Saturday, February 26, 2005


The beat reporters continue to fan out and cover everything. No repetition of profiles today.

Not a lot of time or inclination for much comment, so here's a collection of links, in no particular order.

Dejan Kovacevic catches us up on Mike Johnston.

Kovacevic's notebook describes the horror story that was House's shoulder. DK also confirms Jim Sullivan's report that Mackowiak looks great in the batting cage.

Joe Rutter reports on Freddy Sanchez, who is expected to win Abraham Nunez's old job.

Ed Eagle describes the world according to Bryan Bullington. Eagle addresses the B.J. Upton thing directly.

For the Bradenton Herald, Jim Brockman describes the likely roles of Matt Lawton and Mark Redman.

The AP revisits Albie Lopez and we get more details about Althete's Performance and Mark Verstegen.

Ed Eagle writes that Joe Roa is hurt.

Joe Rutter has a Jack Wilson update.

For the Tribune-Review, Jim Rodenbush writes about McClatchy's liking for NHL owners. McClatchy's name gets misspelled in the headline; I'm sure they'll fix that sooner or later. McClatchy's right that Reggie Sanders was a far better deal for the Bucs than the fat Zero Halliburton case they had to offer Burnitz.

Friday, February 25, 2005

McLouth and Duffy

Dejan Kovacevic describe McLouth and Duffy for the PG. I needed that, not knowing much so about them. The photos are good too.

Coach Mesa

Joe Rutter profiles Mesa for the T-R.

Next year, how much will he make if returns as a coach?

Exploding Eldred


Circle March 3--the day we'll get our first Spring Training broadcast. Pirates vs. Yankees.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Ollie update

Jim Molony has one.

Wilson / Ward's Jim Molony has this spirited take on the first base situation.

Littlefield sums up the fairly obvious balance going on between Tike Redman and Daryle Ward:

"If Ward really takes off, we'd certainly love his left-handed bat in our park, and Wilson's ability to play the outfield ties into that flexibility," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said. "Bay will play every day, [Matt] Lawton will play every day and Craig Wilson will play every day. Depending on what we see from [Tike] Redman and what we see from Ward will determine whether they're playing more."

The better Ward plays, the more likely Bay will play center. The better Redman plays, the more likely Wilson will play first. I'm not sure what the odds are that each of those guys will have a productive year but 50-50 may not be too optimistic. I buy into the flexibility concept Littlefield preaches on every corner.

Mark Redman

Sounds like a team player in that unsigned AP report.

Anybody with a computer can figure this out

So Wehner will be the new color guy. Ed Eagle writes it up.

Matt Lawton is ready to score some runs, Eagle also reports. There and in an AP report, McClendon talks about not using him as a leadoff hitter:

"We're a better club if somebody steps up and says, "I can do this,' and performs at a high level in the leadoff spot," McClendon said. "That pushes Matt down in the order and allows him to drive in more runs, which he is capable of doing. For that to happen, though, somebody has to step up."
Nice photo of Mac with that one. When's the last time a manager sported a cane on the field? As for the quote in question, I wonder if he's thinking about Tike Redman in particular. Or maybe he's just trying to emphasize that Lawton can hit for power. Dejan Kovacevic writes about Lawton, too, and that's one of the themes of his handicraft. Rutter also wrote about Lawton.

Kovacevic reports that Maz likes the team and misses Nellie.

The pitchers put the position players away in the first live batting practice. Also in that report: Ed Eagle counts three open spots on the 40-man roster with guys moving to the 60-day disabled list eventually.

Dejan Kovacevic more or less reports that the As want Mike Gonzalez in any deal for Byrnes:

Oakland will not consider a trade for outfielder Eric Byrnes unless it receives immediate bullpen help. The Pirates have exchanged names with Oakland, but the Athletics are believed to be reluctant to part with him.
OK, so he didn't write anything about Gonzalez. I'm just guessing. You don't think they'll settle for Jose Mesa?

