Thursday, July 30, 2009

Keystone combo bid goodbye

A look back at yesterday's trades of Jack Wilson,Ian Snell and Freddy Sanchez show a mixed bag of returns and one of the last trading chips of real value for GM Neal Huntington and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

First,a word of thanks to Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez.
Jack Wilson played through more bad baseball than perhaps any man alive and always played hard.
Jack was one of the better fielders in the game and gave Pirate fans something to cheer about in a period that there really wasn't much to cheer about.
That said,this day had to come.
Wilson's last contract paid him far more than his value was worth and his inability to keep his mouth shut during what is clearly a rebuilding program likely is what ended his Pittsburgh tenure.
Freddy Sanchez was brought to Pittsburgh to be Joe Randa's backup and through performance (because Dave Littlefield was too stupid to see that he was the better player) and a little luck (Randa's injury) cemented himself into the lineup for good,at third base to start and then at second.
Freddy being a line drive machine that managed to give the Pirates a.300 hitter and his toughness made him a fan favorite as well.
I will miss both players,but this had to be done.
The Pirates had to avoid the 8 Million vesting option on Sanchez and they couldn't take the chance that Wilson would accept arbitration either.
So they had to go and we wish them well.

The crown jewel of yesterday's deals is righthander pitcher Tim Alderson.
Alderson is the type of prospect that I never believed the Pirates could bring in for either Sanchez or Wilson and yet the Giants made the deal and did so without the Pirates paying any cash towards Sanchez's salary as well.
Freddy Sanchez was needed by the Giants and he will do well there,but I am still stunned that the Giants gave up Alderson and how Neal Huntington snookered them into doing so.
For those of you out there that think PITTSBURGH was the screwed party in this,check the screaming about the deal from the San Francisco side at McCovey Chronicles....
The 6'6 Alderson won the High A California League ERA title last season and was 6-1 with a 3.47 ERA for the Giants AA Affiliate in Connecticut and was the Giants second rated pitching prospect.
Alderson has razor sharp control and the Giants rated his curve as the best in their system according to Baseball America.
Alderson was assigned to AA Altoona and could be in Pittsburgh as early as sometime next season.

From the Seattle Mariners,the haul is less impressive than Alderson,but considering that Jack Wilson is a rental player and Ian Snell had devalued himself with his petulance this season,one takes what they could get and Pittsburgh did just that.
Toss Ronny Cedeno aside,Cedeno is simply someone to field the 6 position for the painful remaining months of the season.
This is really about Jeff Clement and three arms to add to the minors.

Clement was once the third overall pick in the draft and looked to be Matt Wieters before Matt Wieters,but Clement was blocked the Mariners signing of Kenji Jojima and never received a long look behind the plate.
Clement's AAA numbers are solid enough,but rumors are that his knees are bad,will only be able to catch on occasion and will be given his opportunity at first base.
Attempting to project possible numbers for Clement show that he would be a well above average bat behind the plate,less glowing if at first base.
However,a lefty power bat will always be given a chance with a team playing half their games at PNC Park and one can argue he never truly had a chance in Seattle.
Clement was assigned to AAA Indianapolis to begin his transition to first base.

Of the three arms brought in from Seattle and going by this years numbers,Brett Lorin appears to be highest rated.
Lorin is 6'7 and 245 pounds,had an ERA of 2.45 for Low A Clinton and made the Midwest League All-Star team.
Lorin is reported to throw hard (tops at 94) and strikes out almost a batter an inning..

Aaron Pribanic was also a member of the Clinton rotation and had a solid ERA,but not as strong as Lorin's.
The grandson of former Yankee Jim "You endorsing iodine" Coates does not have the strikeout ratio of Lorin either,but the 2008 third rounder out of Nebraska showed an improvement in finding the strike zone this season and looks to be a bullpen arm at worst...

Look past the awful numbers of Nathan Adcock.
Stats should always be taken with a grain of salt from the California League,a league that is notoriously tough on pitchers,so shove that off to the side.
Adcock has average velocity,but Baseball America graded the Kentucky native as having the top breaking ball in the Mariners system before the swap.
A move to the more neutral environment of the Carolina League should help Adcock's numbers.

Lorin and Pribanic were assigned to Low A West Virginia and should be here in town for the Power's four game visit against the Hagerstown Suns.
Adcock is headed to High A Lynchburg to join the Hillcats.

Looking at the deals
I would give the Sanchez deal an A as getting a prospect that could be in your big league rotation as soon as next year and not paying money towards Sanchez's salary deserves a top grade.
The Wilson/Snell deal gets a B.
One didn't expect a top line prospect,although a year ago Jeff Clement was one.
This deal depends on getting one or two of the low minors arms through the system and if Clement can show some power at the big league level.

Photo Credits
Alderson:Chris Talley

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pirates waste strong pitching,lose 1-0

Zach Duke walked a tightrope and did so effectively for seven shutout innings,but the ineffective Pittsburgh offense was unable to punch a single run home against the Giants Matt Cain and the Buccos were swept from the Bay Area with a 1-0 loss in ten innings.
Matt Capps allowed the game winning hit to Randy Winn and dropped to 2-6 with the loss.
The Pirates take today off before a "battle of the sad sacks" with the visiting Washington Nationals...

Pirate Hooks

1) I will be posting later today on my thoughts on the Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez trades.
I didn't forget about the biggest news of the day....

2) Was today's infield that the Pirates started the worst ever from both the bat and glove?
Andy LaRoche,Ramon Vasquez,Delwyn Young and Steve Pearce.

3) Considering that after today's deals that Young,a noted butcher at second, will likely get most of the time at second and notably mediocre Ronny Cedeno should be at short for the rest of year,it could be worse.....

4) As good as Zach Duke was today,Matt Cain was better.Cain pitched nine shutout innings and allowed three hits in dropping his ERA to 2.12.
Hard to imagine facing the Giants in 2010 and facing Cain,Tim Lincecum and AA Phenom Madison Bumgartner in a given series...

5) PNC Park is the best park in baseball,but AT&T Park would get the place spot,what a great place to watch a game...

Bonus Round

With the product that the Pirates will be putting on the field for the remainder of the season,the Pirates may very well be the worst team in baseball.
Yes,worse than the Nationals,although the Pirates gave up a huge amount of ground to Washington in the Bryce Harper derby,I would bet that Washington has a better record for the rest of the season than the Bucs....

Bullpen Notes

Time for a few referrals to our friends...

Over at Bag of Health and Politics,they are extensively covering the battle for health care reform from the point of view of the American consumer.
Always an interesting read whether you totally agree or not....

Brandon Siefken continues to scout the Japanese baseball world on Baseball 81 for those of you interested in Far Eastern baseball.

