It’s freezing outside, work restricts me from leaving my current confinements, and I’m currently in that stage between being tired and going stir crazy. Long story short, all I can think about is baseball.
I just finished watching “2010 Pittsburgh Pirates: Light at the End of the Tunnel” On FSN. It was a pretty decent watch, but all it did was make me want more baseball.
Enough boo-hooing, let’s get into this:
You know it, I know it, your grandmother knows it…2010 was a flat out let down for Pirates fans. Neal Huntington, Bob Nutting, and Frank Coonley got us all riled up and ready to watch the Pirates compete with all their talks of contention and a youth movement, and stocking up on talent for the future last winter and needless to say, we all got a big, 105 loss lump of coal in our stocking.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not your A-typical fan who is all hot and bothered and ready to burn them at the stake for the past three years. I didn’t really think they’d compete…did you? I didn’t expect to see one of the worst teams in Pirates history either though.
I think the management team has the right idea here, they refuse to spend wastefully in the free agent market and put faith and encouragement into their young players which is something special. Hitting the field knowing that your superiors believe in you brings a whole new level to your game. Unfortunately that’s not all you need in Major League Baseball.
John Russell is out, our starting rotation was a revolving door of 5+ ERA’s, our hitters swung at anything, and our defense couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a baseball, half the time. These are all things you know. I won’t bore you with specifics. Yet somehow there are still believers out there, still fans making their way to the North Shore to see their Buccos. There has to be something on the horizon, right? I believe there is. No one’s organizing walk outs, which would fail miserably anyway. (I mean really, if you pay $9 or more for seats, $10 for parking, and $20 on food you aren’t going to leave. That would be a poor investment. Stick it out, maybe you’ll catch a foul ball or witness a huge comeback. Who knows?)
John Russell signed on with the Pirates before the 2008 season. He posted a 186-299 record in three seasons as manager. He was promptly relieved of his duties after the end of the 2010 season.
From any angle, 2011 already looks like a better year for the Pirates. Most of the talent is here, and if it isn’t here chances are you’ll see this coming season. Here are my thoughts on next season’s coaching staff:
Manager – Clint Hurdle
Hurdle is expected to take the manage job. He’s done a pretty good job in his day as a hitting coach but was a pretty mediocre manager in Colorado. (He had a track record of 534-625 in 8 years with the Rockies. Still better than anything JR had.) He wouldn’t be the worst guy to get the job. Half of Pittsburgh is jaded because Tony Pena or Phil Garner, or Andy Van Slyke weren’t considered for the job, but last time I checked half of Pittsburgh doesn’t run a major league team. Besides, these are probably the same people who criticized the old management as “homers” when they drafted Neil Walker in ’04. Now Neil is in consideration for Rookie of the Year. I think they got over it.
Hurdle may make the team hit better, which is great. He’s considered by many to be loyal to the front office, which some people criticize but that’s neither here nor there at this point. I like to focus on the positives. He’s been around baseball his entire life and worked with the Rangers who are somewhat similar team. He’s been known to be passionate and outspoken with his team and will more than likely drive this team to do better. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Hurdle was manager of the Colorado Rockies from 2002 until 2009. He was replaced by former Pirates manager, Jim Tracy.
Bench Coach – Jeff Banister
Banister’s been with the organization since he was a player and he knows these guys really well. Banister’s a good guy who’s had his share of rough times and only lasted in the big leagues for one at-bat. He got a hit and you got to love a guy who’s hitting 1.000. Banister is also considered to be second in the running for the manager position. He’s young enough, passionate enough, and has the desire to win as much as anyone in the Pirates organization. I’m almost certain that he’ll stay on the bench coach if Hurdle gets the job as manager.
Jeff Banister (above left) has been with the Pirates organization for over 25 years, first as a player and later as a coach. Though he only had one at-bat at the Major League level, Banister has the experience to make a great coach.
Pitching Coach – Ray Searage
They’re crazy if they don’t. Plain and simple. Searage made progress with Charlie Morton who was just outright disastrous this season. The man is clearly a miracle worker and put in visible work with his staff. The rotation got better in Ray’s short time with them and he knows many of the pitchers from their time in AAA Indy. They should at least give him a shot at it. Some pitchers openly said that Joe Kerrigan tried to change their mechanics. Brad Lincoln seemed to suffer the most from it. Searage didn’t do too shabby at ironing out kinks that were allegedly left by Kerrigan, hence the reason he’s my pick for Pitching Coach.
Ray Searage replaced Joe Kerrigan as interim pitching coach for the big league club in Septemeber.
Hitting Coach – ???
This job is pretty much up for grabs. Whoever lands the manager job will probably get the say here, which will be interesting. Hurdle will probably pick somebody relatively good as he was a hitting coach himself and didn’t do too shabby. Banister would probably stick with Don Long, which may be a mistake. I like Don, he seems like a great guy, but he just isn’t getting the job done.
