Saturday, April 24, 2004

Meet the Undertaker

My new favorite Steeler. Check out the Max Starks Personality Profile:

Father, Ross Browner, was a two-time All America defensive end at Notre Dame who received the 1976 Outland Trophy, the 1977 Lombardi Trophy, placed third in the 1977 Heisman Trophy balloting and was a first-round selection in the 1978 NFL Draft (Cincinnati). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame Friday, August 11, 2000

Six of his relatives have played in the NFL (father, Ross Browner, played for the Bengals; uncle, Jimmy Browner, played for the Bengals; uncle, Joey Browner, played for the Vikings; uncle, Keith Browner, played for Tampa Bay; uncle, Johnny Davis, played for the 49ers and the Browns; cousin, Steve Wilson, played for the Rams)

Treasurer of 2001-02 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee

Student-Athlete representative on the UF Intercollegiate Athletic Committee

A former student senator and associate justice on the school's Honor Court

Was named to the 2002 SEC Good Works Team for volunteer work at local elementary schools, Shands Hospital and with the Gator Literacy program.

Wears size 19 shoes- according to former equipment manager Tim Sain, the largest shoe a Florida player has ever worn

Enjoys music, Broadway plays and concerts

Could not play Junior Midget League football because of his size in junior high and didn't start playing the sport until he was a freshman in high school

Hobbies/interests include art, photography, video games and computers

Models his game after Orlando Pace

Lists South Florida attorney Willie Gary as one of his heros because he takes on big companies without backing down.

Starks' ability was questioned because he attended a small, private high school.

Is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and is an event coordinator for the fraternity

Elected as a freshman senator

Parents owned a funeral parlor while he was growing up, and Starks is the former President of the Florida Junior Morticians Association, which probably helped him earn the nickname "The Undertaker"

Wears a wrist band with his family's name on it every game

Was a ball boy for the Orlando Magic for four years

Is the vice president of marketing and communications for, Starks helps friend and fellow UF student Anup Patel gather funding for AIDS victims in India.

If the Steelers produce a 1,000-yard rusher this year, our back can take the line to Cats.

Max Starks

This guy looks like a winner. Reading his bio, I have no doubt he'll be a better pro than he was a college player. Here's a guy who knew, coming out of high school, that he would play some college and turn pro. He's smart and has some serious football experience in his family. Not known as a tremendous pass blocker, but looks like an all-world run blocker. And holy shit, he's HUGE. Bigger than Casey Hampton HUGE. So HUGE you can't write put HUGE in lowercase and express the same thing.

He comes from a major school and has all the professional credentials you could expect from a college junior. That's going to look real good next to the Colclough pick. Nice set of picks. Man I love being a Steelers fan.

One-inning starter

The Reds lifted their one-inning starter after one inning.

Simon left the game with the bum hammy. J.J. Davis got into the game in his place and promptly bobbled a ball in right field. Calm down, brother.


Works for me. Ron Cook nailed it yesterday, didn't he. I don't see why you need to use a #1 pick on a guy who should be handing the ball off 2 out of 3 plays, but I do understand that you need to get top value for your picks. The Browns paid too much to move up one pick to get Winslow (this will not play well in Cleveland: bwa-hahahaha). So OK, the price for the Steelers to move up to get that top OT was much too high and they were looking at this QB or an OL that evokes comparisons to Jamain Stephens. It's pretty clear they played their hand as well as they could with that first pick.

Here's another thought. How many area restaurants will have a "Roethlis Burger" on the menu a year from now?

The "'Burgher" jokes will be endearing too.

...second round ... with the burger we get a Colclough (COKE-lee) ... I wonder if there is a Fryes out there for the third round ...

...damn, Ben wore black and gold to the event today:

Also, Roethlisberger had the presence of mind to wear Steelers colors -- a black suit with gold tie -- to Madison Square Garden for the Draft.

"Yeah, no one knew I was going here. But I knew. I thought I looked good in black and gold," he said.

Duh, Ben, everyone looks good in black and gold.