And even though Battlin' Bob doesn't update as often as he used to,Grumblings and Rumblings are always good for a laugh!

Back later with my thoughts on the Pirate trade and the Indians shipping away Cliff Lee as well.

Photo Credit
Mob;Eric Risberg-AP Photo

One more Pirate loss,Austin Idol for mayor?

The Pittsburgh Pirates scored a run with their first batters off Barry Zito and things looked up for the Bucs for a change.
However,they would plate just one more runner over the remainder of the contest in a 3-2 loss to San Francisco.
Charlie Morton lasted six innings,allowing two runs and dropping to 2-3 on the season.
The series concludes tomorrow afternoon at 4 with Zach Duke facing off against the Giants Matt Cain.....

Pirate Hooks

1) The big rumor flying around is Freddy Sanchez to these very same Giants.
If the Giants want to send some pitching talent Pittsburgh's way similar to Scott Barnes going to Cleveland,I am fine with that.
Despite Sanchez's vesting option for next season,considering his resume' and season thus far at a position that offensive players are hard to find,one would think the worth of Sanchez should at least the same as the Giants last acquisition in Ryan Garko....

2) When you know that you are going to face Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in two of three games,you better take advantage of the middle game and the Buccos looked like they weren't going to do just that when Andrew McCutchen doubled off Barry Zito and then scored on Delwyn Young's right field single.
But when Young was gunned down trying to stretch a single into a double,the momentum all went away.
Not sure if that decision was Young's or Perry Hill's ,but it was a dumb mistake that early in the game with no outs.

3) Charlie Morton pitched well,but couldn't seem to retire Eugenio Velez.
Velez homered and doubled off Morton to knock in both runs Morton allowed.
Morton seems to pitch from behind in the count often and that certainly doesn't help matters much either.
Still,I like Morton's arm a lot and even though he has maturing to do,the Pirates might have a keeper in the righthander.

4) More Pirate rumors involve Jack Wilson,John Grabow,Matt Capps and Ian Snell.
I would think that Capps would take a huge offer as the Pirates have no one in sight to close the few games they do lead in....

5) The Yankees are the team that likes Snell,anyone else getting tired trades with New York and Boston???

Bullpen Notes

Just after we wrote about the Browns unsigned draft picks being at two,the total was divided as Georgia wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi signed a four year contract.
Massaquoi is expected to battle the remaining unsigned rookie Brian Robiskie for the starting spot opposite Braylon Edwards.

Speaking of Edwards,the Braylon flunked his physical with a bad ankle,reported late to camp and was fined being a day late.
Nice to see Edwards is prepping for a big season in his walk year....

Look for an upcoming post on two of boxing's losses recently in former champions Arturo Gatti and Vernon Forrest.
Both passed away under tragic circumstances,although the death of Gatti is reported to have some questions beginning to surface....

And finally,one of my favorite wrestlers has begun to return to public life as the "Universal Hearthrob" Austin Idol is talking about running for mayor of Tampa.
Idol has been out of the public eye for years,but appears to be back with a vengeance with the mayoral run,a sizzling new website and (Finally) a long awaited shoot interview coming in the next few months.

For more Austin Idol,check out Scott Bowden's two post Idol series over at Kentucky Fried Wrasslin.
Bowden does an excellent job looking back at the old Memphis territory that ranged from Evansville Indiana,Kentucky,Western Tennessee and some towns in Arkansas and Mississippi.

Back later with the final game of Pirates-Giants and maybe another fun post similar to the one from Monday night.

Photo Credit
Morton:Ben Margot-AP Photo

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lincecum fans 15 in Giant win

Tim Lincecum fanned 15 Pirates in a 4-2 Giant win as the Pirates continue to fall into a spiral that has some similarities to the spiral circle inside the hat in the Krofft Brothers classic (?) Lidsville.
But,hey they did score two runs which is more than the final two games in Arizona provided!
The Pirates have two more games in San Francisco before finally returning home on Friday against the Nationals....

Pirate Hooks

1) If you are a pitching fan like I am and enjoy the mound aspect of the game,the San Francisco Giants are an easy team to root for.
Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are dominant starters,Jonathan Sanchez shows the ability to join them,despite being WAY overpaid, Barry Zito still is a crafty lefthander on his good days and that doesn't count the injured Randy Johnson.....

2) I tried to find somewhat of a good hook for the Pirates since Friday night,but struggling to come up with much.
Garrett Jones is still swinging the hot bat and knocked in one of the two runs against Lincecum.
Not much else.

3) Slow on the Pirate front,but things will pick up with the trading deadline on Friday and the draft deadline for signing coming up soon,we will have plenty of things to write about.

4) Looking forward to seeing Quinton Miller in the series against Hagerstown,not sure when his rotation spot is,but with luck we will see him.

5) Look for another roundtable with Wilbur Miller soon.
I ran into Wilbur in Frederick and he has agreed to return for some more thoughts on the Pirates.

6) I know most Pirate observer have their hopes on Zachary Von Rosenberg,but if I have to sign just one-I'll take Colton Cain....

Words from the wigwam

The Cleveland Indians have been adding arms to their lagging system over the last few days.
Jess Todd completes the Mark DeRosa trade with the Cardinals,Connor Graham was brought in from Colorado for Rafael Betancourt and the most intriguing arm comes from the Giants as
Scott Barnes was obtained for Ryan Garko yesterday.
Barnes is a southpaw with 12 wins and an ERA under three at High A San Jose and looks to be a underrated prospect that just got lost in the Madison Bumgartner and Tim Alderson glow.
Barnes was assigned to High A Kinston.
Graham was doing well at High A Modesto,but was promoted upon arrival with the Indians to AA Akron.
Graham has been starting,but some think he profiles best as a reliever.
Graham was very impressive in a start in Hagerstown last season as a member of the Asheville Tourists.
Todd has been a strong bullpen option since his drafting in 2007 from Arkansas and saved 24 games this season at AAA Memphis.
Todd was assigned to AAA Columbus and could see Cleveland as early as the next few weeks.

Bullpen Notes

The Browns signed top pick Alex Mack,second round selection David Veikune and 4th rounder Kaluka Maiava over the weekend to leave only the pair of second round receivers (Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi) unsigned before camp opens on Saturday.
Mack will be the starter at center,Veikune has a chance to start and Maiava should be a special teams standout at worst.
Both the Browns and the pass catchers need to get this finished before Saturday.
Why the importance?
Well,most rookie wideouts struggle and they need as much camp time as possible to speed their development along.

