octavio Dotel.

Why Trade Octavio Dotel?
Octavio has done a decent job this year, saving 12 of 15 chances, and is one of my favorite players on the team. He's been overpowering at times and averages 12 strikeouts per nine innings.

That being said, he also has a 5.84 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. Next year will be his age 37 season. Dotel's contract has a $4.5 million option for 2011 but it seems likely that the Pirates will buy him out for $500,000.

The stats make it unlikely that a contending team would add Dotel as a closer. However, his ugly ratios are inflated by a couple of blowout gaemes. He's shown enough stuff to be a valuable piece in a playoff bullpen. There should be a market for Dotel since as a general rule, all teams need bullpen help all the time.

Moving Dotel would also allow the Pirates to give Evan Meek a look at closer. Meek has been nothing short of great, with an 0.72 ERA and an 0.85 WHIP. However, we have all seen pitchers who are great in a setup role but can't close to save their lives. By giving Meek a tryout this year, the Pirates still retain the option of returning him to the setup role and signing a new free agent closer. That wouldn't be possible if he's given the job in 2012 and bombs then.

What would the Pirates get?
Most likely another reliever, either an AA or High Class A prospect or a young, low leverage major league guy. There's no reason to dump Dotel for nothing, but other clubs also aren't looking at him as a blockbuster target to put a team over the top.

Who Would Want Dotel?
Octavio flamed out for the Yankees in 2006 to the tune of a 10.80 ERA and 2.90 WHIP. It's difficult to imagine the Yankees adding him again. The Padres bullpen looks set. Almost any other contending team would be a possibility. The best matches look like:

1. The Los Angeles Angels bullpen has been a minor disaster. Righthanders Scot Shields (6.23 ERA, 2.03 WHIP), Matt Palmer (6.26 ERA, 2.04 WHIP) and Brian Stokes (7.31 ERA, 2.50 WHIP) have all been awful yet are still on the active roster. There's no excuse for a contending team to have three pitchers with WHIPs above 2.00. Dotel would be a clear upgrade over any of the three.

2. The Toronto Blue Jays might look to upgrade their bullpen as Scott Downs and Shawn Camp have really been the only reliable options. Toronto manager Cito Gaston also has a notable love of veterans. The Jays don't have as much money as their divisional rivals New York and Boston but will need to do something, other than for Jose Bautista to hit home runs, to stay within shouting distance.

3. The Philadelphia Phillies have a couple of questionable arms in their bullpen in Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon. Dotel would be an upgrade over either. The Phillies might like to add a pitcher with closing experience since Brad Lidge has already been on the DL twice this year.

The Verdict
Trade him. I like Dotel, but he's unnecessary considering the emergence of Evan Meek. Unless the Pirates plan on picking up his option which is doubtful, there is really no reason to keep Dotel around if a younger reliever can be had for him. He'll still be remembered for his sweet scoreboard video.

June 16, 2010

Trade Possibilities: Ryan Doumit

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 16, 2010

I know, I know, I claimed the Pirates would win the World Series this year. I'm not giving up just yet, but it's a fact that the team's record is 23-41 and they're behind, well, every team in the National League in the playoff race. This being Pittsburgh, it's looking likely that once again the Pirates will be sellers at the trade deadline.

I expect nothing close to the carnage of 2009, when Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, Eric Hinske, Ian Snell and Sean Burnett all left Pittsburgh via trade. Nevertheless, the Pirates will no doubt be listening to offers for several players on their roster. In the coming days I'll take a look at the players who could be on the way out.

Why Trade Ryan Doumit?
As the old maxim goes, any player with a bobblehead is likely to get traded by the Pirates. Ryan Doumit falls into this category.

Of all the Pittsburgh position players who can actually hit, Doumit is the only one who's not here on a cheap contract with many years of club control remaining. He's hitting .273/.351/.444 which are numbers good enough to draw interest in a trade.

One reason to potentially trade Doumit is that as a below average defender, he has more value to an American League team. He's cost the Pirates more than a few runs this year with his defense. But in the AL, Doumit could DH every day and also serve as a backup catcher to whatever team traded for him. Many AL teams are using crap at DH and almost all are using crap at the backup catcher spot. Doumit would fill both roles with one roster spot.

It's also not beyond the realm of possibility that another team would trade for Doumit in order for him to be their starting catcher. Sure, he's been bad on balls in the dirt and at throwing out baserunners. However, some teams just value offense more highly than defense as an organizational philosophy. Washington comes to mind. Also, no general manager has seen every game Doumit has caught this season. You would have to watch the team quite a bit to realize just how bad he's been behind the plate.

With Tony Sanchez as their catcher of the future, the Pirates may want to trade Doumit while he's hitting and healthy. He's spent time on the disabled list every year of his career except for 2010.