Draft day

Finally a NFL draft with enough talent and intrigue to justify keeping the TV on and running in and out of the house while raking up yard debris, washing the car, tending to the emotional/cognitive needs of offspring, etc. (still no justification for sitting through the tedious bulk of it, though). Guys who will be going with the 15th pick would have been top 5 guys in some previous drafts -- a great year for the stillers to have pick #11.

As you know, Philip Rivers has become this year's It boy -- the guy San Diego says they'd rather have over Manning and who will determine in large part how the top half of the first round shakes out. Someone (and probably more than one team) is gonna make a first round trade-up move. A bit of a bad luck for the stillers that MIke Williams was not allowed in the draft -- he would have allowed another nonreceiver to fall a spot.

Not to leave Honestwags mute amid the chorus of thousand-tongued speculations for which Al Gore invented the internet, if both Rivers and Roethlisberger are gone by pick 11, look for the stillers to take a db -- Dunta Robinson or, if he's still available, DeAngelo Hall. A true shutdown cornerback in Pittsburgh? Not a bad backup plan at all.

The Worst Pinch-Hitter Ever

What a joke.
T Jones relieved J Riedling. C Stynes struck out swinging. A Nunez hit for J Grabow. A Nunez struck out swinging. T Redman grounded out to first. (0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors) CINCINNATI 5, PITTSBURGH 4.
Nunez was 11 for 104 as a pinch-hitter from 2001 to 2003. The full numbers are .106 / .174 / .154. That's an OPS of 328. Bob Smizik wasn't kidding when he called Nunez "amazingly inept" as a pinch-hitter. I knew he was bad, but I didn't realize he was that bad until I looked it up.

Is Abraham Nunez the worst pinch-hitter ever? I'm serious. I think he could be.

...John Mabry is a good suggestion by Steve of Mariners Wheelhouse but Abe has Mabry beat. We need to use three-year splits or broader periods of time to screen out one-year wonders. From 2001 to 2003, Mabry was 19 for 94 with numbers of .202 / .267 / .245. Abe had more appearances, then, and Mabry's 512 OPS represents a 56% improvement over Nunez's 328 OPS.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Johnston vs. Dunn

Two of our favorite players. Bases loaded, two outs, Johnston runs the count to 3-0. Dunn takes two strikes. 3-2 pitch, Dunn pops out.

Bobby Hill, John Grabow

Bobby Hill reminds me of Marcus Giles. He just turned in an awesome defensive play. Once you get a rep for being a bad D guy, you have to make a ton of great plays to lose that rep.

John Grabow is sharp tonight. Hard not to like this guy when he pitches like this.

Adam Dunn

Why didn't the Dodgers take him for Edwin Jackson and a propsect? The whole NL Central will be asking that all year.

See Jack bunt, see something happen

This doesn't happen as often as fans of the bunt think, but it does happen.
T Redman doubled to deep left center. J Wilson reached on bunt single to third, T Redman scored, J Wilson to second on throwing error by third baseman R Freel. J Kendall singled to right, J Wilson scored.
Bottom of the third tonight. Game here.

Here come the Reds

Assuming we aren't rained out some time this weekend, the Reds and Bucs will play four starting tonight. They throw Paul Wilson in the opener. He was once a highly-touted prospect and I've always thought him one of the better breakout candidates from the collection of retreads. He'll be huge for the Reds this year if he can keep his roll going. We counter with Kip Wells.

Tomorrow, it's Jimmy Anderson Haynes, someone I love to see on the mound for the other club. The Pirates have had some success against this one-inning starter. His three-year splits make Josh Fogg look good. We counter with Kris Benson, who has absolutely owned the Reds over the last three years. As they say in the mutual fund business, however, past performance does not guarantee future results.

On Sunday we'll put Oliver Perez out there against Jose Acevedo, who is looking really good this year, and on Monday it's Ryan Vogelsong against Aaron Harang.