The more that I think about it the more that I like the drafting of Alex Mack.
Although I would have loved to have had former Buckeye James Laurinatis in Orange and Brown,Mack is the type of physical earthmover that the Browns have lacked for years.
But at the same time,I don't like what I am hearing from the coaching staff about not liking Eric Steinbach at guard.
Steinback is a hair undersized,but his production has been excellent in his Cleveland tenure.
If Mack is as good as advertised,the Mack/Steinbach/Joe Thomas side of the line ranks in the top handful in the league and when was the last time that you could say that about a Browns line???

Back later with more Pirates-Giants and maybe some more fun stuff that isn't totally sports related..

Photo Credits
Lincecum:Ben Margot-AP Photo
Mack:AP Photo

Monday, July 27, 2009

Looking back at things that make me laugh

Today we will change things up a bit with a few things that have been memorable to me from childhood and after and brings a smile and laugh from anyone if they remember....
Check out the picture of two of my pride and joys-my beautiful Rachel and Big Ed!

The campy 1960's Batman show is always a hit with young kids and never fails to draw that audience.
I have always wondered why that show is not always on some cable network for just that reason.
In any case,a favorite of mine was the Chad and Jeremy episode where the Catwoman steals their voices for ransom.
But that is not the part that lives on here.
Check the witty repartee' between Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon at 6:20 of the YouTube below.
I was especially impressed by Bruce Wayne's inspirational words on Generational Music,Art and "Manner of speech".
Plus,you get the cult favorite "Teenage Failure" (which I still kinda feel like I am) sung by the British pop duo as an added bonus.

This next one comes with a small back story as the story takes place eleven years after the song below hit the charts.
In 1993,I was coaching my first year of baseball with the ever patient Battlin' Bob as my assistant.
After most games,we usually grabbed some food and broke the game down for hours at my place and after a close loss,we did the same.
However,VH1 (in the days where they played music) was playing this song,which features New Wave favorite The Waitresses from Ohio with their most memorable song (along with the theme to Square Pegs).
But on this evening,we were treated to the Battler's take on the less than energetic lead singer.
You haven't lived until you have heard Battlin Bob' sing "I know what Boys like".
Special thumbs up to Bob's singing of "Sucker" at 2:40 and the "nyah nyah" stuff that finishes the song.....

One of my best childhood memories of visiting family in Ohio was hanging out with my favorite Aunt Becky.
She always stayed up all night watching videos with me in the era of MTV not being common place yet,so metal videos were always a big deal.
Becky was always fun to hang with and sure was the last thing from most of my other Aunts,some of which could be called borderline stuffy.
Of course most of those are long gone from my family by now!
This Ratt video (sorry no Round and Round on YouTube) features a young Tawny Kitaen before her better known video appearances with Whitesnake and well before she beat the hell out of her husband Indian pitcher Chuck Finley with not only her fists,but a stiletto high heel as well.
So,here is one to my favorite Aunt and the times on Rockin West Main...

This clip shows a childhood role model of mine (remember this) the Magnificent Muraco doing a mock impersonation of the "Rev" Ernest Angley.
Angley's routine was often mimicked in school because his "program" always preceded the 11 AM broadcast of All Star Wrestling on WDCA (UHF TV,People!),so just about any wrestling fan caught the end of the Ernest Angley Hour complete with "healing".
I bet any wrestling fan from the early 80's still can remember that schtick!
"Can you say Baby???"
Believe it or not Angley is still alive and on the air,but his program is not as widely seen as it once was.
On a trip a few years back,I saw Angley and for a guy 123 years old,he looks the same as he did almost 30 years ago.
Hair dye can do that sometimes!

Back later with Pirates stuff and maybe something else a little different as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Travis Zajac,Trent Stevenson and more

A few Random Ramblings as we clean things up a bit.

The Devils avoided arbitration with Travis Zajac as Zajac and the Devils agreed to a four year contract worth a total of 15.5 million over the course of the deal.
Zajac posted career highs in goals,assists and points last season and is coming into his own as the Devils top young center....

The Pirates announced the signing of righthander Trent Stevenson.
Stevenson,a seventh round pick from Phoenix, was one of the highly touted "tough signs" that the Pirates filled their draft plate with from round four on and is the first to be brought into the fold.
Stevenson is 6'6 and just 175 pounds,so the Pirates are projecting that he will fill out as he matures and gain a bit more on the velocity meter.
No word on terms or assignment,although Stevenson will be most likely shipped to Bradenton and limited innings for the GCL Pirates.
Stevenson had committed to the Arizona Wildcats and likely was paid well over slot money for his draft position.
Stevenson can be seen throwing in this video.

Editors Note:Stevenson's bonus is being reported as 350,000,which is over slot but less than it could have been to sign him....

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are a surprising 2-1 and travel to Montreal tonight for first place in the CFL Eastern Division.
The Cats upset the BC Lions in Vancouver and followed up with a home win on "CFL in the 60's" week over Winnipeg.
I missed all of those games and will miss tonight's as well.
The CFL can be found on some regional sports networks,but no Hamilton games have been carried yet.

The Boston Red Sox will be retiring Jim Rice's number 14 on next Tuesday.
Rice will enter the Hall of Fame on Sunday along with Rickey Henderson and will be the seventh Boston player to have his number retired.

Back tomorrow with Pirates-Diamondbacks

Photo Credits
Zajac:Al Bello-Getty Images
Stevenson:Elaine Shepard-ESPN Rise

Moss walkoff bomb gives Bucs two of three

The Milwaukee Brewers have dominated the Pirates over the last few years,but for one series things changed.
If the Pirates had just been able to get their bats on track on Tuesday in a 2-0 loss,a sweep could have been in the cards,but a 8-5 win on Monday and yesterday's 8-7 power based thriller gave the Pirates a series win that was filled with excitement on many levels.
The Pirates start a seven game road swing tonight in Arizona with four games against the snakes before a three game stint against the Giants by the Bay Bridge.
I will likely miss the first three games of the series due to work issues,but should see Sunday and possibly all three of the Giants series....
Charlie Morton vs (gulp) Dan Haren tonight at 9:35.

Pirate Hooks

1) Most baseball talk about violence is usually that,but the Brewers and Pirates really don't like each other.
Plunkings,brushbacks,challenges for pre- games fights and bench clearings all happened in this series.
Ryan Braun seems to have issues with the Pirates and considering his actions lately towards his own organization,Braun could be a star ready to implode.....

2) Although,the bench clearing was one of those baseball "much ado about nothing" events,Jason Kendall's post game comments towards Pirate pitching coach Joe Kerrigan were hilarious.
Kendall repeatedly called Kerrigan "Dave Kerwin" even after being corrected on Kerrigan's name.
One of those things where you comment on someone not being important enough to bother to learn their correct moniker....