Third Base Coach – Anyone but Beasley
Remember when Andy LaRoche got caught up going after being told to round the bag and ended up getting himself and McCutchen out? Yeah, me too.
Both Andy LaRoche and Andrew McCutchen would be tagged out at third due to a slew of baserunning errors, partially on Tony Beasley’s behalf.
First Base Coach/Infield Instructor – ???
This position on the coaching staff is much like the hittign coach as it’s up for grabs. Unfortunately the Pirates have no shot at ever landing Perry Hill again as they would not let him negotiate with other teams after leaving Pittsbugh still under contract. Carlos Garcia hasn’t done very well here but would probably remain with Banister at the helm. Hurdle may try to mix things up a bit, but whoever he found would have to be a miracle worker with how woeful the defense was in 2010, especially in the infield.
The Pirates ranked in the bottom of the MLB for defense in 2010 after being number one in 2009. This team is in strong need of guidence for the future as the youthful core of the team shows promise, but needs polish.
That’s about it in this department. I don’t feel the need to examine bullpen coaches because I don’t think they have much impact on the game and the Pirates have a pretty successful outfield without the aid of an outfield instructor.
On-Deck: Coming Up Short – The Pirates Lack Impact An Shortstop in System
I created this blog to fill the void that was left after the end of the baseball season and to get some practice in my newly found place in the journalism field. In this opening segment I will give a general overview of the baseball in Pittsburgh for those who may not be as familiar as others with it. Hopefully I’ll spark some interest in some new people or at least occupy your time while you could be doing something much more productive. Thanks for reading, enjoy!
Every year on October 31st a portal between the world of the dead and the living and spirits run free amongst us for one evening. This evening is what we celebrate as Halloween. While All Hallows Eve may put a frightening punctuation on the month of October something even scarier than the dead walking happens to baseball fans across the nation. For the end of October brings the heart wrenching end to yet another glorious season in the sun.
For some, especially Pirates fans, the season ends much earlier for us as post season hopes for Pittsburgh baseball were dashed a generation ago with the hopes that Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla would sign long term contract extensions.
Bonds (right) and Bonilla (left) were two staples on the Pirates during their early 90’s pennant races. They both departed in 1993 to seek bigger contracts with bigger market teams.
Every fan has their speculation as to why the Pirates find themselves at a loss (or 90+) season after season. Whether those speculations be that upper management team members are lining their pockets with cash, or are too cheap to spend , all the way to the curse of Willie Stargell (For those of you unaware, our beloved Willie unfortunately passed away on April 9th, 2001, the same day PNC Park opened its gates.) Any way you chalk it up the Pittsburgh Pirates are the worst franchise in professional sports history. That is truly something to be embarrassed about.
Bob Nutting (Pictured above) is current majority owner of the Pirates and is highly criticized by many.
18 straight years of losing have left us nothing to look forward to except Spring Training and September call ups where, until recent years, not much beyond AAA scrubs have been displayed. Not to mention the countless draft picks that were squandered foolishly by past management. I will grant that the Littlefield/McClatchy era did bring about some former faces of the franchise, whether it be through scouting or fluke they managed to reel in Jason Bay, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, and Nate McLouth (All of whom were All-Stars in their tenure with the Pirates.)
The past management also brought in some budding young stars on today’s team, i.e. Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. (I suppose you could even throw Paul Maholm’s name in there as well though he isn’t exactly budding anymore)
Dave Littlefield (Pictured above) is former Pirates GM and is scrutinized by many fans.
These young stars have been supplemented by other stars and supporting cast by the newest management team of Bob Nutting, Frank Coonley, and Neal Huntington. This group has managed to bring in Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, James McDonald, Ross Ohlendorf and have most recently drafter a slew of promising youth in Tony Sanchez, Jameson Taillion, and Stetson Allie. This team has more than their fair share of complete busts though, which may be on account of bad scouting or just plain old bad luck.
A few players who haven’t panned out as planned are Andy LaRoche, Lastings Milledge, and Charlie Morton. Most recently Garrett Jones proved to be somewhat of a letdown as he barely matched his home run totals from his rookie season in his sophomore campaign. These are most definitely not the only players who have been busts, but some of the most prominent. All of the above players were acquired as a part of trade package except for Jones who was signed as a minor league free agent.
After a bad start to his Pirates carreer in 2008, LaRoche put together a solid 2009. Considered to be a dead lock for the second base position with the arrival of Pedro Alvarez, LaRoche was beat out by Neil Walker due to abysmal defense and an inconsistent bat in the 2010 season.
Coming up in the On-Deck Circle: 2011 25 Man Roster – Platoons and Puzzle Pieces