January 28, 2011

St. Marys Will Represent Against One Batter Per Game

The Pirates added a lefthanded specialist to their bullpen today, signing Joe Beimel to a one year deal. Beimel is one of the better and more durable lefthanded specialists in the game. It's not a game changing signing but it certainly is one that will help the team.

How do I know it's a one year contract when terms of the offer are undisclosed? Well, I didn't have any details so I made some up. Peter Gammons.

Since 2006 Beimel has gone 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA, averaging 71 appearances a season. Those are impressive numbers for a guy who relies on an 87 mph fastball which he throws over two-thirds of the time. And they're numbers that show the power of Western PA. In addition to hailing from my favorite improperly punctuated town in Pennsylvania, Joe Beimel attended Duquesne University and pitched for the Pirates from 2001-03.

January 25, 2011

Spring Training Destination Guide

For those of you who can't get tickets to PNC Park, it's time to start planning your spring training trips. All away games in Grapefruit League play are driveable, you know, once you get to Bradenton. And my new place on the South Side cuts my Bradenton commute from 1,068 miles to 1,066. Who better to review these away game destinations than someone who has been to one FSL stadium in his life?

At Port Charlotte (Rays) - Feb. 26, 28, March 11, 25
I've never been to Port Charlotte because nobody has been to Port Charlotte. It looks like a really offensive suburban trash town wih no jobs. Also, it seems like it should be on the beach and isn't. It's kind of close to the beach, meaning that you'll attempt to drive there after the game and get there like 40 minutes before sunset. It's only 60 miles from Bradenton but Florida traffic rules apply.

It's sad that the Reds left their longtime and nearby home in Sarasota for one in the middle of nowhere in the desert - which apparently made the Rays Pittsburgh's primary spring training opponent. What went on in 1987, in 2009, is still history and shouldn't be thrown away. Recommended Dining: Beef O'Brady's, 1825 Tamiami Trail.

At Dunedin (Blue Jays) - March 3, 12
An hour's drive in the opposite direction lies Dunedin, a quiet town of retirees. This is a good destination because Dunedin Stadium is a classic and historic minor league type of spring training park, where seats are really close to the field. There's really nothing to do there since it's primarily residential, but Clearwater is directly south and has some nice stuff along the beach. And by nice stuff I mean girls from the University of Mississippi who are on spring break. Recommended Dining: Beef O'Brady's, 1100 Tarpon Woods Blvd., Palm Harbor.

At Clearwater (Phillies) - March 5, 18
Bright House Networks Field is at the other extreme. Luxury boxes, video boards, plazas, fountains, batting cages, fake Spanish architecture - the Phillies have built themselves a real palace. It's good for what it is. Just keep in mind that it's impossible to get anywhere in Pinellas County. It's a regular grid system yet you always get lost. There's no way to make a left turn even; you have to make a U-turn and then turn right. You can be lost while you can see your destination. There's a large Scientology presence in Downtown Clearwater but by the beach it'll be Spring Break of course. Games end around 4 and Spring Break girls become intolerable around 5 so there's a short window. Recommended Dining: Beef O'Brady's, 10799 Park Blvd., Seminole.

At Fort Myers (Twins) - March 8, 28
Hammond Stadium is a nice stadium, underrated like Comiskey Park. In 1991, construction people weren't really concerned with real historical buildings, but they were concerned with building nice and clean designs that omitted fake historical features. So that's something. This is the longest road trip at about 90 miles so don't expect to see many stars make the trip. Especially since there is one star on the Pirates team. Despite being small, Fort Myers is a legit city with a fairly large ghetto. So overall, a nice location and trip. Recommended Dining: Beef O'Brady's, 11841 Palm Beach Blvd.

At Tampa (Yankees) - March 9, 26
Tampa is a charming city where the main library has more homeless people than books despite having a lot of books, and you have the opportunity to get shot on a quaint and charming street paved in red brick causing a tapestry of red colors the likes of which haven't been seen since the book cover to the bullshit new paperback edition of some book by Ernest Hemingway that came out in 1955 but somehow costs $18.95.