Doumit is making $3.55 million this year, $5.1 million in 2011 and has club options for $7.25 million in 2012 and $8.25 million in 2013. That's a big contract for a Pirate but many large market teams easily could pay it.

What would the Pirates get?
Victor Martinez is an apt comparison. Martinez was traded last year from the Indians to the Red Sox. Like Doumit he's a good hitting catcher with a below average defensive reputation. At the time of his 2009 trade Martinez was hitting .284/.368/.464, comparable to Doumit's 2010 numbers, and like Doumit is now, V-Mart was coming off a year when he hit poorly and lost half the season to injury. Victor also had a year and a half left on his contract.

For Martinez the Indians got three pitchers. Justin Masterson headed the deal. Masterson was a 24-year-old righthanded starter with a 3.76 career ERA and 7.6 K/9 at the time of the trade. Not bad numbers in the AL East. 22-year-old lefthander Bryan Price, who was the #45 overall draft pick in '08 but had a 6.54 ERA for Boston's high Class A affiliate, nevertheless strikes out a lot of minor league hitters and was a legitimate prospect at the time of the trade. Nick Hagadone, the $55 overall pick in 2007, like Price was striking out more than a batter an inning at Class A. Yet he was also a 23-year-old low Class A reliever with no command.

Of course, Ryan Doumit would probably yield less than Martinez because his career just hasn't been as good. But he's not light years behind either. A Masterson-type pitcher might get a deal done without the two other pitchers.

Who Would Want Doumit?
I see three contending teams that would greatly improve by adding Doumit, along with a fourth that could be contending if they get on a hot streak. More teams could enter the picture with injuries, which are of course common at the catcher position.

1. The Tampa Bay Rays have the third best offense in the American League but has been getting poor production from their DH spot all year. With Pat Burrell released, Hank Blalock (.250/.291/.356) and Willy Aybar (.248/.273/.400) have been splitting time. Doumit would represent a clear upgrade over both. One problem with this destination is that Tampa is one of a few major league teams that actually has two good catchers, John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach.

2. The first place Texas Rangers have been using Matt Treanor as their starting catcher. The 34-year-old backstop is hitting .218/.303/.371, showing why he's never previously been a starter in his career. Texas has Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both hitting poorly in the minors. Doumit would help their lineup quite a bit. However, Doumit wouldn't be able to DH at all in Texas with Vladimir Guerrero raking at the position.

3. The Chicago White Sox have been getting awful production from both the catcher and DH spots. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski (.236/.277/.372) should at a minimum be sitting against lefthanders. The White Sox have used various players at DH with Mark Kotsay (.202/.299/.364) the most common choice. Doumit would greatly upgrade the Sox lineup at either spot. The problem here is that it's unclear whether the 29-34 Sox will be buying or selling at the deadline. Pierzynski also has ten-and-five rights meaning he can't be traded without his approval.

4. Finally, the San Francisco Giants, in contention in the NL West on the strength of their pitching, have Bengie Molina as their starter hitting .256/.312/.337. The Giants could decide Molina is washed up at 35. I think this is a long shot because he drove in over 81, 95 and 80 runs for them the past three seasons with 19, 16 and 20 home runs.

The Verdict
Keep him. Unless the trade netted a major league catcher in return, losing Doumit would leave an immediate hole the Pirates are unable to fill. Jason Jaramillo is hitting .172/.246/.259 this year.

Perhaps the 2010 impact is irrelevant, but a Doumit trade would arguably constitute giving up on 2011 as well. Tony Sanchez is a great prospect, the best prospect the Pirates have who's still in the minors, but he's also playing at Bradenton. There's no way he'll be playing in Pittsburgh next year. Yet he probably will be in 2012. Trading Doumit would thus create a need for a catcher who is signed through 2011 only, which is exactly what Doumit himself is. No above average hitter would come here on a one year contract in 2011, so it's Doumit or some garbage free agent.

In his first five years Doumit threw out between 22 and 40% of baserunners, league average numbers. Thus this year's caught stealing numbers look like an aberration. More concerning is his poor performance in catching breaking pitches in the dirt, but with no other viable options that it something the Pirates have to live with (while working with Doumit on eliminating the problem).

Sanchez could progress to the point where by mid-2011 he represents an immediate upgrade to Doumit. If that happens, the time to deal Doumit will have come. It hasn't yet.

Happy Alvarez Day!

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 16, 2010

A day later than I speculated, top prospect Pedro Alvarez will join the club for today's game against the White Sox. Apparently management doubted his ability to hit Freddy Garcia's 86 mile per hour fastball, so they held off until the lefthanded Alvarez could face on of the top ten lefties in the game, John Danks.