3) The Pirates popped five homers on Adam LaRoche getaway day,the biggest being the Brandon Moss walkoff homer to win the game in the ninth.
Moss has had a total of five hits since July 3rd and four of them have left the park.

4) The Pirate bullpen is maligned here and there,but some credit should go to Evan Meek,who is quietly putting together a solid season.
Meek has given up just two runs since June 6th and posts an excellent ERA of 2.41.
Relievers tend to have erratic careers,but Meek shows the ability to be a future setup man at worst.

5) Despite winning two of three from Milwaukee,the best starting pitching performance of the series came from losing pitcher Virgil Vasquez.
Vasquez allowed two runs in six innings in the loss,but worked his way out of jams and showed a great deal of poise.
I still think that Vasquez is a middle reliever in the long term,but he is showing the type of guile that could be a 5th starter in the right situation...

6) Steve Pearce returns from Indianapolis and Neal Huntington claims that this will be Pearce's shot to become the regular first baseman.
Pearce has disappointed in his previous stints in Pittsburgh,but has never been given consistent at bats to prove himself.
If this opportunity is given,Pearce has no further excuses....

7) This means outfield time for the Yinzers current darling Garrett Jones.
Jones was thought to have been the LaRoche replacement,but Pearce received the nod.
Jones should see time in both left and right fields along with Brandon Moss before the inevitable callup of Lastings Milledge shuffles things yet again.

8) Argenis Diaz will be added to the 40 man roster,which was full on the last day I checked.
That means someone will be removed from the slate to make space.

9) My guess is that Brian Bixler will be the player dropped.
Bixler is a super nice guy,but he hasn't hit in any of the Pirate opportunities that he has had and Diaz is being handed his starting spot at Indianapolis.
Just makes sense to me.

10) No more Freddy Sanchez trade rumors,but the Giants keep coming up as a good fit to me.
I have seen more Giants games over the last week than I have in a while between their Pittsburgh stop and a set in Atlanta,but I kinda like Kevin Frandsen.
Frandsen,who as I searched for a link for his numbers, was sent back to AAA Fresno,hasn't hit much in limited chances by the Bay,but has hit well in the minors and can play short or second.
Just a player that impressed me for some reason....

Could be back later with some Random Ramblings..

Photo Credits
Moss;GenePuskar-AP Photo

LaRoche LeGone

A few quick words on the trading of Adam LaRoche to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for two prospects,one of which was just here in Hagerstown last week and will be thrilled I'm sure to find out that he returns next week with the West Virginia Power.

Adam LaRoche was quite a disappointment to me,when you consider that he was coming off his best season in the bigs when the Pirates obtained him but despite his production not returning to that level,LaRoche was still a bargain when you consider the cost that brought him to Pittsburgh-an injury plagued Mike Gonzalez and minor leaguer Brent Lillibridge,who was shipped to the White Sox.
LaRoche never seemed to hit his stride and often seemed more interested in his hunting and the business of selling hunting shows than baseball.
Frankly,the whole hunting/Buck Commander business with LaRoche seemed quirky at best and insane at worst and always left questions unanswered such as this-considering LaRoche's awful first halves and terrific seconds,was this due to a lack of preparation due to his hunting obsession?
We will never know,but one guesses that LaRoche could have been a much better player and made a lot more money if he never picked up a gun until his career was over.
I cannot say Adam LaRoche will be missed,but the Bucs have had far worse players and many more wastes of finances than the lefty first baseman....

There has been some controversy on the deal from Peter Gammons column on ESPN.
Gammons is reporting that the Giants offered a better package of prospects than the Red Sox in the deal,but that the Giants offer was contingent on the Bucs picking up some of the contract remainder,while the Boston offer included the Sox paying the rest of the contract in full.
If this is the case then I have begun to question the commitment to winning by the Neal Huntington management and that would be the first time since his hiring that I have thought that.
I will wait for more information to come out before jumping to conclusions.

The newest Buccos are shortstop Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland.
Diaz played here in Hagerstown in 2007 and my notes show a slick glove with tons of range.
That seems like the average scouting report and looks accurate enough.
Diaz has an average bat at best and lacks power,but immediately steps into the top shortstop prospect in the system slot.
The Pirates appear to be ready to give Diaz a shot at the big league position in 2010,if Jack Wilson plays elsewhere as he will start at AAA Indianapolis after playing at AA Portland with the Red Sox.
If Diaz can at least hold his own with the stick at Indy over the next month,look for him to be given a solid chance in Bradenton,if the right situation arises....

Hunter Strickland is a tall,rangy righthander that had both started and relieved for Low A Greenville this season and was assigned to the Pirates Low A affiliate in West Virginia.
Strickland is not reported to be an overly hard thrower,but has little problems finding the plate as he walked just 11 batters in 83 innings thus far.
Strickland fits the Huntington mold of the large framed pitcher,but does not possess the power arm that the Pirates seem to like so much.
Strickland does continue one trend,the Pirates attempt to get at least one arm in trades that they have made...

I am not down on this deal very much as LaRoche could leave at season's end for nothing and the Pirates could not risk offering him arbitration considering that Andy LaRoche is on the team and Adam could accept an offer that would then stick the Pirates with him.
Picking up draft picks in compensation sounds nice,but all things considered was never a feasible option.
Diaz looks to at least be a solid glove man that should replace Jack Wilson at short,while Strickland is the type of projectable arm that is worth tossing into any deal.
I do,however,hedge any final decision on hearing the rumored Giants offer....

Photo Credit

Monday, July 20, 2009

On the signing front!

Time for a On the signing front segment that will catch us up with the last few teams that we have seen.

The first team since our last update was the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in Frederick against the Keys.
The Pelicans were missing their two most heralded prospects as Jason Heyward and Freddy Freeman had recently been promoted to AA Mississippi,but powerhitting Cody Johnson was still there and signed his Pelican card.
Pitching prospect Cole Rohrbough signed a few cards for us (via Battlin' Bob) and Luis Sumoza,a outfield prospect obtained in the off season from Boston signed his 09 Bowman as well.
Sumoza was returned to Rome after this series,so assuming he stays there,he will be in Hagerstown in August when the Braves visit.
The Battler reports that Rohrbough was kind enough to swap small talk for a bit and thinks highly of the lefthander.
Special kudos go to Pelican bullpenner Mikey Mehlich,who saw that I had cards for him as he carried a plate of food for the pen.
Mehlich stopped and even though I told him I would get him later since he was busy,put his stuff down and signed anyway.