Seriously, the As have been stockpiling bullpen guys--the better to trade away, Mike Williams-style, over the course of the season, I suppose. Why not mint a bunch of closers and trade them for other players? The Cubbies may wind up with Dotel after all.

Joe Rutter has a longer essay on the Byrnes negotiations. Byrnes has some good lines. Among them:

Byrnes has been aware of the myriad of rumors.

"It's hard not to be because I have family and friends all over the country," he said. "Anybody with a computer can read everything that's going on. It's not like I'm searching for it. At the same time, whenever you have people bringing up what seems like a different rumor every day, it's tough not to listen."

Joe Roderick covers the Captain America story for Knight-Ridder. He gets the same quotes, but a little different:
"There's a little truth in everything," he said. "Obviously there has been a lot going on. It's been going on all offseason.

"Honestly, the way I look at is if I get traded, I'll be going to a team that really wants me to play for them. As a player that's all you can really ask for. At this point, wherever I play this year, I will be playing for a team that wants me. That's also true if I stay with the A's. If I stay here and they end up not trading me, I think they will want me to be here.

"I have family and friends all over the country. Anyone with a computer can read all the stuff and figure it out. When you have people bringing up a new rumor every day, it's tough not to listen."

Roderick puts any trade on a late-March timetable. "If there is a trade, it may not happen until late in spring training, after the A's get a look at outfielder Charles Thomas, who was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Tim Hudson deal," he writes. "They'd also like to get an extended look at Bobby Kielty, a backup last season." I'd think the Bucs would also want a look at Darlye Ward, Tike Redman, Ben Grieve, and the young guys who will be vying for those open spots on the 40-man roster. reports Ken Macha saying he "has a logjam in the outfield." The As have starting center fielder Mark Kotsay, Eric Byrnes, Charles Thomas and Bobby Kielty heading into the spring. That doesn't really sound like a logjam to me, but I'll take Ken's word for it.

Pictures. Here's a picture of Benito and Mac. And one of Ian Snell. I'm guessing Ian Snell could be immediate bullpen help. The PG has this collage of minor-league vanity tags. And pitchers doing some kind of dance. And Ollie putting on makeup. And Matt Lawton showing off his cannon. Yes, that's safe for work people.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

All hands on deck

The whole team reports today in Bradenton.

Dejan Kovacevic reports that team will be treated to their first live batting practice and speeches from Mac and David Littlefield. Nice.

Braden River High voted to be the Pirates. This mascot edged out "the Barricudas."

Kelsie McLean and Brittany Funderburk voted for the Barracudas and the electric blue, black and silver colors, thinking they would for make for cuter cheerleader outfits. The future sophomores had rivalry from Brittany's dad Reggie Funderburk, who favored the Pirates.

"Considering the area and the Pirates town affiliation, I think that would be the best," Reggie Funderburk said.

High drama.

Also out there this morning is the whole Ben Grieve thing. Ed Eagle may have started it with this article. Here's a link to an AP version, unsigned but perhaps by Alan Robinson, who often covers Pittsburgh sports for the AP.

Finally, another Dejan Kovacevic Q & A. He advises financial discipline and falls into the save-the-money-for-Ollie school. I wish I could be so confident that the likely long-term scenarios will develop as we expect them. I want to see the team do all they can to win this year. They appear to have a chance now. And they've put in quite a few rebuilding seasons. At some point that has to stop. I'd end it now. God only knows what could happen to our players between now and next March. I think it sounds wise to talk about saving money for next year - really, it does - but I'm not convinced that it's really the best course of action. We can all disagree on this and there will be plenty of time to debate it going forward.

Don't miss the exchange between Wilbur Miller and Dejan Kovacevic toward the end. And the link to the television market size information.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Captain America

Don't miss today's work from the illustrious John Perrotto. It's only February and he's in mid-season form.