The Reds are a dangerous team when everyone's healthy, as they all seem to be right now. The Honest Wagner roadmap to an 83-win season calls for the Bucs to stay at or just around .500 until the All-Star break, so I'll be happy if the Bucs can manage a split.

Mike Johnston

Here's to hoping the Bucs have a lead late this weekend. I'd like to see more of Mike Johnston. If the name means nothing to you, go read this great John Perrotto story about him from early in the spring.

Craig Wilson not bad at first

Those of us who saw what he did in the first inning of Wednesday's game may disagree. He made some bone-headed plays. Mac talks like he's not afraid to start him now:
McClendon believes Wilson has improved defensively at first since 2001, his rookie year.

"He's made great strides until that play yesterday," McClendon said. "I don't consider him a liability over there anymore."

That from Joe Rutter's notebook.

More evidence that Mac doesn't plan on using Wilson's defense as an excuse to bench him when Bay returns. So take heart, Craig Wilson fans.

Fogg remains

All the papers are talking about Mac sticking with Fogg, for now. See here, here, and here. All reports quote Mac:
"There is a little bit of a track record there with Josh and he's done fine over the last couple of years. But the fact is you've got to produce every year," said McClendon.

"Everybody in that locker room has to produce, not just Josh. If you don't produce, you're not going play. It's just that simple. Eventually, you have to find somebody who can do it. That's not a threat. That's just the way this business is.

And Joe Rutter has a little more:
"I don't know what that leash is," he said. "I know this: I want to continue to make progress. This team is starting to turn the corner and I don't want to go backwards."
So Fogg is still in the rotation. If Fogg is left in the rotation, he will turn in a quality start here and there. Blind squirrels, nuts, etc. Fogg didn't produce at the level the team needs last year, he's not doing it this year, and he's never shown a consistent ability to be effective the second time through a lineup. Fogg will be fine no matter what happens. All signs point to him having a long and useful career in relief pitching. He's a lousy starter, but he's still a good pitcher. Point to the record of his production, tell him that, and get him to the bullpen where he could do some real good.

Nobody will ask me, but my leash for this guy would be two or three more starts at most. At some point you run the risk of him getting lucky, turning in two quality starts, and then scuffling for four more. One step forward, two steps back is not progress. I can understand not removing him now since his replacement is at Nashville. We want to haste slowly with the addition of minor-league talent to the big-league club.

Simon to DL

Another possibility that would make room for Bay would be putting Simon on the 15-day DL. Another player could get hurt in those two weeks and it would give the team a little insurance.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Smizik on coming roster moves

Bob Smizik has a good assessment of how the Bucs ought to consider the next round of roster moves. Parts are a bit melodramatic, but he's right, and he could strengthen his case by pitching it not so much as a sacrficing now for the future but as doing the smartest thing for winning now. It's not true the team has no present. The moves he advocates would be best for winning now and for winning later.

I'm not down with pollyanna calls for hari-kari as if losing big now is the quickest way to win big soon. Smizik's not making that case though it does partake of a bit of that sentiment. There's no way I'll be convinced that the Bucs have to lose 100 games before they will win 100 again. No friggin' way that makes sense.

Anyway, I searched all over the majors for a team that could start Simon and can't find one. If he's not good enough to start on the other 29 teams, that ought to say something in big, blinking letters. He strikes me as a potentially useful pinch-hitter. That's not something we can say about Nunez. As much as I love his radio ads, Nunez doesn't bring anything that we can't get from younger guys with greater potential.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Vogelsong tipped pitches?

This on the AP wire: someone called Ryan and told him the Cubs knew what was coming. This was either an act of good sportsmanship or something designed to mess with him even more. Considering that the Cubs have not left town, you have to wonder why anyone associated with the Cubs would give this information now and not in twenty-four hours. So I'm suspicious.