Alvarez provides some much-needed pop for the lineup. He was hitting .277/.363/.533 at Indianapolis with 13 home runs and 53 RBI. I think he'll hit sixth in the revamped lineup.

This is an exciting time for the Pirates - as exciting as a 23-41 team can be while on a nine game losing streak. I think Pirates fans will look back on this year as the year a talented young core came together, sort of like the '86 club which first featured Bonds, Bonilla and Van Slyke together.

What to Expect This Year
In the major leagues, Alvarez is not likely to hit for a good average as long as he strikes out more than once a game. However, he has walked in 12.6% of his plate appearances which is the most repeatable hitting skill. So if he hits .250 like I think he will, he'll be good for at least a .350 on base percentage. As far as power, I think Alvarez has 28 home run talent right now in his age 23 year. That means I expect 17 home runs over the rest of the season.

Fangraphs quotes a projection of .231/.299/.400. Are you serious, Fangraphs? How is Alvarez a top 10 prospect if you think he'll be no better than Steven Pearce? Conservatively I am expecting a slash line of .250/.350/.450, but of course I"m hoping for more.
Alvarez is supposedly a below average third baseman. Fielding percentage ain't everything but his career one is .926, not good. But with a power bat I am willing to let him learn on the major league level. Andy LaRoche didn't get to nearly as many balls this year as last anyway.

Finally, Alvarez has the reputation of being slow. Eh, he had four triples at Indianapolis and attempted seven steals. I'm thinking he has average speed. Not that you'll want to hit and run with any of the guys behind him anyway.

Who goes?
Finally, there is the matter of who to drop for Alvarez. I wouldn't worry too much about that. Here are the candidates:

Ryan Church .179/.220/.208, 2 home runs
Bobby Crosby .232/.311/.305, 1 home run
Akinori Iwamura .182/.292/.267, 2 home runs
Andy LaRoche .232/.295/.316, 3 home runs
Delwyn Young .231/.268/.429, 3 home runs

What a crapfest. I think Crosby is safe because he's one of only two players on the roster who can play shortstop. His versatility to play any infield position poorly really is an asset to the team. LaRoche is superfluous but out of options and wouldn't clear waivers, so he'll remain unless there's a trade.

Delwyn Young is arbitration eligible after this year and I expect him to be non-tendered. Yet, like Crosby he has the flexibility to play many positions poorly. It wouldn't be a horrible move to release him, but there are better options:

Church and Iwamura are two pending free agents who have been absolutely awful and have no chance of returning. Iwamura would be my choice to go. If Iwamura and LaRoche both remain, we're left with three-fifths of our bench (LaRoche, Iwamura, Jaramillo) able to play only one position each. The Pirates would be eating about $3 million in salary if they make this move, but it's better than wasting the money and a bench spot.

June 15, 2010

Series Preview: Chicago White Sox

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 15, 2010

Ah, interleague play. A term that didn't seem at all gay until I chose this picture for the preview.

Excitement about the Pirates is at either a season high or an all time low. On one hand, they've promoted three-fourths of their top prospects with Pedro Alvarez days away. On the other hand, they've lost eight games in a row to drop their record to 23-40 - second worst in baseball to the Orioles.

The White Sox, who at 28-34 are now 7.5 games behind Minnesota and five behind Detroit, entered the season with high hopes but could become sellers at the trade deadline if they don't start winning.

Paul Konerko (.291/.394/.596, 17 home runs, 46 RBI) and Alexis Rios (.317/.378/.573, 42 runs, 13 home runs, 19 steals) would be having MVP caliber seasons if, you know, they didn't play for the White Sox. The rest of the lineup has been awful. Apparently when you lose Jim Thome and add Juan Pierre, your lineup gets worse. Four regulars have on base percentages under .300. Let me rephrase that to make it sound worse. Four regulars have on base percentages under .300!

The Pirates now feature five legitimate major league hitters at the top of their order. Maybe it's time to win one for Jose Tabata, who has been on base seven times in his first four games, with two steals.

Chicago White Sox - Tuesday 7:05, Wednesday 7:05, Thursday 7:05
Tonight, Freddy Garcia (6-3, 4.82) faces Brad Lincoln (0-0, 7.50) in Lincoln's PNC Park debut. Garcia got off to a good start this year but has been hit around in some recent starts. On the positive side, he's one of the top hitting pitchers in the American League and will make a bid for the coveted AL Silver Slugger award, Pitcher. Brad Lincoln made the mistake in his first start of allowing five runs, but you live and you learn. Unfortunately for the White Sox, there is no Silver Slugger for an AL pitcher. See how I teased it, then crushed Garcia's hopes? My pick is the Pirates.

