Friday, April 03, 2009

Batter up: Pittsburgh Pirates

It's almost baseball season, that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a team who you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things about each team, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Any wagering or fantasy baseball advice is for recreational use only.
  1. You know the scene in the second Naked Gun movie where Frank Drebin goes to a dive bar to drown his sorrows and there are pictures of the Hindenburg disaster and Michael Dukasis on the walls? That's pretty much how one imagines the Pirates clubhouse.

    They will have Eric Hinske and the thoroughly decent Adam LaRoche supplying their left-handed power, so, uh, yeah, that ought to help them avoid a record 17th losing season in a row.

  2.'s Pirates beat writer is Jenifer Langosh. She has one N and about 100 Ls to cover this season.

  3. Betting on baseball is only worthwhile if you can make the Obscure Bets window like picking Craig Monroe to be the Pirates' all-star representative. He hit 28 homers for the Detroit Tigers three years ago; he's a heartbeat away from getting hot for half a season before crashing down to earth.

  4. It's been Deadspinned, but yes, the Pirates lost to a junior college team on Thursday, 6-4 to the Manatee Community College Lancers. Manatee no-hit them over the final four innings, which just goes to show baseball is the greatest game of all.

  5. This comes during a spring when outfield prospect Jose Tabata's spouse charged with baby-napping. With the Pirates, it never rains, but it pours.

  6. Everyone's looking for the next Rays, and FanGraphs was somewhat complimentary to the Pirates owner Robert Nutting and GM Neal Huntington, who used to be in Cleveland, a successful mid-market team. They're the team. The players are just equipment. At the same time, there's a lot of reno work before the Pirates can contend in 2012 or '13.

    The Pirates' Double-A team will have about a third of its games broadcast on Pittsburgh radio. It's in line with selling hope.

  7. Their year-by-year win totals since 2005 have been 67, 67, 68 and 67. It's no surprise that the boys in Vegas have the over/under at 67½ . The Beep has them pegged for 64.

  8. What passes for the audacity of hope comes in the form of third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who has "scary" power according to Peter Gammons' many informed sources.

  9. Their last three managers also skipped the late and lamented Ottawa Lynx. Second-year man John Russell replaced Jim Tracy (2006-07), while Pete Mackanin managed the final 26 games of the 2005 season.

  10. Jason Jaramillo made the Pirates as a backup catcher. He had the best at-bat music of any the 2007 Ottawa Lynx, but it was easier to remember since he was actually there all season.

  11. A Google News search for "Pittsburgh Pirates" turns up a scathing review of Major League Baseball 2K9 video franchise. Get MLB 09: The Show instead, if you're into that sort of thing.

  12. Jose Tabata actually got the image of his idol, the sainted Roberto Clemente, tattooed on his chest before he was traded to the Pirates last season.

  13. No word of a lie: Pittsburgh TV station WTAE's website has links for news about NFL's Steelers and the NHL's Penguins, but none for the baseball team.

  14. There are actual things written about an actual baseball team: "Ross Ohlendorf won the No. 4 spot after a solid spring, though he has not yet had success at the big league level." In other words, he is perfectly qualified.

  15. Ohlendorf and No. 5 starter Jeff Karstens used to play in Scranton, which is good jumping-off point for noting that The Office really went downhill this season.

  16. Nate McLouth, rest assured, will probably be the centrefielder on the all-time Random Gold Glovers team. He's not long for the position, since the Pirates' closest to major-league prospect, 22-year-old Andrew McCutchen, plays centre.

  17. Keith Law believes the Pirates' previous regime rushed McCutchen through the minors.

  18. Gift Ngoepe is an easy name to keep on file; he has a legit shot at becoming the first black South African to play in the majors. Ngoepe had a rare two-triple game against Mexico during the World Baseball Classic; he's a switch-hitting shortstop with some wheels.

  19. The franchise has not lost a World Series since 1927. Let's see the Red Sox or Yankees make that claim.

  20. What's the ripple of evil if it doesn't turn around in the 'Burgh? Well, Hollywood is running out of the popular 1960s and '70s movies and TV shows that can be turned into remakes. The Pirates better start winning before there's a bastardized Major League remake set at PNC Park, with the fat kid from Two And A Half Men playing Ricky Vaughn Jr.

    Or not. This last paragraph was just a send-up of early Bill Simmons.

  21. Clemente's old number probably should be retired throughout all baseball, just like Jackie Robinson's No. 42. He meant that much to Latinos.

  22. The Pittsburgh preview is good a time as any to mention that it's odd how Bert Blyleven, who was on the '79 Pirates, doesn't have the same reputation as a post-season performer as, say, Jack Morris.

    Blyleven was 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.077 WHIP in the playoffs, compared to Morris (7-4, 3.80, 1.245).

    Someone who isn't old enough to remember (guilty as charged) might not even have heard about Blyleven throwing four shutout innings on two days' rest to keep the Pirates alive in the '79 Series. He started Game 2, then came on in relief in Game 5 with the Baltimore Orioles ahead 1-0 after five. He shut the door, the Pirates won 7-1 and went on to take Games 6 and 7 to win the whole megillah.

    Blyleven also beat Morris in their one head-to-head showdown in the 1987 American League playoffs, but speaking as a Blue Jays fan, any memory of that's season playoffs has been totally suppressed.

  23. Pittsburgh-based author Michael Chabon will totally sue anyone who prints up posters proclaiming Eric Hinske, Andy LaRoche and Craig Monroe as the "Wonder Boys." The situation will probably not crop up this season.

  24. There have been low points before. The Pirates at one point in the 1950s lost 317 games in three seasons. It would have been more, but the schedule was only 154 games then.

  25. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan's Baseball Prospectus 2009 entry says, "To his credit, he is beginning to understand his limitations." The Blue Jays should be doing everything in their power to trade for fourth outfielder who is actually a former hockey player, since that's supposedly what it takes to win ballgames.

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