Good snark in this essay. For one, I'm not certain he writes his own headlines, but he gets a fork in with today's regardless, recalling bad mid-1980s Van Halen while insinuating that the GM has a man-crush on Eric Byrnes. And for two, the last line of this paragraph is classic:

Byrnes has been a rather anonymous player in Oakland the past five seasons while such stars as Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez and the Big Three of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito were helping the Athletics blow holes in a theory that Pirates' ownership seems to cling to - low-revenue teams can't compete for or win division titles. Oakland has done it without even having a new stadium paid for primarily with tax money.
Perrotto's wry humor is much appreciated here at the junto. There's nothing worse than humorless sports journalism. So put a little Bailey's in that coffee and all hail John Perrotto.

As always, I learn something new from Perrott. If I ever knew this, I forgot it long ago:

Pirates General Manager Dave Littlefield has been calling his Oakland counterpart, Billy Beane, on a daily basis in an attempt to make his second trade in four months with the man who tried to hire him as the Athletics' assistant GM five years ago. Littlefield remained in his job as Florida's assistant GM before coming the Pirates in 2001 but he and Beane have always been able to have an easy dialogue.
I didn't know Beane courted Littlefield back in 2001. The massive criticism of Littlefield from the Heathers of Sabermetric High might lead one to believe he graduated from cross-town rival Australopithecus Vo-Tech.

To get back to all that really matters. Perrotto on Byrnes:

More than anything, Byrnes is known for his entertaining style of play. One scout who has watched him frequently says "he does everything at full speed all the time and throws his body around like he's a crash-test dummy."

Byrnes regularly plays winter ball in the Dominican Republic and his hard-charging ways have earned him the nickname of "Captain America" from fans on that island nation. His production is strong enough that it would bolster a batting order than falls off sharply after the top four of Matt Lawton, Jack Wilson, Bay and Craig Wilson.

In the end, Perrotto endorses the pursuit of Captain America:
Littlefield should continue his pursuit of Byrnes. With the hopes of trading for Cincinnati's Austin Kearns or Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff unrealistic, the list of available outfielders is slim with the New York Mets' Mike Cameron and Washington's Terrmel Sledge the names most prominently mentioned.

Cameron is a fine defensive center fielder and coming off a 30-homer, 22-steal season. Cameron, though, has the same shortcomings as many other Pirates' hitters. He doesn't get on base enough and strikes out too much. Now 32, it's doubtful he is going to improve in those areas.

Sledge had a decent rookie season last year, hitting .269 with 15 homers and 62 RBIs in 133 games but he turns 28 next month, leaving him with little upside.

Byrnes clearly is the best option, which means Beane can keep expecting daily phone calls from Littlefield.

Hear hear. Kearns must be unavailable for many reasons, Huff is not a perfect fit, Cameron carries a ludicrous contract, and Sledge reminds me of J.J. Davis. I would trade mad pitching prospects for Byrnes. We all know that a Byrnes in the hand is worth two in the bush leagues.

But thank God I'm not the GM. I wear my heart on my sleeve, man, I know that. I have no kind of poker face. I routinely pull the trigger on roto trades before the talks fully mature. Since I'm bullish on the Bucs' chances this year, and doubtful that 2006 holds greater promise at this point, I'd deal some of those young arms. And Freddy Sanchez. I'd trade him too. Hell, trade everybody. That's my philosophy.

But a Byrnes trade can wait. We have a number of guys who could make it seem less necessary. Maybe Ben Grieve, Daryle Ward, Tike Redman, Rob Mackowiak, or one of the Indy Indian crew will play like a man possessed in March. Littlefield can wait if Beane's trade demands include more than he wants to deal. If an injury to the Oakland outfield rules out trading Byrnes, so might some other combination of circumstances make other players available.

Necessity never made a good bargain.

The Best Leadoff Hitter in Baseball

Mike Christensen of Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger profiles Gulfport native Matt Lawton. Shapiro called him "the best leadoff hitter in baseball," probably just as he was dealing him. Lawton's another one of our players with critics to refute. "It's like he got old real quick," a scout said, according to that report. They should give him a locker near Ye Olde Fountaine of Youthe.