Wednesday is John Danks (5-5, 3.27) against Zach Duke (3-7, 5.30). John Danks had an awful rookie year but since then has been one of the better starters in the American League. Unfortunately for him, he's not Zach Duke. Duke has been giving up a lot of runs and losing games lately, no doubt causing people to think he's not going to win this game. Have these people not seen The Hustler? It's a good movie. My pick is the Pirates.

Thursday the White Sox go with Jake Peavy (5-5, 5.62) against Ross Ohlendorf (0-4, 4.95). Peavy was signed to be the ace but has self-destructed. He told the Chicago Sun-Times that he would ask to be traded if the Sox went into rebuilding mode. The Chicago Sun-Times, what a great paper. I buy one every time I fly out of O'Hare Airport which is two times. A newspaper where the movie review is the most important article is sort of like a baseball team whose biggest star is the manager. Oh wait, Chicago has two of those. Anyway Jake, no one's going to trade for a pitcher with a 5.62 ERA who is owed another $46 million minimum between now and 2012. My pick is the Pirates.

June 11, 2010

Pirates Revamp Their Lineup

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 11, 2010

As Pirate fans well know, the Pittsburgh offense has been a minor disaster this year. How bad is it? With 196 runs in 60 games, the hometown nine are scoring fewer runs per game than any Pirates team since the 1917 Pirates, a dead ball era team which collectively hit 9 home runs all year.

They're also a pace to score 100 fewer runs than last year's team, a team which itself finished 30th in baseball in runs.

Given all this, it was painfully necessary to start promoting hitting prospects.

Neil Walker (.321/.392/.560 at Indianapolis) was the first to come up and is now the everyday second baseman. In 15 games he's hitting .322/.365/.492 which actually makes him the best hitter in the Buccos lineup thus far, slightly ahead of even Andrew McCutchen.

Tabata Added
The other shoe dropped Wednesday. Jeff Clement and his .230 OBP was finally optioned to Indianapolis. He'll turn 27 in two months, and still looks like an AAA player. I think Clement's knees robbed him of a shot to stick in the majors, since he probably has enough pop to be a backup catcher but nothing else. With the move to first, he looks like an AAA lifer.

In exchange, the Pirates promoted Jose Tabata, .308/.373/.424 at Indianapolis. Tabata immediately becomes the everyday left fielder and leadoff hitter. Tabata is a wild card; his Indianapolis numbers were the same as McCutchen's 2008, but there are questions about his age among other things. I'd say his most comparable player is Nyjer Morgan, meaning that he should really be a starting center fielder or fourth outfielder. But despite his lack of pop, he should at a minimum tie Lastings Milledge's year to date total of zero home runs. I for one had grown tired of Milledge taking bad routes to balls in the outfield and making dumb outs on the bases.

Doumit to first
Ryan Doumit started at first base last night for the first time since 2007. Unlike Jim Tracy, current management actually had Doumit, you know, work out at first base before putting him there in a game. Mad props. Of course, first base proved to be yet another position where Doumit can mishandle a ball in the dirt leading to a run. It's unclear whether he will start at first regularly or only on his off days from catching, but I'd expect a 50/50 split as the Pirates try to build his trade value up. Regardless, this means Doumit will be in the lineup every day which obviously helps the offense.

Wherefore art thou Pedro?
The Pirates have one move left, which is to promote Pedro Alvarez. Pedro is on an absolute tear, 13-for-24 in his last seven games including six extra base hits in that span. His stats are up to .291/.380/.552, basically the same numbers that merited promoting Walker. He's also scored 40 runs and driven in 50 over 61 games and has a good walk rate.

Pedro is still striking out once a game on average but is producing about as much as a player possibly can while doing it. His K rate is still my main remaining question; if like most players he strikes out more in the major leagues, we're talking 180 strikeouts a year. The lefthander has answered questions about his platoon splits this year, hitting an absurd .320/.420/.683 against southpaws.

Current third baseman Andy LaRoche had a decent 2009 but is hitting .240/.306/.329 this season. Is that an off year or his true talent level? Consider that he's also hitting .231/.313/.349 career. Since May 5 he's driven in five runs. It's Alvarez time.

Your 2011 Pirates
Here's the lineup I think you'll see starting this coming homestand, and continuing for the rest of the season barring trades. And for that matter, in 2011 except that we might get a semi-real shortstop.

1. Tabata
2. Walker
3. McCutchen
4. Jones
5. Doumit
6. Alvarez
7. Jaramillo, Milledge or Church
8. Cedeno
9. Pitcher

Looks like a legitimate major league lineup! Wooooooo and GO BUCS!

June 10, 2010

Stephen Strasburg's Smoking Stuff

The first two games of this week have been unusually interesting considering it's a June series between the Nationals and Pirates. First we saw Stephen Strasburg strike out a bunch of Pirates, and then we saw the call ups of two of the Big Four prospects, Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln. More on the lineup later today, but for now I'll focus on the Strasburg game.