On the other hand, it does explain how he could be so good against the Phillies and so bad against the Cubs. Either way, Vogelsong is in the rotation for the distance as far as I'm concerned. If you get sick of 8-run first innings, point the finger at Josh Fogg. I don't give a damn how many games Fogg won and lost as a Pirate the last two years. He wasn't good last year. And he has shown us nothing so far in 2004. The Bucs may leave both guys in the rotation for another month, but any impatience with the starting pitching has to be directed at Fogg before Vogelsong.

Back to this AP story. What kind of quote is this:

"I've known Vogey since he was a Giant, he was one of my favorite guys ... but I don't know nothing about it," Baker said. "If I did, I wouldn't tell you. But, honestly, I don't know about tipping."
How can you tell someone you'd lie if your honest answer was yes, and then say honestly, my answer is no? Whatever. Maybe Baker is alluding to knowing something about something else - stealing signs, perhaps. This part is just as good:
Moises Alou, among several Cubs, said they prefer not to know what a pitcher is about to throw. Baker said it takes an experienced hitter -- he mentioned former major leaguers Reggie Smith and Joe Carter -- to be able to adjust to the information and react to it.
This is an important point that Alou makes. When I was taking exams in high school, I preferred not to know what the questions were going to be. I could never do as well on the exam if I knew the questions in advance. And since Baker never stacks his team with experienced hitters, we can be confident that Moises Alou and the other rookies would honestly prefer not to know the pitches in advance since they lack the experience to handle such information.

Assuming that something was going on - and I thought Vogelsong was just plain sucking - then it's not the "crime" so much as the cover-up that makes the Cubs look like a bunch of weasels.

Mondesi trade rumors

Paul Meyer writes today in his Q&A that the Bucs have 8,000,000 reasons to deal Mondesi before the deadline. I agree. I'll get to work on making up some Mondesi trade rumors. San Francisco? Feel free to make some suggestions here in the comments.

Simon trade rumors

Let's start some trade rumors. When Bay comes back, he plays left. Mondy plays right. Wilson starts at first. Let's assume that Randall Simon is going to hit at his three-year averages starting now, and all GMs recognize that. Who might take Randall Simon off our hands?

Atlanta - Simon knows Atlanta from his John Rocker days. Adam LaRoche looks overmatched at the plate and only did half a year at AAA.

After running through every team in the bigs, I can't find another team that might need Randall Simon for something more than bench depth. We don't need him as bench depth; Rob Mackowiak and J.J. Davis can back Wilson up at first. What will Atlanta give us for Simon? Any chance we can get them to deal for him?

Vogelsong and Fogg

Vogelsong has to learn to pitch with his new strength. He's throwing harder and better than ever. Tommy John surgery seems to have improved his arm. Even when he's getting hit hard, he's still striking out a man an inning.

Playing fantasy baseball, I learned years ago to bench your starter if he's scheduled to start against a team that just rocked him. Vogelsong has had three outings. He dominated one team (Philadelphia) and rolled over like a lapdog for the other (Chicago).

Josh Fogg might be good for three innings tonight. The Reds destroyed him and the Cubs just destroyed him, so it's hard to be optimistic about his chances against the Cubs tonight. Just because I don't expect much, that doesn't mean I won't be pulling for Fogg. The back half of the bullpen has been OK lately so there's no pressing need to make our three-inning starter a three-inning reliever. With Vogelsong pitching like this, I'm less anxious to replace Fogg, a relative veteran, with someone with even less experience than Vogelsong.

It's early still. If the Bucs can win 11 this month, I'll be happy.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Tonight's lineup

Craig Wilson is in right after Raul Mondesi cut down so many from right in Shea. Lanny Frattare on KDKA noted that Mac indicated to him before the game that he doesn't care to shuttle Mondy back and forth from right to left, but he does not want Wilson playing left field at PNC (which is more spacious and difficult to play than right field at PNC).

Simon is now behind behind Wilson with Mackowiak in the five hole. Mac will play R-L-R with 4-5-6. Simon's demotion behind Wilson should encourage Wilson fans who think Mac plays favorites in the Simon/Wilson derby at first base.

Vogelsong threw 32 pitches in the first inning and got hit hard. He came back with a quiet second. He must figure out how to keep the ball in the park if he wants to limit the other team to less than five runs per start.