Hurricane Wehner

Candidate for the color job, Joe Rutter reports. So does Bob Smizik, who adds Sid Bream to the list. Sid Bream? What, was Francisco Cabrera unavailable?

Return of Stats Geek

Welcome back, Brian O'Neill.

Just curious: does Ollie look as good if you rank them by strikeouts per batter faced? K/9 notoriously favors high-walk guys.

Kendall, Wells, Bautista even

Ed Eagle has the news.

Wells is the man.

Eagle reports that a lot of people spent some of Monday debating whether or not there was "friction" between Kendall and Littlefield. And I thought we were fools for debating whether or not the pitchers were running a fast mile in February.

Get a grip, people. Jason Kendall is ancient history.

Indy rotation

Dejan Kovacevic counts the young guys probably headed for AAA:

Management's early projection for the five-man rotation includes left-handers Zach Duke, 21, and Cory Stewart, 24; and right-handers Bryan Bullington, 24; Ian Snell, 23; and Bobby Bradley, 24. Other possibilities include left-hander Dave Williams, 26, should he fail to win the fifth starter's job in Pittsburgh, and right-hander Matt Peterson, 23, should he merit a promotion from Class AA.

Not bad.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Long live the king

R.I.P. Hunter S. Thompson.

Monday M*A*S*H stuff and more

J.R. House shuts it down. Joe Rutter's report.

Ollie takes it easy, Dejan Kovacevic reports.

Kovacevic also reports that Todd Ritchie won the nine-pitcher one-mile run with a time of 6:21. 6:21?? It's been a while since I ran a mile. Maybe gravity has changed since then. Or maybe they changed they way they keep time. Is that Canadian minutes? Otherwise, that's a pretty lame time for a one-mile run.

Start slow, fellas. Those aren't bad times considering that the key to winning the marathon is running each mile faster than the previous one.

Or maybe not. I'm not sure where I learned that maxim. It sounds kinda dumb this morning.

Albie Lopez looks fit and trim, Joe Rutter reports, but not so fit and trim he could beat Todd Ritchie in the mile. Maybe he wasn't in that race. Dejan Kovacevic also writes up the comeback. So does Ed Eagle. Are these guys sitting around in the bar and helping each other with their homework? I'm often curious about why much the same story appears in all the papers on the same day. Maybe Albie went out of his way to talk to those guys and give them something to report. Whatever. I've always been a fan of Albie Lopez. Hopefully we can get a good year out of him.

The New York Post profiles Rick Peterson who is, I just learned, is the son of Hardng Peterson.

And speaking of Harding Peterson, Bill Ranier and David Finoli have a new book on the 1979 Pirates coming out next month from McFarland.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Charles Johnson

A friend of mine in Arizona says he saw a guy that looks like Charles Johnson out in the parking lot. He had little voodoo dolls of Benito Santiago, Humberto Cota, and J.R. House. He was slamming the car door on J.R. House's shoulder.

Not cool, Charles.

Just let him play or It'll play itself out

Here's a tale of two players and two teams: The Rockies look to hand a third-base job to unproven Garrett Atkins. They appear to justify that with the theory that he'll graft better to the bigs if he doesn't have to worry about his job. The Phillies - or at least Charlie Manuel - talk like Placido Polanco has every chance to beat out Chase Utley at second base.

These two examples could be used to illustrate opposing managerial philosophies. One school says bring them along slowly and then give them lots of time and support. The other school says make everyone earn their playing time.

I'm definitely in the Charlie Manuel camp. It's not because I'm an advocate of "tough love." Not at all. It's because if I was a baseball player, I'd play it that way. I wouldn't want any preferential treatment. No special favors. And every day, even if I was an established regular, I'd go out there thinking, "one of these young guys could take my job if I don't do this or if I stop doing that." Like Bill James, I'd look at myself and my game and my record in the worst possible light. You always want to be on top of the "worst possible light" interpretation of your work.