Apparently too swayed by the fact that Stephen Strasburg has the same name as the Strasburg Railroad, I relied on the wrong childhood memory in making my prediction that the Nationals wunderkind wouldn't live up to expectations. The correct memory would be this.

At my elementary school in a middle middle class suburb of Rochester, we were a unified bunch. Everybody thought farts were funny, everybody's dad worked at Kodak, and everybody bought the school lunch. So there was always a line out the cafeteria door as we waited to buy our meals.

The Greece Central School District had an interesting approach to smoking. Rather than doing something that would actually make sense, i.e. requiring the employees who smoked to do so outside, the school preferred not to let students see anyone smoking. If we could only reach age 18 without knowing cigarettes existed, then we would never buy them. So all smoking was done in a tiny windowless closet which was appropriately dubbed the Smoking Room.

The Smoking Room was right next to where we lined up to buy lunch. Always we could smell cigarettes through the door, yet we had no idea who was smoking them. Of course our teacher didn't smoke them, but who did?

One janitor had been overheard saying "Yeah but if you quit smoking, you eat a lot," so he was the prime suspect. Yet could he really be the only one? He was about 30 and based on our knowledge of Health, he would have certainly died before that age if he was smoking every day of the year.

Well, Rochester has a climate that features 120 days of snow in a row every winter. Rochester is also quite flat so with negligible sledding, snowmen got old before the new year. Only 50% of the class could make fart noises with their armpits. There were just not enough distractions to allow something so tantalizing as the Smoking Room to remain a mystery.

So one day, we Opened The Door To The Smoking Room.

Inside was the most earthshattering sight we had ever seen: Mrs. Rundle, the guidance counselor, was sitting there reading the newspaper - and smoking.

It was the most hilarious thing of all time, the loudest fart and the loudest fake fart combined, only funnier. The universal reaction was uproarious laughter. Two decades later I can't stop smiling right now, just thinking about how funny it was.

As a side note, let it never be said that a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from SUNY-Brockport does not prepare one to manage a crisis. Mrs. Rundle reacted by saying nothing, closing the door and finishing her cigarette.

Anyway, you might have realized this already, but in retrospect what we saw was not that surprising. In fact, in a school's Smoking Room which smells like smoke, more experienced minds might have expected to see a staff member smoking.

Stephen Strasburg's debut was like that. He has a 100 mile per hour fastball, a hard curveball with strong downward movement that's impossible to lay off of, and a changeup that seems unnecessary but is also good. In retrospect, with baseball's lowest scoring lineup batting against that stuff, one would expect to see seven innings, 14 strikeouts and only two runs allowed.

When we saw Mrs. Rundle smoking, what impressed us it was not the improbability of what we had witnessed, but the sheer awesomeness. Strasburg was like that. You can read that he has a good curveball, but watching major league hitters try to lay off of a low one with two strikes is an entirely different thing. His curve impressed me much more than his fastball, which is a lot to say when the fastball is coming in at 98 mph minimum.

Sports are often about surprises or at least the unknown, and what we saw Tuesday was the most likely result. Yet, like Michael Jordan winning yet another NBA Finals, you still had to watch it. The predictable did not disappoint.

The game was sold out, a real rare thing for the Nationals, and the Pirates announcers speculated that every Strasburg start will be like this. I think not. We never opened the Smoking Room door again. There was no more mystery.

Strasburg will attract more fans to Nationals Park than say, John Lannan, but all his games won't sell out. As the novelty subsides I think 35,000, then 33,000, then 28,000 will turn out.

Mrs. Rundle, we're sorry.

June 8, 2010

Must Beat Strasburg Tonight

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 8, 2010

As all of you no doubt know, the Pirates face Stephen Strasburg tonight in his major league debut. An interesting fact about your major league debut is that it's one double letter away from literally having your ass removed.

In the minor leagues this year Strasburg is 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA, allowing 31 hits and 13 walks over 55 innings. He gave up just one home run and struck out 65. Those are unreal numbers which tend to suggest that he is better than he's better than Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA this year.

One time when I was like 8 years old I went to take a ride on the Strasburg Railroad while visiting my grandparents, who conveniently live in Lancaster County, home of lots of awful tourist attractions. Well, I was unbelievably pumped for my first ever railroad trip. A train is a lot cooler to an 8 year old kid than either a Chevy Celebrity or a school bus. I loved the idea, loved the start of the train trip, and was generally happy with the whole thing.

Well, halfway into the trip, the goddamn train turned around and went right back to the same parking lot we parked in. It really undermined the goal of getting from place to place, which is arguably the main point of transportation. 8 year old me was disappointed. Disappointment is not a great emotion when expressed by an 8 year old.