Not what the doctor orders

Remember how the Bucs were abused in the preseason for drafting college starters? Remember how the Reds, who had one of the worst starting rotations in the history of the National League last year, were applauded even after they blew their top pick on a two-pitch relief pitching prospect? Given that he's a closer (at best) on a team that desperately needs starting pitching depth, I still don't understand how Ryan Wagner wound up so high on anyone's prospect list. There's plenty of time for Wagner to turn things around and have a useful career, but how blind to a team's needs must you be to celebrate that use of a top-round draft pick?

Dvorchak on Jose Castillo

Bob Dvorchak has a great essay today on Jose Castillo. Go read it. Mac is a big fan of Castillo, and I like the skepticism that comes with his support:
"I wouldn't give him the rookie of the year just yet," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He's doing OK. We just need to let him play."
Dvorchak also reports that bench coach Pete Mackanin managed Castillo at Class A Lynchburg. Promoting minor-league coaches with the players they coach strikes me as a very good way to smooth and accelerate player development. Knowing that they will be promoted if they can help develop players worth promoting should also provide a lot of incentive for the best and brightest young coaches to sign on with the Pirates' minor-league system.

Kendall's value

Brian O'Neill writes about Kendall earning his paycheck. Yes, Kendall earns his paycheck, or most of it at least. There's no doubt he's a good player to have around and a valuable part of a winning team. It's good that so many Pirate writers are realizing this and rallying behind him.

The way I understand the pay scale in this league, salaries go up exponentially as a player's ability rises slightly above that of his peers. In other words, a catcher with a total Platonic ideal value of x may be worth $1M per year and a catcher with a total Platonic ideal value of 2x may be worth $4M per year. 3x, $12M per year. Even at $8M per year, Kendall shouldn't be expected to be eight times the catcher you could get at $1M per year. You can only field nine players at a time and to get some separation from the other clubs you have to pay a high premium for what might be a slight (but significant) upgrade at one of those nine positions. This is especially true up the middle (C, SS, 2B, CF). Giles is a great, great player, but it's easier to replace at least a good portion of his production since he is a corner outfielder. The dropoff from Jason Kendall to Humberto Cota or Dan Wilson is much greater than the dropoff from Giles to Mondesi.

We also have to think of the money invested in our catcher as an investment in the pitching staff. The Pirates can't afford to start some rookie klutz behind the plate. They need a highly-intelligent and agile signal caller who can help the young pitchers by calling a good game, exuding confidence, preventing wild pitches, minimizing passed balls, and being in position when the ball is in play and runners are moving. A rookie catcher might be a klutz behind the plate, and he won't know the hitters, and he won't have any kind of skill handling the zone or umpires or preventing tantrums on the mound.

Right now, the young pitchers appear to be coming along just fine. What role did Kendall play in the unexpected emergence of Van Benschoten and Burnett this spring? If the future of the team depends on Oliver Perez's continued progress, wouldn't be penny-wise and pound-foolish to dump Kendall's salary, considering that it may jeopardize the fragile success of the rookie starters? Maybe Kendall is not part of the reason they have looked good this season. Still, shouldn't we be reluctant to fix what isn't broken?

Benson is a different story. He can leave anytime. We have a long line of starting pitching prospects who are ready for his spot. Benson won't be here next year so the Pirates would be wise to get something for him when they can. His heath history suggests any run of good pitching from him might be fleeting. Trade him when his stock is high. He may be the next Jason Schmidt. That's fine. Maybe he'll win 17 games as a Diamondback. I can live with that. Even in such a best-case scenario, he's not as valuable a player as Kendall. I don't care how many home runs Jason Kendall hits. That doesn't matter too much at all. There are plenty of inferior players signed to equally inflated contracts. One or two guys per team is par for the course. The Tigers had their Damion Easley, the Indians have their Omar Vizquel. No club can expect every one of their long-term deals to look brilliant as it ages. Even Ken Griffey Jr.'s contract is an albatross. Let's get over the value of Kendall's salary. He isn't Derek Bell, as I've argued before. Let's concentrate on his ability to help the team win now and not begrudge him his payday.