Next into the Muni was the Greenville Drive,who's visit in 2007 still ranks as the worst team in my experience to come through Hagerstown.
I never really expect much other than hassle from Red Sox teams and Salem didn't do very much to improve my opinion of Boston teams in their visit last season.
Greenville was better than expected though and a few players were really nice.
Will Middlebrooks was hard to stop in the field,but was very nice after the game.
Outfielder Pete Hissey might have been the nicest of the Drive and pitcher Brock Huntzinger made a fan of his from me after this exchange as he signed....

Me:"Thanks for signing,Brock".
Brock:"No Problem"

Brock:"Great,another night with this guy,he sucks"
Me: Sarcastically: "But he's an intern".
Brock:"He still is Bleeping Horseshit"

Other notables were Stolmy Pimentel,Nick Hagadone and Ryan Dent,all of which signed everything that I had and a tip of the cap to the Greenville coaching staff as well.
Manager Kevin Boles and his coaches Bob Kipper and Billy McMillon were all class acts and signed for everyone.
McMillon was a riot in particular when I had him sign his MLB showdown game for Ryan.
Ryan is still attempting to make a set of those and has any player in that set sign their card.
When I told McMillon that his card was the most important to Ryan of all the Drive,he responded with this-"He needs to raise his goals in life" with a laugh.....

Last Thursday brought the Kinston Indians to Frederick and this is always a visit that I look forward to.
However,I had been warned about the K-Tribe's top two prospects that they didn't exactly enjoy signing.
That proved to be the case as Lonnie Chisenhall signed one card for two people and then left.
That didn't work out well for me as I had eight cards (seven different) for the Kinston third sacker.
Chisenhall has a mixed signing reputation though,so hopefully things will be better on Kinston's final visit in early September.
Wish that I could say the same for the NC Wahoo second baseman Cord Phelps,who seems determined to play the heel in his visits.
Phelps signed for no one and in what may have been great for a future in pro wrestling move,stuck up his nose,sniffed and shook his head no when a collector (not me) asked him to sign one card!
Kinston was good otherwise as pitching coach and former White Sox pitcher Greg Hibbard signed after numerous misses over the last few years and a few prospects from the 08 draft were added in pitchers Eric Berger,Bryce Stowell and outfielder Tim Fedroff.
All three were class acts especially Fedroff.

The signing front ended with the Asheville Tourists hitting Hagerstown.
The Tourists visit usually brings out of town collectors as Asheville is the only Rockies affiliate in the Eastern US,so it is get em now or dont get them situation.
However this Rockies club only has three members of the organizations top thirty prospects and all were nice enough to sign in pitcher Parker Frazier along with flychasers Delta Cleary and Tyler Massey.
Frazier was quite witty and is the son of former Indian pitcher and current Rockie TV announcer George Frazier.

A few thanks to my trading partners out there.
Jason Christensen sent me a Binghamton Mets set along with a few extra goodies that included former Yankee setup man Ramiro Mendoza,Tiger prospect Jon Kiebler and Red Sox power arm Justin Masterson.
Tom O'brien was able to add a Bowie BaySox set with some other nice cards for me as well in Jake Arrieta (Just before a AAA promotion) and Beau Mills.
Tom also was able to have Yunel Escobar sign a Gold card (48 of 50) that I pulled out of a pack when the Braves visited Washington.

Battlin Bob and Ryan usually are key to not only driving me to Frederick,but helping me when I get there-thanks to both of my buddies.

A final word of thanks to the local friends that help me all the time in both Hagerstown and Frederick.
Some of you don't always want your name mentioned here,but I did want to acknowledge your help and offer some thanks.

Looks like some downtime as only a game in Frederick against Lynchburg is likely for me to attend until West Virginia hits town here in ten days!!
C'mon Power-Get that team set out!!

Pirates just miss Giant sweep

The Pittsburgh Pirates missed a three game sweep of the San Francisco Giants by one run and one inning as the Giants scored all four runs in the sixth inning and held onto a 4-3 win.
The Pirates had won the first two games in the series by one run and two runs and now host the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park starting tonight.
Ross Ohlendorf for the Bucs and Mike Burns for Milwaukee.

Pirate Hooks-Long version

1) Plenty of Hooks since we are covering the entire series in one post.
Watching the Giants struggle to hit the Pirate pitching and looking at both their record and pitching,one would think the Giants would explore dealing a young pitcher for a young everyday bat to give them a chance at the wild card.

2) Tim Lincecum is untouchable and Matt Cain might be too,but with Jonathan Sanchez of recent no-hit fame on staff and two of the best arms in the minors (Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson) close to being ready,the time to make a deal from strength could be now.

3) Right after we questioned Garrett Jones,he drilled two solo homers for the only Pittsburgh runs of the game in the 14 inning,2-1 win in the opener.
If that is all it takes,I can be more critical!!!

4) Except for Zach Duke's sixth inning yesterday,the Pirate starters controlled Giant bats in the series.
Paul Maholm battled Tim Lincecum to a standstill and Charlie Morton continued his one good start,one bad start routine with a 2-0 win.

5) I really like Morton's arm and you can see that he has the stuff to be successful,but when he is bad he seems have an issue similar to Ian Snell-emotional control.

6) Speaking of Snell,he continues to be dominant at Indianapolis,but a war of words with Neal Huntington continues.
This helps neither Snell (he continues to have other teams wonder about his maturity) nor the Pirates as arguing in the media is never an avenue that impresses anyone....

7) The extension offers to Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson were rejected by the players and then pulled from the table.
Looks like a PR move so that the Pirates can say to the fans before trading them -"see,we tried"!

8) Neal Huntington was telling the truth about Jack Wilson with this statement "In Jack's case, he has played terrific defense for us, maybe the best of his career. But this is the fourth of five years that he's been a below-average league bat for his position. So, we've got to be realistic in our evaluations."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Guess I'm just boring

Stay tuned for the on the signing front tomorrow as originally scheduled,but first a few thoughts on a conversation today with Hagerstown Suns Director of Promotions and Special Events Reed Hunley.
Most of you out there that attend Suns games know Hunley as the guy with the microphone doing most of the things that we either ignore or drive us crazy,but I digress.
Today as I was conversing with a few friends about the team,Hunley interjected with a question.
Please remember that I am paraphrasing as I cannot recall the exact quotes from Hunley.
"So,you don't like the PA announcer"?
Anyone that reads this will know me well enough to know that is a pitch flatter than a non knuckling Tim Wakefield knuckleball and as any good hitter would do in that situation-I swung for the fences.
"No,he sucks"-Not the most eloquent of rebuttals,but one straight from the heart.
Hunley and I tossed comments back and forth (without malice,where is Battlin' Bob when I need him?) about the loudness and over the top efforts of this gentleman when eventually the conversation turned to an example of how I would do things if I was behind the mic.
It isn't brain surgery-now batting,position, name and a strong,clear voice without the histrionics of the current employee.
Hunley then said "ah,you want it boring,like one of the boring guys".
Reed,I suppose so.
If you think classic announcing is boring then I suppose I want it boring.
One does not attend a baseball game to hear the PA announcer,to see the umpires or the between innings entertainment.
Those are things that can either enhance your product or weaken it,but very few come to listen to a fellow scream "Steve Lombardozzi" four to five times an evening.
Actually,no one does unless they are a close relative,that is no different than my family coming to hear me announce the game-I would add about one to three sales for the evening.
If you consider the classic style boring,then I question whether you are there for what is on the marquee'-Hagerstown Suns Baseball.
If tomorrow,it read Hagerstown Suns announcing or Hagerstown Suns entertainment,watch how few people show up.
Never forget it is about the game,everything else is like an ice cream sundae without ice cream.

