Saturday, May 13, 2006

Game 36: Fish at Pirates

Scott Olsen and Zach Duke, battling left-handers.

...meanwhile, you might enjoy this history of booing.

Unusual eloquence

A good eye distinguishes Arthur D. Hittner as a historian of the Wagner era. Page 42, quoting a report from September 1896:

Wagner's batting eye had returned, as evidenced by a two-homer outburst against Wilmington in Olympic Park. The latter blast, a seventh inning grand slam which broke open a tie game, was described with unusual eloquence in the local press:
Then Hannes stepped up to the plate, threw out his shoulders, clenched his teeth and waited. The first ball was satisfactory, and he drove it with mighty force in the direction of City Hall. He sprinted home, while the rooters turned insane with joy.

Hannes there is Honus, also known as Hans, also known as Hannes, also known as Johannes.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Game 35: Marlins at Pirates

Sergio Mitre and Victor Santos. The teams are pretty evenly matched. The Marlins lack much in the way of veteran stopgappery, however. So we should have an edge.

On slumping vets

Juan Encarnacion, Preston Wilson, and Juan Pierre, '05-'06 free-agent acquisitions, have all been terrible. Cliff Floyd, Jeff Kent, and Bernie Williams have been terrible as well.

Encarnacion (650 OPS) has been hitting sixth. Wilson (711 OPS) has been hitting fifth (and hitting better lately). Pierre (571 OPS) has been hitting third. Floyd (574 OPS) has recently hit second and eighth. Kent (690 OPS) hit fifth. Williams (633 OPS) hit sixth.

We're all focussed on Burnitz (584 OPS).

Google news retrieves some stories touching on some of these struggles. Juan Encarnacion has been described in the St. Louis press as a mild disappointment. Not many complaints are readily available about Preston Wilson, perhaps because the Astros are high above .500. Juan Pierre has drawn some criticism. Here's how Floyd's slumpiness has been covered. Williams has been throwing tantrums, but coverage of his ejection does not dwell on his year-to-date ineptitude at the plate.

Two things buy a veteran time with the fan base: (1) a winning tradition, and (2) a history with the club. The Pirates have no recent winning tradition, and none of the veteran stopgaps have a meaningful recent history with the club. (Joe Randa is no more "a Pirate" than Jose Hernandez.) Will all the fan resentment help Burnitz break out of his slump? I can't say, but I doubt it. And if it's true that vicious jeering hurts a player's performance, then the acquisition of veteran stopgaps is even more of a bad bargain for the Pirates. Veteran players are more likely to get it here than elsewhere.

Hines Ward

There's a long article about Hines Ward in Sports Illustrated. He comes across as one mean, selfish son-of-a-bitch.

Steeler fans have always loved Ward. We've been oblivious, I think, to all the egotistical whining about not getting respect which appears to consistently simmer beneath his surface. He's been the ideal running-game wideout. His intense jealousy of, and perceived disrespect from, the Edwards and Burress signings are totally childish. So is his disrespect for Cowher.

Few fans, I'd guess, care much about the individual context. We love Ward because he beautifully exemplifies the kind of "Steeler football" we want to see year after year.

I find this disappointing because here I thought Ward had figured out what "Steeler football" can be, and here I thought he had just gone out and done what was best for the team. Like he was "one of us." Now it seems like he lucked into his opportunity to be a Hall-of-Fame caliber player. Does he really think the team would have been better off with a gameplan that regarded him as a Randy Moss?

The front office could not have handled him better, if we judge by the results that have come from Hines being Hines in the opportunities he has had. If he's too selfish to realize that, fine. More power to him.

I'll be happy to "disrespect him" if he'll get his revenge on the field.

... let me add, I'm not saying he's a bad person. He comes across, however, as a troubled kid, as yet another one of these great athletes who appear to derive their motivation from a combination of intense self-centeredness (i.e., egotism) and a desire to revenge what they regard as an endless series of personal attacks.

Steelers Mini-Camp Begins

Yeah, we can all celebrate. Today rookies are arriving to the wonderful city of Pittsburgh to begin a three-day mini-camp for all players. It is the 'unoffical' start of the 2006 season. Everyone seems ready to go. Newcomer Anthony Smith, a safety from Syracuse (who hopefully will turn out to be pretty productive in a relatively weak position) stated, "It's going to be an honor to play for the defending champs. I'm just going to come in here and do what I can to help the team out and hopefully win another championship."

The Steelers Mini-Camp roster seems pretty stacked.

Tracy apologizes

(Well, not yet. But if he did, maybe it'd sound like this...)