Then there is the whole team concept. I'd understand that it was my job to groom my (eventual) replacement. After all, the earth could split open tomorrow and I could fall in. And my team would be without a replacement who is as good as he might have been had I done my duty and coached him here and there when I had the chance. The smart player, even if he is just looking after his own self-interest, understands that a rising tide lifts all boats. How do you make the big bucks? Play on a team that goes to the playoffs. How do you make the playoffs? Buy into the team concept.

So that's just the way it is. With the amount of money the players make these days, no one should be crying about job security. If you can't bring your A game because some older guy or some younger guy is playing well and threatening to take your job, then you should go be an insurance salesman. Because that's no kind of pressure to crack under. Even at the minor-league minimum, dudes are still making six to ten times more than the people they went to high school with -- if their former classmates have full-time work. You'd think that if you had a job that gave you a six-to-ten year headstart, financially, on your peers, you'd think then you wouldn't cry about how you can't play without a security blanket.

My guess is the majority of players would understand what I'm saying. Over the years I've read a lot of editorials by fans who think that teams have messed with so-and-so's development. Or they didn't give so-and-so a fair 300 at-bats to prove that his .111 batting average was just a fluke. I once felt that way about Chad Hermansen. Maybe a guy can yo-yo from level to level too quickly. There could be something to it. Perhaps the timing of promotions and demotions makes a difference. I'm not sure. But more and more I think the good players will make the most of their chances. And the bad players will make excuses.

I suspect the real reasons the Rockies are handing the job to Atkins have nothing to do with not troubling his beautiful mind with competition. They may spin it like they are clever, but all they are really doing is covering their own backs if he flops. "Don't blame us - we gave him a fair chance." And they are covering up the fact that he's a big question mark and they've done little to protect themselves if they lose him to injury or if he just plain sucks in March and April. I guess (a) the Rockies don't have anyone to compete with him and (b) the Rockies have no plans to acquire someone to compete with him if he tanks in April and May. Seeing what they have in the minors, it's hard to blame them for believing the third base situation will take care of itself sooner or later regardless of what Atkins does with his guaranteed half-year of playing time.

Where am I going with this? It all bears on the Tike Redman story unfolding this weekend. Joe Rutter and Dejan Kovacevic both have stories today in which Tike Redman says some things about his disappointment in the team for seeking another outfielder.

I don't blame Tike for any of his comments, though he doesn't look good to me. He doesn't have a lot of experience talking to the media and then seeing how his comments will look and play in the newspaper. I don't think there was one story in all of 2004, in either the PG or the T-R, where he was the main character.

To make a long story short, Tike Redman has done nothing to prove that he deserves a huge chunk of playing time in 2005. I would not be afraid of giving him PT, but I would also be working hard to make sure I don't start the season with the assumption that he's going to get 450 at-bats or more if anyone gets hurt. He had his Garrett Atkins year in 2004. The team stuck with him. If the team brings in a Placido Polanco, Tike Redman should suck it up like Chase Utley. If he's as good as he thinks he is, he can be confident that all the world will see that when the games begin.

I'll all about acquiring Byrnes. He's not expensive, he's good, he could be getting better, he's at least as good if not better than the other options we're looking at right now. The folks in Oakland love the guy. He'll fit right in here. I'd be happy to deal pitching prospects for him. I'm not sure which ones I'd deal, but pitching prospects generally have a lot more trade value the year before they debut than they have the year after they debut. Sell high.

One last thing: If Kip and Ollie are healthy and taking their turns in early April, this is the Pirates' year. We talked about this before the Steelers' season got going. When teams are getting better, they arrive sooner than expected. The Bucs are under everyone's radar this year. If we get Byrnes and 60 starts from Ollie and Kip, I think we have an 85-win team, or better with a break or a two, and I think the Bucs are looking at a good chance of making the playoffs. We can talk about 2006 later. Right now I'm looking at 2005 and I like what I see.