I don't want anyone to get the idea that this was an acrimonious conversation,it was not at all.
However,I did want to use it to get some thoughts going.
I realize some would find a normal style subdued,but I also think more think the current "Wolfman Jack" is beyond entertaining and takes away enjoyment of the game.
Baseball is the game of conversation and when someone is so loud that you cannot hold one with the person next to you,they are too loud.

Reed Hunley can be reached by following the Suns webpage from this link.
Tell him what you think and tell him Thoughtsof RS sent you.

Back tomorrow with the Pirates-Giants series and On the signing front!

Friday, July 17, 2009


The Pirates return to action tonight against the Giants for a three game series in Pittsburgh.
7:05 start for Paul Maholm against perhaps the most exciting pitcher in the game in Tim Lincecum.

The Post-Gazette is reporting that the Pirates have offered extensions to Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson.
No word on finances or length,but unless they are going to take a huge discount-I wouldn't do this.
Sanchez has rebounded with the bat this season to past form,but turns 32 after the seasons end and with his well known issues with his clubfoot could age faster than the average middle infielder.
Wilson is a fan favorite,also turns 32 before next season and honestly isn't a whole lot more than an league average shortstop that has been overpaid in the last contract he signed.

Sanchez is at his highest trade value right now,with a year to go on his deal and playing very well,this is the right time to move him,while Wilson could be valuable to a contender that needs a steady player,not a difference maker.
I am open to this until I would see the terms,but on surface-I cannot say I fully back this idea...

Tyler Yates will miss the rest of the season and some of the next with Tommy John surgery.
Yates was ineffective this year and has always battled control issues.

Sorry,count me as a non-believer in Garrett Jones.
This appears to to me to be a first time around the league issue and Jones will not be a long term fix.

Bullpen Note

The Devils added a depth defenseman for the parent club that could also be a solid veteran presence for the Lowell Devils with the signing of Cory Murphy.
Murphy spent time with both Tampa and Florida last season and wont be a difference maker for the Devs,but will be more like a Jay Leach type for the team.

Back tomorrow with the expected Lincecum whipping and On the signing front with some catching up from visits to Hagerstown and Frederick....

Photo Credit

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One night at the Muni

Tonight was a long yet fun night at the Muni that was well worth the time spent.

The Hagerstown Suns postponed a previously planned team autograph day until Tuesday in order to have the Suns team set out and ready.
The team opened the gates an hour early for the signing and it could not have been better with one small exception.
This was smart by the club as last year,it was done before the team sets release and that took away much of the luster of the event.
The players had things available to sign and the Suns were able to move merchandise.
That worked well for everyone.

Give GM Bob Flannery and the guys credit for planning the event well,the players had room to sign,yet by having four different areas of players at various spots,the area didn't get congested.
That meant fans were able to get everything that they needed quickly and efficiently and the players weren't overrun all at once.
A tremendous and well thought out event and thanks to the Suns management for doing this and for doing it so well..

Only one thing negative could be said.
I heard from various collectors that one player was refusing to sign more than three cards.
This was not in order with the event,which stated
"The event is free of charge to all fans holding a ticket to Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game, and fans can get as many autographs as they want without having to pay a penny.."
I only had three cards for the player that I don't want to name but can be seen below,so it wasn't an issue for me personally.
However,this was not exactly in the spirit of the event and didn't help the player in the eyes of some fans.

The game was great too with the Suns rallying for two eighth inning runs for a 5-4 win.
Was also able to spend the night talking to a new friend from Pittsburgh,Big Don and our friend over at Bag of Health and Politics and despite the homer behavior of BHP,it was a terrific evening.

Bullpen Notes

Thanks to the lovely Cherie for helping me tonight with the Suns and speeding things along.
The process would have taken far longer without her help.

More on the crappy PA fellow.
More annoying than ever tonight and one of the few lowlights on the evening was the headaches he provided from the screaming into the mike.
The guy sounds like old Vince McMahon play by play from the 80's.

One thing that the Suns should look into discontinuing is the Sunsations jumping around with rainbow colored headdresses and making a tomahawk motion during one of their "skits".
I am far from always politically correct,I am after all friends with Battlin' Bob!
But this one is not intentionally nasty,but could be considered offensive to some.
Just a thought.

During some of the comments on the Suns post of a while back,one of the Sunsations asked the identity of the Sunsation that I wrote looked like she was actually trying to have fun.
I don't know names,but for those of you interested,she was part of last nights group.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back to the future-Jacques Lemaire returns to New Jersey

Being a member of the New Jersey Devils organization is similar to the Hotel California.
One checks out,but never truly leaves.
Players leave and return to New Jersey at a higher rate than most teams and coaches are not immune to that either.

The trend continued with the return of Jacques Lemaire as the Devils bench boss.
Lemaire is bringing Mario Tremblay along with him as his top assistant and kept Tommy Albein and Jacques Caron on staff from the current slate of coaches.
Tremblay replaces John MacLean on staff as MacLean will be the head coach of AHL Lowell in order to gain leadership experience that could eventually tab him as the replacement for Lemaire.
The hiring was not overwhelmingly popular,but not universally panned either.
Most of the negative opinions were from people that figured that Jacques Lemaire meant the return of the trap or as Ryan put it-"back to Devils are boring jokes".
Maybe that could be the case,but I would not guarantee that.
At least I am trying to think positively anyway!
The game has changed since the last tour of duty for Lemaire and the overly defensive style seems to be a bad fit with the makeup of the current roster.
Marian Gaborik didn't seem to be hindered by Lemaire and I would bet that Zach Parise would not be either.
The defensive corps does not have Stevens,Niedermayer or Daneyko either so Lemaire's suffocating defensive style would not be nearly as effective as in the old days and I cannot imagine that he would try.

One positive thing is this-Brian Rolston was never as effective in his career than he was under Lemaire in Minnesota and after a year of Rolston struggling with Brent Sutter,perhaps Lemaire can reignite Rolston to the goal scorer that he was with the Wild.