So Strasburg is the most hyped pitching prospect of all time. The moral of the railroad story is, nothing lives up to the hype. The most hyped basketball prospect of all time, LeBron James, was wildly successful, lived up to the hype overall, and still lead his team to a 35-47 record his first year. Also, Ryan Leaf.

Karstens himself had a 5-0, 1.49 minor league record in 2007 and managed to go 1-4, 11.05 when called up that year.

Strasburg won't do that. I fully think that he will have a great year and post something like 10 wins and a 3.50 ERA. But he's not Jesus, despite what Nyjer Morgan says. Also, this is a huge game for the Pirates in that they can't afford to look bad in the national spotlight. I personally can't stand to see more tired old "Pirates suck" columns from ESPN etc.

The Nationals want Strasburg to succeed. Given the level of hype it would be disastrous if he got chased in the second inning. Make no mistake, this game was chosen because the Nationals think the Pirates are the weakest opponent Strasburg could face. McCutchen and the other legitimate major league hitters on the Buccos roster should take it as a personal affront and respond accordingly.

I attoned for my Strasburg Railroad disaster with a Chicago to San Francisco Amtrak trip 13 years later. Strasburg, barring injury, will win 200 games. Let's hope tonight's game isn't the first.

June 4, 2010

Series Preview: San Francisco Giants

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 4, 2010

It seems like forever since the Pirates played baseball, but this is already a 2-0 homestand and I am hoping for 6-0. The Giants are a team a lot like Pittsburgh in that they're offensively challenged, with one difference being that, you know, they have pitching. Aubrey Huff (.298/.382/.472) is the best hitter on the team thus far and that is not good. Pablo Sandoval (.286/.341/.437) has put up pedestrian numbers so far after a great 2009. And of course, Freddy Sanchez (.327/.414/.388) is doing his thing, complete with a career high eight walks. He was injured most of the year but is now occupying the #3 spot in the lineup, good for him but bad for the Giants.

Searching for preview babes online causes me to enter some, um, interesting search terms. Anyway, for y'all's future reference, typing "Giants boobs" into Google does not find you pictures of San Francisco Giants fans with cleavage. Google doesn't really differentiate between the singular and the plural, so it just gives you images of plain old giant boobs. Anyway, this is a multicultural blog so I am posting a Lotte Giants babe from the Korean baseball league, and she is attractive despite having two heads and four arms.

San Francisco Giants
Friday 7:05, Saturday 7:05, Sunday 1:35

The Giants go with Jonathan Sanchez (3-4, 2.90) for the opener. Ignore the W-L record, he's having a breakout season at age 27. In 62 innings he's allowed a sick 39 hits while striking out 63. I doubt the Pirates are the one team who can hit him. Should it have been "the one team that can hit him" to be grammatically correct? It's hard to say. As a former journalist I would just recommend writing around that usage, but I have earned a grand total of $0.01 from the blog this month so I am not about to delete words.

Pittsburgh gives the ball to Zach Duke (3-5, 5.09). Home/road splits are usually pointless but Duke has a 3.57 home ERA and a 6.99 road ERA, and he's done this every year. Also Duke is a big game pitcher, witness the last two home openers, the win over Roy Halladay and his title clinching start in 2010 World Series Game 6. Opposing an ace caliber pitcher makes this a big game, hence Duke will have shutdown stuff. My pick is the Pirates.

Saturday the Giants will go with former Cardinal Todd Wellemeyer (3-4, 5.03) against Paul Maholm (3-4, 3.90). Adding value for his team despite mediocre-to-bad pitching, Todd Wellemeyer is also going to play rhythm guitar for Collective Soul after the game. He'll already be wearing his black Giants shirt so he will match the rest of the band anyway, and he'll have an unhappy facial expression after the Pirates shell him making him perfect for the next album cover. My pick is the Pirates.

Sunday the Pirates go with Ross Ohlendorf (0-3, 4.26) against Tim F'ing Lincecum (5-2, 3.14). I've seen a lot of stuff on how Roy Halladay, or even Ubaldo Jimenez, is the best pitcher in the game. Really, you're going to discount the two time defending Cy Young Award winner because he's off to a 3.14 ERA start? Lincecum has struggled with his control recently and pitched a few bad games in a row but every player in baseball has a bad streak every season. He's still the #1 pitcher in baseball and I would be pleased if the Pirates can muster two runs off of him.

Nevertheless, have you seen the Giants' road record? 9-13 and it should be 9-15 going into this game. Ross Ohlendorf certainly will get a win this year. My pick is the Pirates.

June Home Giveaways Preview, Part Two

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 4, 2010

Apologies for not having part 2 of this preview up before the month started, but there were no giveaways for the Cubs series anyway. Unless you count the ability to wait through an over 3 hour rain delay before finding out the game is cancelled as a giveaway. Here are the other free things you can get this month.