I've explained this to several people, but here's the deal with Yankees fans. There's nothing wrong with Yankees fans who have a legitimate claim to Yankee fandom. Like you're from Middletown, New York, you're a Yankees fan, go for it. Unfortunately during spring training you will deal with a heavy concentration of Yankees fans from like, Sandy Springs, Georgia, and there is something wrong with non-New York metro Yankees fans. Plan accordingly. The March 9 game is the only one of these away games that's at night. Recommended Dining: Beef O'Brady's, 4235 West Water Ave.

At Sarasota (Orioles) - March 14, 24
Once the Reds moved out of Sarasota, the Orioles moved in. Sarasota is the closest spring training town to Bradenton so it's surprising that the Pirates make only two trips there.

I stayed in Sarasota once with some friends once. We were 20 years old. There were two non-senior citizen girls in the city, ages 26 and 27, and both amazingly hot. We talked to them and they advised us to go to Key West. Recommended Dining: Beef O'Brady's, 5170 Clark Road.

At Kissimmee (Astros) - March 20
Don't even think about using this part of I-4 unless you have a joint. And it's illegal to have a joint. Catch-22. Recommended Dining: Walt Disney World Character Breakfast.

January 18, 2011

Is the Offseason Over?

"You need one more, Coach."
"My team's on the floor."

It was a good coaching move by Gene Hackman, but he did that for one game. It helped in the other games to, you know, field a full team.

I referred to the three primary singings - Matt Diaz, Lyle Overbay, and Kevin Correia - as good moves for the Pirates. And they were - but it's not enough. If this is it, nothing in this offseason suggests that the Pittsburgh Pirates want to win in 2011. True, the primary use of free agency is to bring in complementary players who would improve a playoff-caliber team - but when you have a roster, only half of which is made up of legitimate major league players, what are you playing 162 games for?

At the time of the signings, the allegation was made that these were Dave Littlefield-like moves. Well, Littlefield would have made ten of those moves. He would sign any established regular at the end of the line and trade anybody for a low-celing prospect, but at least he would play his cards. He would enter every season with a club that, at a minimum, had Dave Littlefield convinced they would win. That's something.

There is no indication that Neil Huntington thinks he can win in 2011. He thinks he can win in 2012. That's an interesting outlook considering without winning in 2011, Neil Huntington will be gone in 2012. I have defended nearly every Huntington move, but we need more of them. We need another starting pitcher who will push Scott Olsen to fulfill his immense talent. With the bullpen devastated by trades, we need another glut of relievers similar to last offseason's group of signings. We need a righthanded first baseman to platoon with Overbay. We need a starting shortstop. You aren't getting these guys by waiting for someone to offer you all of them in trade for Ryan Doumit.

This is even more appalling considering only two or three teams in baseball have as much high-ceiling young talent in their lineups as Pittsburgh. The Pirates are one or two players away from a legitimately good lineup, and I hope I'm wrong but it looks like they're just deciding not to field one. Same thing in the bullpen. Even the starting rotation could be adequate. Nobody knows. But what's going to happen even if it all comes together for this team? Nothing when you are entering the season with major unfilled holes. We do know Lyle Overbay can't hit lefhanded pitching. We do know Ronny Cedeno can't hit period. Awful relief pitchers with no control aren't going to get anybody out.

What is Neil Huntington hoping for? A fifth place finish in front of a decimated Astros club? Get real. If only for our GM's personal job preservation, this offseason cannot and should not be over. And I hope it isn't.

January 12, 2011


Don't know how I missed this in March, but apparently this site took a fair amount of criticism from a major Yankees blog during 2010 Spring Training. To wit:

A few points about Paul Maholm:

1.) His page on Baseball-Reference.com is sponsored by something called "Pirates WFC Blog." Which used its sponsorship space to aver, "Maholm, Duke and Ohlendorf are the Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz of the 2010s. Prepare for the Pirates' impending World Series championship now by reading the Pirates WFC blog." THE PIRATES IMPENDING WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP.