One more comment for those that believe that the trap is returning to New Jersey.
Consider that Lou Lamoriello has been slowly changing the type of player to fit the new brand of play and if Lemaire has an insistence of the old style,then this will be a short marriage indeed.
Lou knows that the Devils have major contracts coming up in the next few years with Parise,Zajac (a longer term deal) etc and the drafting of players that will arrive in the next few seasons that have strengths that will not be as effective in a defensive minded system.
If Parise feels stifled under a bend and don't break system,the chances of keeping the first offensive star that the Devils have developed in years will certainly decrease and I don't think that Lou will allow that to happen.

I cannot say I am jumping for joy as I would have preferred Ted Nolan,but there were certainly worse options than Jacques Lemaire.
Lemaire knows the game,has had success in every stop and maybe a smidgen of defense could put the Devils over the top.
At least I can hope anyway....

The Devils signed Yann Danis from the Islanders to serve as Marty Brodeur's caddy for next season.
Danis shared time with Joey McDonald filling in for the injured Rick DiPietro last season winning 10 of 31 appearances.
The high point of Danis year was a 40 save shutout of the Devils in February that surely boosted his status in the eyes of the Devils.

More later with some goodbyes,some talk for the seamheads and some words on tonight's Hagerstown Suns autograph night...

Photo Credits
Devils:Chris Creamer's sports logos

Knives and Daggers

During a recent visit to Frederick for the Keys games against Myrtle Beach (to be talked about more in an upcoming On the Signing Front),a reader talked to us about the blog and how much he enjoyed the recent post on the Hagerstown Suns because it was the fiery type of post that had been missing lately.
His comments gave me the idea for the recurring feature-Knives and Daggers.
KaD will feature only negative thoughts (Ha Ha) and should be more appealing to those of you that read for the dark side of blogging.

So lets get started with the Hagerstown Suns,who will get loads of credit tomorrow for their upcoming autograph session,but their concessions sure have a dagger coming their way for FYF Monday.
Bad food,long lines and not enough of the few items that are tasty (Grilled Chicken Sandwich) made this FYF Monday a rough one.
The popcorn chicken that was so good last time tasted like a charcoal briquet and looked like something that Big Ed puts out on a regular basis.
In addition,the ever present red stripe hot dogs were out and about with various degrees of warmth to top the evening off right.
I might have been wondering if I was too harsh but my friend insisted that this was the truth.
Everyone can have a bad night,but this one was beyond bad......

BTW-The PA guy for the Suns still ranks as the worst ever.
Bar none and to those of you out there that want to be an apologist for this guy-Yes,I could do a better job!
There is always the "if you could do a better job" crowd whenever criticism is made,so in this case-Yes,I could.
I think we should keep him in announcing though-imagine him screaming wakeup calls at the local state pen!
Now that is serving hard time!

A knife goes to one of my least favorite announcers in Screamin' Gus Johnson,who has added his over the top yells and general offering of wrong information to boxing along with his melodramatics for the NFL and college basketball (on CBS) for Showtime.
Not only did Johnson scream that every fighter was hurt and on the verge of being stopped constantly during the two fight Showtime card,but he showed an embarassing lack of knowledge of the product.
Johnson continuely called IBF Bantamweight champ Joseph Agbeko "Jose" throughout the bout.
Now I am just making a small stretch here,but I wouldnt bet that there are hell of a lot of "Jose's" in Accra Ghana where Agbeko is from.
Will someone please tell me what I did wrong to have to listen to Gus Johnson in three sports now?

A dagger to Fox Sports Pittsburgh for ending Savran on Sportsbeat after a long run.
Savran stays with the network,but the show was axed for financial reasons.
How damn expensive can it be for two cameras,one piece of talent and the guys in the studio>
Likely far less than the ridiculous showing of the Pittsburgh Passion games from the womens football league and that has to be true.
Stan Savran has been the person that Pittsburgh fans of all teams go to hear opinion on the latest news for their team and FSN Pittsburgh just threw that away...

Our final knife goes to the fans of the Boston Red Sox.
As someone that often pulled for the BoSox when my teams were out of contention,it pains me to say just how much they have dropped on my list.
It is mainly due to their under 30 fans,who may be the most obnoxious known to man.
Usually an unfunny,heckling asshole complete with beer in one hand and committed to have everyone around him listen to his appalling lack of wit and (even lesser) wisdom has left me with an ever worsening opinion of Boston fans.
In the past,I found the Red Sox fans charming for the most part,now they smack of stale beer,faded baseball caps and general smarminess to the point of cringe inducing.
Too bad.

Back later with a look at the new old coach of the New Jersey Devils-Jacques Lemaire...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Forgotten Superstars-Alexis Arguello

The recent death of three-division champion Alexis Arguello got me to thinking about the Nicaraguan native and bring back after an absence perhaps our most popular series-Forgotten Superstars.
Arguello held the WBA Featherweight belt, WBC Jr. Lightweight title and the WBC Lightweight strap and was never defeated for any of those belts, giving each up voluntarily and unlike so many champions today, it was to battle new contenders at higher weights, not to avoid challenges.

Arguello was a staple of American weekend boxing broadcasts for years and gained the most notice for his defenses of the 135-pound belt.
Televised knockout wins over young contenders Ray Mancini, Roberto Elizondo, Bubba Busceme and an exciting knockout over hard-punching Hawaiian Andy Ganigan cemented Arguello as an exciting puncher and made his fights must-sees for the boxing fan as well as the casual fan.

Arguello was the sixth boxer to win championships in three divisions, an achievement that has been watered down since the emergence of so many organizations and titles and attempted to be the first-ever to win four titles and could have won so easily had he challenged the journeyman WBC titlist Leroy Haley.
That was not Arguello's way as he had won the featherweight crown over the top champion in Ruben Olivares and the Jr. Lightweight crown over Alfredo Escalera, who was recognized as the top 130 pounder.
His 135 lb win over Jim Watt was not quite as sparkling, but the 135-pound division really had no standout at the time, so he didn't lose points there.
Arguello went after the divisions top gun in WBA champ Aaron Pryor in 1982 in a fight anticipated by fans worldwide and the combatants didn't let them down as Miami's Orange Bowl reeled and rocked with the changes in momentum.
In the end, it was Pryor retaining his gold with a brutal 14th round knockout that is replayed often with Pryor firing combination after combination on the helpless Arguello, who slowly sunk to the floor.
There was a rematch that had its moments too, but Arguello only lasted ten rounds this time and except for a one-punch KO of former champ Bill Costello, Arguello's spotlight days were finished.