Ladies and gentleman, people of Pittsburgh, and Pirates fans around the world. I'd like to humbly apologize for my jackassery over the past several days.

Firstly, my asinine decision to bench our team leader in OPS, HRs, and RBIs in favor of Jose Hernandez at 1B vs. a RHP was very intriguing, as Jose Hernandez has a .150/.209/225 line this year and a .219/.290/.296 line vs. RHP the last three years. Furthermore, Dejan has brought it to my attention that Craig actually has a .996 fielding percentage at 1B this year, while Jose doesn't naturally play 1B, thus undermining my statement that this move was done to "upgrade defensively".

Secondly, upon further reflection I've realized that the torrent of horseshit that flowed out of my mouth yesterday made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Very perplexing. Some think that our Best Hitter should hit 3rd, guaranteeing that he gets more plate appearances. Instead, my attempt to insert Burnitz's methodical beatdown .584 OPS in the five-hole in front of Bay requires explanation. As I've said before, "Effort is not an option", "You get 27 outs and every single one of them is precious. The point is to maximize the efficiency of each and every out." and "Do I advocate that you go up to the plate looking to walk? No." Jeromy epitomizes all of these maxims. Whether it's effortlessly trotting out a groundout with the game on the line, efficiently making the maximal number of precious outs, or never looking to walk, Jeromy has brought home the bacon.

So what can I say in my defense? The evil Mr. Nutting has implanted an explosive charge in my head. Continuous losing ensures minimal Net Local Revenue, which ensures maximal revenue sharing.

Anyway, I'm sorry, you plethora of disconsolate Pirates fans.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Tracy sings the blues

Alan Robinson reports on what sounds like a Lloyd McClendon moment for the manager.

"I've got two guys with bad legs, so don't ask me any more questions about how long I'm going to go with this guy or that guy and make it seem like I have a plethora of choices here," Tracy said Thursday, his voice rising during a meeting with reporters. "We're trying to make this group go as best we can. You don't have a multitude of options."

I would say that Bay should hit third, period, to get more at-bats in the early innings while our young starters might still be in the game. But yesterday's trio started 6 for 6 at the top of the lineup, and all I care about is the early innings, so I would run them out there again and see what happens.

Robinson also reports:

The 10-25 record is not the worst in club history after 35 games _ the 1952 Pirates were 6-29 en route to going 42-112, the worst record in club history. But each of the last four Pirates teams to lose 100 or more games, those of 1953, 1954, 1985 and 2001, had better records after 35 games.

They won't lose 100 games this year, I'm pretty sure. They aren't that bad. I expect some hot runs, some 12 of 15 passages, will make up some ground. Teams will ease off, and the Bucs will catch them by surprise. Like last year, the year before, etc. They could lose 90, though. They often look like a 90-loss team out there.

As for Tracy vs. McClendon: Tracy has not impressed. I gave up on Joe Liggins last year, when it was clear everyone had given up on him. Would the Pirates have a better record now, had they kept him? I don't know, but it seems pretty unlikely any re-run of the season would produce fewer losses.

...by "McClendon moment," I don't mean the agitation. Mac never got nervous; he got angry. Or so it seems from the newspaper quotes. There's no indication in any of the stories quoting today's speech that Tracy swore like a sailor, up and down, forward and backward. I definitely miss that. If you are going to go out like this - 10 and 25 - you might as well swear yourself silly in the press conferences.

The McClendon moment is the "I got no other options" line. Tracy's quotes remind me of Mac defending Tike in the three-hole. He has lots of other options, of course. Burnitz in center, for example, batting eighth.

Game 36: D'Backs at Pirates

Juan Cruz - remember that guy? the kid Dusty Baker hated on - and Oliver Perez. Day game. 12:35pm start, uh, weather permitting.

Makes me think of the day I hung out at Wrigley field through a six-hour rain delay. There's not a whole lot to do in Wrigley field during a six-hour rain delay.

Dazzy Vance

Did Steve Treder ever fact-check Arthur D. Hittner's Honus Wagner? Great book, regardless.

March, 1915:

Although he sparkled at bat (he hit nearly .400 at Hot Springs), Wagner endured a particularly embarassing moment on the basepaths. With his team behind, Wagner took a lead off first base in the ninth inning of an intrasquad game. A hard-throwing rookie pitcher fired to first five or six times to hold the veteran close. The hurled then snapped another throw to first, catching the old man flat-footed. Few could recall Wagner suffering such an indignity, much less at the hands of a mere rookie. The pitcher, as it turned out, was future Hall-of-Famer Dazzy Vance. (224)

Dazzy did that in an intrasquad game. Weeks later, the Pirates sold Vance to the Yankees. Not sure why, but I think there was something about ownership needing to make debt payments and a new GM unable or unwilling to shout down their orders.