Jack Wilson, our veteran

John Perrotto takes up two of our favorite subjects today: Jack Wilson's approach at the plate and Jack Wilson's status as a veteran on this club. It's about time more people thought about the implications of Jack Wilson being one of the older players on the team - in terms of service time, at least. A lot of "pundits" who claim to study and be experts on all 30 teams savagely attacked the Bucs for signing Stynes, Mondesi, and Simon. Without these guys, Jack Wilson and Jason Kendall would the only position-player starters with full-time playing experience, and going into the spring, a lot of people thought Kendall would be gone by April 1.

People hate what they don't understand. It's human nature to resent subjects that you neglect to study. Guilt works that way. Following one team is enough as it is. I don't care how much you love the game, it's pretty impossible to pay close attention and actually care about every team in the majors. One of these days the know-it-all national pundits might be out of business if they don't start admitting that there are some teams they just don't follow carefully or care to understand. Fans deserve better and will get better. Specialization is a good thing.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Peter Gammons on the Bucs

Today, from his chat: "I think they can be much better this season." (Scroll down, last question.)

What is "much better" than 75 wins? 83?

New Pirate Round

Captain Gennaro is back with another Pirate round. Ho ho ho and a bottle of rum.

I can dream, right

Tell me this guy doesn't look like a Steeler.

Littlefield answers questions

Ed Eagle has a new Q & A over at No real news here, though it's curious the way Littlefield talks about "after Jack Wilson." Not sure what that means.

Madden hates Willie Stargell

Mark Madden's column from Saturday is funny.

Ron Cook is happy

And why shouldn't he be? The Bucs will outperform expectations all season long. Roll the bandwagon from the big red barn. It's time to paint her up and fix them wheels.

I will pinch myself if the Steelers deal Burress to trade up in the draft and get Gallery to run the football and take pressure off Tommy Maddox. As Cook quotes Terry Bradshaw:

[Tommy Maddox] can't carry the football team. If you think he can, you're mistaken. They've got to be better at running the football. If they can do that, he'll be more effective. But he's not the type of quarterback who can win for you by himself.
Bradshaw is not insulting Maddox. He's talking Stiller football that's all. If you want to run the football, you must have a dominating offensive line. Witness Carolina last year. Stephen Davis gave some great quotes to the press last year about how easy it was to run behind a line like that. Seriously, if the Steelers trade Burress and every other draft pick to move up and get Gallery, everyone will be happy with the 2004 draft haul come November. And Cowher wouldn't have to pose in a tux with Gallery in a bridal dress.

Bay, Sanchez returns

In the Trib-Review, Rob Biertempfel reports that Bay will be ready for play in the bigs before Sanchez. Bay could play at Nashville this week. Littlefield guesses that Sanchez will be ready for his Nashville rehab in mid-May.

Cubs coming to town

The Cubs finish a four-game series at home with the Reds tonight. They'll be in town tomorrow. Hopefully tonight's game will be extra innings.

Tuesday the Bucs face Carlos Zambrano. He was very tough on the Bucs last week though it took him 120 pitches to finish six innings. The trick to beating him is to irritate him, get under his skin, and get him to lose his cool. On Wednesday Sergio Mitre, who is a total wildcard and good dance partner for Josh Fogg. On Thursday the Bucs face Kerry Wood coming off his fuse-blowing 131-pitch loss. The Bucs should be on their best behavior this week and hope the umps get into a mood to bring Kerry Wood down a notch after he went into a 'roid rage on Eric Cooper. Not cool. Kerry Wood has won 59 games in five big-league seasons. He's 27 and he acts like he's already in the Hall of Fame. That ain't right.