Friday, June 4 vs. San Francisco - 7:05 p.m.
Pirates Batting Practice Cap

Have you ever gotten to a game early, only to sit through batting practice looking like a total dick because you're wearing an official game cap? That will never happen again if you get this hat. This giveaway is especially apt with all of our starters other than Ross Ohlendorf giving up over a hit per inning.

I got moderately screwed on the Earth Day giveaways because of the Waste Management sponsorship, which causes one to look like an authentic garbage man from behind when wearing the items. Of course I will make less out of law school than a garbage man and have more loans. Anyway, this cap is sponsored by West Penn Allegheny Health System which is one of my two favorite health systems in the Pittsburgh area. So even the sponsor logo should be sweet.

Saturday, June 5 vs. San Francisco - 7:05 p.m.
Collective Soul Skyblast

An underrated band to see in concert is any late 90s alternative band. Collective Soul is clearly a good one, just look at the way they pose for a picture wearing black, with one slight smile and everyone else looking suicidal. Collective Soul is no Third Eye Blind but they're great entertainment compared to going home after the game.

My personal record for "Most 40something women hitting on me" was set at a Blessid Union of Souls concert and that's something. Late 90s alternative bands are still young enough to be great, but as a genre are unpopular enough that they have to do things like play free postgame shows at PNC Park. Collective Soul has a lot of romantic songs so make sure you bring a lighter. And not a clear gas station lighter, get a goddamn Bic for this one. I'll be there.

Sunday, June 6 vs. San Francisco - 1:35 p.m.
Kids Andrew McCutchen Replica Alternate Jersey

If you count Andrew as a separate word from McCutchen, this jersey ties the modern record for most words modifying the word 'jersey' with five. How do you like my new grammatical technique of using single quotes when you're setting off a term as opposed to a quotation?

I have a confession to make: I'm just not prepared enough to be a father figure to start dating someone with kids in order to get these kids' giveaways. One of my closer associates once dated a woman with three kids. A little known fact about dating someone with three kids is that it sucks.

Monday, June 7 vs. Chicago - 12:35 p.m.
Ghost Game

Nothing tangible is being given away, but you're not a Republican are you? Seriously, this one has a chance to set the record for smallest crowd ever at PNC Park. The record was set during the G20 conference with attendance of a number I didn't bother to look up. But that game was regularly scheduled, and tickets were on sale for it for six months. This rainout makeup was scheduled a few days in advance and there's no chance anyone knows there's a game, let alone wants to take Monday off to go see it. There's a great chance for a Field of Dreams atmosphere where you and your four friends are sitting there watching major league baseball players play ball.

Thursday, June 17 vs. Chicago White Sox - 7:05 p.m.
T-Shirt Thursday

Why do I just type 'Chicago' for the Cubs but the full team name for the White Sox? Because I hate interleague play so only the Cubs get to be the real Chicago. I recently threw away a white Pirates giveaway T-shirt from last September because it already looked like crap after wearing it like three times. Yet my U2 Elevation Tour shirt from 2001 still looks awesome because it's black. This discussion was way too racist to publish, but I don't have enough content to hold anything back.

Friday, June 18 vs. Cleveland - 7:05 p.m.
Bill Mazeroski Canvas Photo Wrap

As I recently told an associate, the Indians series is a fair amount of fun. The Tribe brings some fans for a weekend series and all in all is a solid interleague rival. I'm not sure how the hell things work out that they come here for two years in a row, but I am all for it.

I have no idea what to do with a Bill Mazeroski photo wrap. Initially I thought these photo wraps were something that I am either too young or old to appreciate, like Ben-Gay or Aly and AJ. As it turns out, I just don't appreciate it because my taste in art is not Pirates-related enough, in that my ten favorite paintings are the only ten paintings everyone has heard of, and I just can't afford an original of 'The Scream' so I have empty walls. Anyway, I'll be getting this Photo Wrap and it will look nice in a closet.

Saturday, June 19 vs. Cleveland - 7:05 p.m.
1960 Commemorative Beer Stein

My feelings on this beer stein giveaway were expressed at length in Part One of this preview. I'm not getting this beer stein. You should.

Sunday, June 20 vs. Cleveland - 1:35 p.m.
Kids & Dads Cooler Bag

Ah, the Father's Day giveaway. I wonder how the Pirates' giveaways work out when you have to be a kid or a dad to get it. Also, I feel like you're basically a kid until you're a dad. I don't have any kids but I recently turned 29 and I could conceivably be a dad if I were either more or less responsible.

What would I say if I claimed to be a dad and they called my bullshit? "Most girls I know are exteremely irresponsible with taking their birth control." That would be a really great comeback. They would certainly give me the cooler bag to get rid of me. Alas, I have a wedding the night before and this game is way too early for me to attend.