Use it or lose it

Kovacevic reports that tonight could be Ollie's last start.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Kendall gone wild - again

Jason Kendall of the Oakland A's was suspended and fined for charging Los Angeles Angels pitcher John Lackey in a game on May 2. Kendall recieved a four-game suspension and afterwards he had a few hard words for the MLB. "Major League Baseball has turned into a badminton league. They told me I didn't have any shot of getting my suspension knocked out", he said. MLB's latest disciplinary action against Kendall comes after he received a four-game suspension in August 2004 while with still with the Bucs for a similar scuffle when he charged the mound in a game against Colorado after being hit by now-teammate Joe Kennedy. All I can say, is its probably good that this guy is gone. With a 2006 salary of $11.5 million and a temper to boot, he's just not Pirates material.

Game 35: D'backs at Pirates

Brandon Webb and Paul Maholm. I believe Maholm started and ended an inning with a lead three times this season. I think he's also blown some leads.

Here's to hoping Tracy stacks the top of the lineup with our best hitters. I want to see if Maholm can pitch well with a lead, even a small one. The Pirates have to score in the first if they want lots of useful data about Maholm's ability to pitch for a winning ballclub.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Snell protects lead

Big news: Ian Snell had a lead, and he kept it, for many innings.

The Bucs took a 1-0 lead in the first. Paulino made it 2-0 in the second. Snell pitched six innings - the second through the seventh - and he protected that lead.

The only other time Snell pitched with a lead was in his first win, on April 28. The Bucs gave him a one-run lead for the top of the seventh. And he blew it. Fortunately, they scored two in the bottom of the inning while he was the pitcher of record. That's how he won that game.

I consider this lead-protection a small but real step toward Snell winning ten, fifteen, or even twenty games for us. You can't win games if you can't preserve a lead.

Hats off for Ian Snell!

I'm still waiting for Ollie to protect a lead this season. In all his starts this year, he has yet to pitch with a lead. Unfortunately, this is not so much a story about run support.

Game 34: D'Backs at Pirates

Ian Snell and Miguel "the Poet" Batista.

New lineup tonight: Bautista 3B, McLouth CF, Sanchez SS, Bay LF, Burnitz RF, Wilson 1B, Paulino C, Castillo 2B. Will be intersting to see if that trio can do anything with their at-bats in the first and third/fourth. Also I'm curious to see if Snell can go an inning or two without giving up a run.

It's become a season of three-inning games for me.

Brian O'Neill

The man's on fire. Maybe it's the fifth of rum. Or maybe not.

I don't fault the Bucs so much for signing old guys as I fault them for playing them when they don't perform. If you aren't prepared to bench an old guy because he's slow and ineffective, you should not have signed him in the first place.

Swiss Ben

For temporary distraction from the unbridled misery that is the Pirates, be sure to read up on Big Ben's trip to Switzerland. What is joy, if not Big Ben petting a two-day-old spotted calf? Is it just me, or did anyone else suspect these four pictures are presented out-of-order, i.e. that the heavy-jowled Ben in front of the clock in pic#2 has just devoured a two-day-old spotted calf, a bigass wheel of cheese, and the scrawny arm of a tiny Swiss American Football player? Anyway, all hail the Roethlisbergers!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Same old Pirates

Bob Smizik's assessment of the team's situation looks about right.

Whoa

Jack's comment in Kovacevic's notebook sounds like a good reason to disable him. He's signed for so many more years, and hamstring injuries can become chronic. How about Bautista 3B, Freddy SS, Bay LF, Wilson 1B, Burnitz RF, Castillo 2B, Paulino C, Duffy CF for the next week?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Games 33: Pirates at Nats

If the Pirates are true to recent form, they will make recent A-ball pitcher Mike O'Connor look like Zach Duke. Come sleepy. Game at one.

I think I can find something better to do. Maybe I will put on my old football uniform and stand around the yard, posing for pictures.

Momentum

According to the Tribune-Review, the 9-23 Pirates have momentum.

Rob Rossi does not use the word, and I know most reporters do not write their own headlines, so I will cut him some slack for the somewhat premature declaration.

Bob Friend

Article by Bob Barrickman for Perrotto's paper.

We don't need Jeromy Burnitz

Tracy, as reported by DK:

Asked why he would not use Doumit in right field, a position he has played previously, and supplant Jeromy Burnitz, who was batting .198, Tracy replied: "We need Jeromy Burnitz. We need him to do offensive things, and the only way to get that is to keep sending him out there."

Not-uh. See Oliver Perez post, below.