The Bucs counter with Vogelsong, Fogg, and Wells. Mackowiak should start at least the first two games. Mackowiak is 2-for-13 off Wood so I don't know about the third game. It's no reason to bench him, but maybe McClendon doesn't get the higher math. Kendall has gone 3-for-30 against Wood but likewise that's no reason to bench him either. Craig Wilson should start all three games. Jack Wilson has a grip on the number two spot in the lineup too. No one knows how Mac will divide the PT at 2B. I'll guess Castillo starts the first two games.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Wine guide

Bones is working on an Honest Wagner wine guide for the homestand. Look for it later tonight or early this week.

Do Believe I'll Dust My Broom

Oh yeah.

Jack Wilson stole his third base. Randall Simon walked. Chris Stynes had two singles and walk. Kris Benson got his 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th sacrifice bunts of the season, tying the ML record for most sacrifice bunts in a game. Jae Seo made me feel good about Josh Fogg. Bucs will feel pretty good heading home tonight, and should get in some quality R&R tomorrow.

Sunday's game

So far so good. It's hard not to love Craig Wilson homers, Raul Mondesi assists, and Kris Benson striking out Mike Piazza with a ball that bounces four feet in front of the plate.

Tike Redman and Adrian Brown

One of the common pessimisms in the pre-season was that Tike Redman would be another Adrian Brown. We need to revisit the history of Adrian Brown before we can know what their similarities suggest.

Last year, Tike Redman was 26 in 2003 when he came up mid-year and hit .330 / .374 / .483 with 7 steals in 230 at-bats. Adrian Brown was 26 in 2000 when he came up mid-year and hit .315 / .373 / .432 with 13 steals in 300 at-bats.

Adrian Brown was given the starting centerfield job going into the 2001 season. Fantasy baseball players regarded him as a nice little sleeper for his combination of on-base ability, speed, and opportunity in the leadoff spot. The Pirates were beginning 2001 with a new stadium, a new manager, and big expectations. The Pirates and the fans were cautiously optimistic about Adrian Brown as a piece of the next winning team. Bill Virdon was hired as bench coach to keep a mentor's eye on his centerfield defense.

Adrian Brown reported to spring training with soreness in his right shoulder. In the second half of March, he broke down and could no longer play. X-rays indicated a slight tear in his labrum but the problem was worse than that (or got worse than that) as he attempted to rehab without surgery. In mid-May, he underwent season-destroying surgery to repair his torn labrum, and he would never be the same player. This was a tough time for the team and for the fans. As Brown was rehabbing his "sore shoulder," Emil Brown and Chad Hermansen were floundering in his place. On the day they opened Brown's shoulder, the Pirates were 13-27, 11 games behind the Cardinals, and competing with the Devil Rays for the worst record in the major leagues. Kris Benson's misdiagnosed elbow was barking loud and Derek Bell, in the first, double-secret phase of Operation Shutdown, had to be euthanized put on the DL for a sore knee and a sore neck.

It's little wonder that we remember the end of the Adrian Brown era with intense misery and bitterness. If we remember it at all - sometimes trauma affects memory. Tim Wakefield pitched two complete-game victories in the 1992 NLCS but all I remember is Chico Lind's freak error and the six strikes Ron Howard Stan Belinda had to throw to "walk" Damon Berryhill.

Is Tike Redman Adrian Brown all over again? Not unless he tears the labrum in his right shoulder. Let's put the Adrian Brown cynicisms out with the trash. If it makes any sense to compare the two players, it makes sense only to compare Redman to the player Brown could have been had he avoided that injury.

One more thing. Here's a curiosity about the misery that was May 2001. When Derek Bell was put on the DL, the Pirates recalled a 25-year-old utility player to take his place. He was a non-prospect, a 53th-round draft pick. His signing bonus had been a chance to eat at Subway with a scout. (He had to pay for his own sandwich.) With Nashville, this guy was hitting .288 with 3 home runs but also had 31 strikeouts in 80 at-bats. He made the Show on his ability to hit left-handed and play almost any position - he was even willing to pitch in an emergency. It was hard to get excited about Rob Mackowiak.