Impending? As in "hovering threateningly"? As in "imminent"? It actually would sound just as weird to say "Yankees impending WS Championship" because, well, it's March. The only thinking impending is the need to recharge my computer's battery.

2.) Maholm hasn't had a winning season since 2005, when he went 3-1.

3.) His stats make him sound like he's a washed up middle-aged also-ran, a la Matt Herges. He's 27.

4.) In 2007, he ranked 2nd in the NL in shut-outs. One.

5.) In 2008, he made $424,500. In 2009, he made $2,500,000. Apparently going from 10-15 to 9-9 is grounds for a 589% raise in the NL. It makes me a little less bitter about the whole if-I-only-did-.300-of-my-job-I'd-get-fired thing.

So basically, one of two things: The first, and most likely, is that this guy thinks my statement about Paul Maholm was meant totally seriously. And he's deconstructed Maholm's career to show he's not in fact a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher.

The second possibility is that he is in fact fucking with me, and he is making me THINK he took this seriously, then arguing against my point to further fuck with me.

Your thoughts?

January 6, 2011

Bert Blyleven, A Great Hall of Famer

Great news yesterday. In his 14th year of eligibility, former Pirates pitcher and 1979 World Champion Bert Blyleven is a Hall of Famer.

This is one of many sites that championed Blyleven's candidacy. Even though few or no voters read my posts, similar posts on hundreds of sites add up. Blyleven's vote percentages mirrored the sheer number of sites like this one, increasing from 14% in 1999 to 80% in 2000. Mainstream media analysis has evolved from silly throwaway excuses such as "he didn't feel like a Hall of Famer when he was playing" to a real analysis of the player's qualifications. And Blyleven's are superb: 287 wins, a 3.31 ERA, 242 complete games, 3701 strikeouts (ninth all time) - all accomplished with what was probably the most devastating curveball of all time.

The erstwhile ace of the 1979 World Champions, Blyleven won two games that postseason and allowed only three runs in 19 innings. As he did so many times that season, when he went 12-5 in 37 starts, he pitched brilliantly in a no decision in World Series Game 2, later won by Pittsburgh. Summoned from the bullpen a few days later, trailing 1-0 and facing elimination in Game 5, he shut down the powerful Orioles for four innings for the win.

Bert was seldom happy during his days in Pittsburgh from 1978 to 1980. He liked to pitch the entire game, and manager Chuck Tanner allowed him to complete only 20 of 103 starts during three seasons. Before and after his tenure, he had single years when he completed over 20.

Blyleven joins the hall of fame at least a decade too late. But the fact that he was so undervalued helped the teams he played for during his career, all of whom were able to acquire the righthander without giving fair value. He cost the Pirates good-but-not-great left fielder Al Oliver, but Oliver was the only player ever swapped for Bert Blyleven who was even remotely close in talent level. Sadly, Pittsburgh dumped him after the 1980 season for a collection of scrubs, none of whom lasted over a year here. He would win 131 more games in other uniforms.

Congratulations to Bert Blyleven on receiving baseball's highest honor.

Parker Falls Short
That 1979 Pirates team now boasts two Hall of Famers, with Willie Stargell joining Bert Blyleven. But neither was the best player on the team - that honor belonged to Dave Parker, a true five tool talent who was pretty clearly the best player in the league from 1975 to 1979. During his five year peak, Baseball Reference figures that Parker was worth 30.1 wins to his teams. Yet he could muster only 15% of the votes in this, his final year on the ballot.

Parker was merely good for most of the rest of his career (six more 90 RBI seasons after he left Pittsburgh). He had 2,712 career hits; would have had 3,000 if he had become an everyday player in 1973 rather than being blocked for two years by baseball's best lineup. The voters saw fit to elect Jim Rice - the exact same hitter as Parker only for a shorter career, at an easier position, without any of Parker's Gold Gloves. Unfortunately, Parker may never make the Hall. If he does it will be as an old man, inducted via seemingly random decisions of the Veterans Committee.

Mondesi Shut Out
And of course, great former Pirates Raul Mondesi and Benito Santiago received one vote total, that vote going to Santiago. You can't win 'em all.