June 1, 2010

The Value of Patience

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 1, 2010

Sports fans are always eager to make changes to their team. This is why the backup quarterback is always popular. In baseball, one of the most volatile positions is the closer spot on any team.

For example, Jason Frasor won the Blue Jays closer job in spring training. He got five save opportunities in the team's first seven games, and blew two of them. That was it. Frasor was pushed to a set-up role and Kevin Gregg had the job. Baltimore, Philadelphia and Milwaukee have each employed three different men closers already, in less than a third of a season.

It seems so long ago, but one month ago Octavio Dotel was the worst closer in baseball. At the end of April his ERA stood at 12.27. He had given up runs in six straight appearances during which he walked four and gave up 14 hits, three of them home runs, in 6.1 innings.

Basically it looked like madness to keep Dotel in the closer role. Not only was he the worst reliever on the team in April, but he might have been the worst reliever in baseball. Yet that is exactly what John Russell and the Pirates did.

Well, an underrated way to fix any problem is to do nothing and wait for things to get better. Dotel just completed a month of May in which he appeared in 11 games, an inning each time, and went 1-0 with eight saves and an 0.82 ERA. He also displayed overpowering stuff, striking out at least one batter in every inning he pitched during the month. In May he was the best closer in baseball.

So to a shortsighted observer, Octavio was the worst closer in baseball and is now the best. Of course Dotel is neither. But where many saw a closer with a 12.27 ERA a month ago, the Pirates saw a guy who in an 11 year career had an ERA below 4.00 and 11 strikeouts per nine innings. In short, the same reasons he became a closer are still valid.

Incidentally this was exactly where the Pirates erred with Matt Capps when they non-tendered him this past winter. Capps was a 26 year old reliever with a career ERA of 3.61, 67 saves and a career walk rate of 1.7 per nine innings. That's why more than ten teams wanted to sign him when he hit the free agent market. Yet the Pirates, in letting him leave for no compensation, saw only the guy who had an awful 2009 season.

Of course, making no move is not always best. After the terrible starts of Akinori Iwamura and Charlie Morton, I have advocated, and the Pirates have agreed, that it's best to make a change. The difference is that Iwamura and Morton were league average players in their best years while someone like Dotel or Ryan Doumit is capable of much more. So the next time Dotel blows a save, remember the value of patience.

June Home Giveaways Preview, Part One

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 1, 2010

The June home giveaways preview is going to be in two parts. This part is a rant with no useful information. The other part will be about the June home giveaways.

Weddings are a great thing. I like them, I really do. A wedding is one of two occasions when Heineken tastes good. It's also a great way for people to get married, which gives people a great excuse to have kids, which continues our species.

The other time Heineken is good is when Heineken is really, really cold. And I think we can all agree that eternal love is more romantic than an unusually cold refrigerator. So I'm going to say, bar none, a wedding is the best place to drink Heineken.

Also, I would like to say a few words about love. Love is a great thing. Loving someone gives you someone to go with to baseball and hockey games. Sometimes it's an Opening Day game or a pennant race game or just a great day for a game. But sometimes a girl loves you so much that you're going to like a goddamn Lake County Captains game and she's pretending to want to go. That is beautiful.

Drew Barrymore made a movie about love and baseball and those are two of my favorite things to see movies about.

So what all this means is that I am really in favor of weddings. I like being invited to them and if they're not in some absurd location like the bride's hometown where I don't live, I attend. It really makes me happy to see a friend of mine marry someone he really loves. My associate Kurt has a great bride and he's getting married in the same town I live in and he invited me, so by all normal standards I would be pretty excited about this wedding.

Kurt is getting married on motherfucking 1960 Commemorative Beer Stein night.

Unbelievable. I have checked the schedule and do you know what every other night of the year is? Not 1960 Commemorative Beer Stein Night.

Another point: It's not like there's some other commemorative beer stein night. Like, there's not a 1928 Commemorative Beer Stein the next day. There was one Pirates giveaway of a beer stein this year. There was one ever. I'm missing it.

I could buy one on Ebay. Straw man who's making a poor counterargument, appreciate the magnitude of what Kurt is depriving me of. I've lived in Pittsburgh for two years so I've gotten established to the point where I have PBR and know people who have purses. This would have, of course, given me the opportunity to smuggle PBR into the stadium, which would have been poured into a 1960 Commemorative Beer Stein. Then I would have drank it. It would have been awesome.

A wedding ring is a circle because a circle is a shape that never ends, like a couple's love, it circles around and around and is shiny. Well, a wedding ring has a hole in the middle of that circle, symbolizing the hole in my beer stein collection, because I don't have any beer steins and on June 19 I still won't have any.