For all the deserved attention that the Pryor fights receive, his battles against Escalera may have been even more violent and vicious.
Escalera had defended his title ten times before running into Arguello and both of those bouts left both men battered and pounded.
Arguello was at his peak at 130 defeating six future champions (stopping all six) and one fighter (Ruben Castillo) that came up short in several title chances.

Arguello seemed to have conflicts personally having been a poster child for the Sandinista government, then providing financial and physical support for the Contra rebels that attempted to overthrow the sitting government before eventually returning to the party.
As the Sandinista candidate for Vice Mayor of the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, he was elected in 2004 and then was elected mayor in November of last year.

The "Explosive Thin Man" was easily one of the top punchers in the history of the game and an all-time great.
His classic battles will never be forgotten and we salute Alexis Arguello as today's Forgotten Superstar.

Photo Credit
Ring Magazine

Pirates divide final pair in Houston,Souza dances!

The Pirates split the final duo of games in Houston against the Astros,winning Tuesday 6-3 before falling in a Wednesday afternoon tilt 5-0.
Jack Wilson homered (4) to pace a three RBI day for Paul Maholm (6-4) in the win with Matt Capps earning his 19th save of the season.
Not much to say about the loss as the Pirates only accomplished five hits,all singles.
Pittsburgh is off today before starting a three games series in Philadelphia against the hated Phillies.

Pirate Hooks

1) Perhaps the Astros should look into trading for Jack Wilson.
Wilson has 60 home runs in his career and 10 of them are at Minute Maid Park.
Not sure if it is Astro pitching or if Wilson just sees the ball better there...

2) Paul Maholm showed signs of bouncing back in picking up the win.
Maholm allowed two runs and six hits over six innings.
Maholm has been rumored to be nagged by injury issues that have contributed to a less than strong last month....

3) Charlie Morton,on the other hand, was not able to keep his hot hand going in lasting just four innings.
Morton allowed all five Houston runs and was smacked for ten hits in his short stint on the mound.
One of the knocks of Morton before the deal was his problems with mental toughness in tough outings,this might have been the Pirates first look at that problem.

4) Joel Hanrahan could be the winning pitcher today without being in uniform.
Hanrahan is the pitcher of record in a suspended game between Washington and Houston in the bottom of the 11th.
If the Nationals score a run in the 11th,Hanrahan is the winner...

5) The Pirates sent Steve Pearce and Steven Jackson to Indianapolis after the game.
Donald Veal had to be returned to the roster per the rules that apply to his Rule V status and injury rehab issue.
The Pirates will add another player before tomorrow's game in Philly.

Bonus Rounds

Pearce had struggled,but only 12 at bats?
To me,the only difference between Pearce and Garrett Jones is that John Russell likes Jones...

Jackson had pitched well,but was caught up in the numbers game that has to be played with Donald Veal.
Jackson will be back shortly.

Bullpen Notes

Anyone else notice that the Astros Kaz Matsui looks like the Vietnamese officer that wastes Rambo's girlfriend (and later gets eviscerated by a explosive arrow) in Rambo-First Blood II???

Want to know why the Browns have been so awful since their return to the league?
Read this from No Logo Needed for the Browns all bust team.
It can be nothing but bad news for so many high picks to play for the all bust team...

And finally,this was sent to me from the world's number one Steven Souza fan (that's the truth) over at Bag of Health and Politics.
Check the Suns third baseman hittin' the dance floor with some funky moves and six seconds of Action??

Photo Credits
Wilson;David Phillip-AP Photo
Matsui:Doug Benc-Getty Images

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mike Hampton AGAIN?

Mike Hampton is an aging former All-Star that has been more heralded for his injury problems and expensive contract over the last few years than anything that he has been able to do off the mound.
However,Hampton is beginning to revert to his past form,but only against the Pirates.
Hampton is 5-5 on the season with a 4.16 ERA and some pretty decent splits,but take into consideration his 4 starts against the Bucs that account for four of his five wins and a dazzling 1.00 ERA in those four starts before any proclamation about Hampton being back in classic form.
Hampton dropped the Pirates again last night in a 4-1 Houston win that was paced by Hampton's seven strong innings.
Only a seventh inning single off the bat of Robinzon Diaz that scored Garrett Jones dented either Hampton or the Astros on this evening.
The season continues tonight at 8 with the suddenly struggling Paul Maholm facing off against the Texans Brian Moehler...

Pirate Hooks

1) Hampton has defeated the Buccos in his last ten appearances.
I could see that earlier in his career when he was one of the best in the game,but now???
Hampton's splits look more like Warren Spahn against the Pirates...

2) Virgil Vasquez allowed two runs in the first that basically ended the game,but would allow only two more in the next five innings showing some tenacity and saving the Buc bullpen from what could have been a long evening.
Not a terrific evening,but the type of night that a bad team needs in order to keep a bad bullpen from overwork...

3) Nice inning of mop up work from Evan Meek,who blew the Astros away with three fans in the eighth.
Meek continues to progress from his struggles last season as a Rule V pick.

4) When you look at the improvements made by Meek,it makes it difficult for me to understand the reluctance by some to keep Donald Veal around for the last three months of the year.
I understand Veal has control issues and being the "lost cause" guy makes it tough to get Veal innings,but is Donald Veal being on the roster or not going to make the Pirates contenders?
Bad is bad,keep the guy around,allow him to get more time with Joe Kerrigan and get him to Indianapolis next season.

5) Rough night for Steve Pearce against Hampton,3 at bats and three walks to the dugout without contact.
Nights that like that will not give John Russell confidence with Pearce that he already seems to lack.

Bonus Round

I'll be watching Paul Maholm closely tonight.
Maholm has been ripped in three of his last four starts and the Post-Gazette reports rumors of possible knee and groin problems as a cause....

Bullpen Notes

Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh have debuted in Bradenton for the GCL Pirates and dominate the news from there,but the more interesting player to me is Wesley Freeman.
Freeman was a 16th rounder in 2008,but the Pirates paid above slot to bring him into the fold and the Florida native has leaped to a fast start in hitting two homers and a OPS of over 1,100 in the baby Bucs first eight games.

The Pirates also have second round pick Brooks Pounders on the squad along with rehabbing Lastings Milledge and Neil Walker....

Forgot to mention a Devils trade from a few days back as Ben Walter and a 2012 draft pick were obtained from the Islanders for the rights to center Tony Romano.
Walter played four games in Long Island last season,was a twenty goal scorer for the Islanders AHL affiliate in Bridgeport and is the son of one of my favorite players as a kid-Ryan Walter.
Look for Walter to be an top gun in an attempt to juice up the Lowell offense.

Photo Credits
Hampton:David Phillip-AP Photo
Freeman could see State College if the pace continues...