Remembering Roberto

By Jason Shetler

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What Babe Ruth was to the New York Yankees is what Roberto Clemente was to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s one of those magical names in baseball that even the most casual fan has heard of. Clemente began his playing career for the Santurce Crabbers of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League. In 1954, he signed with the Montreal Royals, who were the Brooklyn Dodgers AAA affiliate. Former big leaguer and Pirates scout Clyde Sukeforth, suggested that the Bucs take Clemente in that offseason’s MLB Rookie Draft. Clemente made his Major League debut for the Pirates on April 17th, 1955. Just like Jackie Robinson, Clemente had to put up with constant racism and discrimination from media and fans alike. Most never gave him credit for what he was able to do on the field. For example, In 1960, Clemente hit .314 with 16 home runs and 94 RBI. His teammate Dick Groat won the National League MVP award that year, hitting .325 with two homers and 50 RBI. Not only did Clemente have a better overall season than Groat, but he didn’t even finish in the Top 5 of the MVP voting. In 1961, Clemente would win the first of four batting titles, as he hit .351 that year. He would finally earn the respect from the baseball writers as he was named the NL MVP in 1966, becoming the first Latin American player to win the MVP award. In the 1971 postseason, Clemente would make it his own personal showcase, hitting .374 with two homers and eight RBI in 11 postseason games. In 1972, Clemente would eclipse the 3,000 hit mark, becoming the first and only Pirate to reach 3,000. Clemente’s life however would end tragically, as he died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve of that year. Clemente compiled a .317 average with 240 home runs and 1,305 RBI in 18 seasons as a Pittsburgh Pirate. Along with being a 12-time All-Star, he was also a 12-time Gold Glove winner and is arguably the greatest defensive right fielder of all-time. Clemente was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame the season after his death in 1973, becoming the first Latin American player inducted into Cooperstown. Jackie Robinson’s #42 has been retired throughout Major League Baseball since 1997. A lot of people, including myself, have wondered why Major League Baseball hasn’t retired Roberto Clemente’s #21? – Jackie Robinson blazed a trail for African American ballplayers, just like Roberto Clemente did as it related to Latin American players. The fact that Roberto Clemente should have his number retired throughout Major League Baseball shouldn’t even be debated. 


Pirates likely to give cash in Ludwick deal

According to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Diego Padres are likely to receive cash considerations from the Pirates as part of the Ryan Ludwick deal. The Pirates acquired Ludwick at the July 31 trade deadline and the deal called for the Padres to get a player to be named later.  Me: Probably better that San Diego is getting cash instead of a player who’s not going to be all that much of a prospect anyways. Center has also heard that the Padres are looking at Paul Maholm as a possibility for their rotation. 

How do the Pirates new additions stack up?

With every team in baseball, it’s all about adding and subtracting. And seeing if those additions can be upgrades. Lets take a look and see if the Pirates have upgraded with their new additions.

Shortstop: Clint Barmes replaces Ronny Cedeno as the Bucs shortstop for 2012. Barmes posted a .312 OBP, .386 SLG, and a .698 OPS in 2011 for the Houston Astros. Barmes’ OBP was 15 points higher than Cedeno’s, his SLG was 47 points higher than Cedeno’s, which comes out to an OPS that was 62 points higher than Cedeno’s. Barmes’ FLD% was identical to Cedeno’s at .978. 

First Base: Casey McGehee, as it stands, will be Derrek Lee’s replacement at first base in some capacity. McGehee’s OBP was 118 points lower than that of Derrek Lee’s with the Pirates, his SLG was 238 points lower than Lee’s, which comes out to an OPS that was 356 points lower than Derrek Lee’s as a Pirate in 2011. The FLD% in this case is irrelevant since McGehee hasn’t played much first in the big leagues. Even if you combine Lee’s numbers that he had with Baltimore, their still better than McGehee’s.

Catcher: Rod Barajas is going to be the Pirates backstop in 2012 as he replaces Ryan Doumit/Chris Synder. Barajas put up a .287 OBP, .430 SLG, and a .717 OPS for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011. Barajas’ OBP was 66 points lower than Doumit’s and 89 points lower than Synder’s. His SLG was 47 points lower than Doumit’s, but was 34 points higher than Synder’s. His OPS was 113 points lower than Doumit’s and was 55 points lower than Synder’s. Barajas’ FLD% was 14 points better than Doumit’s. Synder did not commit an error, but obviously he didn’t play for much of the season, so Synder’s numbers really don’t have a whole lot of stock to them.

Rotation: Erik Bedard replaces Paul Maholm in the Pirates rotation for 2012. Bedard posted a 3.62 ERA while Maholm’s was 3.66, although Maholm did pitch more innings. His WHIP was just 1 point lower than Maholm’s at 1.28, his H/9  was 8.2 and Maholm’s was at 8.9, his BB/9 was higher at 3.3 while Maholm’s was 2.8, but his 8.7 K/9 was much better than Maholm’s 5.4 K/9. 

So looking at the numbers, Clint Barmes is an upgrade over Ronny Cedeno, Casey McGehee is a downgrade to Derrek Lee, so unless the Pirates don’t get someone else to play first, their best bet is to platoon him with Garrett Jones. Rod Barajas I consider to be a “neutral” addition, meaning that he’s not an upgrade over Ryan Doumit and Chris Synder, but I don’t think he’s a downgrade either. Erik Bedard, if healthy, is an upgrade over Paul Maholm.

The Pirates did upgrade themselves to a certain degree, and only time will tell this coming season. 

Why a Paul Maholm return should not be ruled out

As Paul Maholm waits patiently for an offer to come about, there’s no reason to think that he could end up back in Pittsburgh. Maholm has been on record to say that he wouldn’t take less money to re-sign with the Pirates, but the problem is that there has been little interest in the left hander, and teams that will start to look at him may not want to give into his demands. Would any team want to sign Maholm for more than $5MM per year?  Other teams may look at that fact that he is not a strikeout pitcher and that he owns a career ERA of 4.36. So would a team want to sign a bottom of the rotation finesse pitcher to that kind of money? The Pirates have been on record to say that they have money to spend and that they are looking to add another starting pitcher. Plus, who knows Paul Maholm better than the organization he’s been with since 2003. A team like the Pirates wouldn’t mind offering Maholm around $5MM per, because it’s better than the $9.75MM that he would of received had his option been exercised, they know he’s going to pitch well at PNC Park, and with Erik Bedard now there, it gives the Pirates another lefty to stabilize the rotation, and in case Bedard gets hurt, they’ll still have a lefty in the rotation who you can depend on with his durability. I’m not saying it’s a for sure that Maholm will be back with the Bucs, but I just don’t think it should be ruled out either. 

 

Littlefield moves still rear their ugly head

It’s been four years now since the Pirates fired former GM Dave Littlefield, but yet the moves he’s made always seem to rear their ugly head even now. Here are some examples: The players that were Littlefield holdovers when Neal Huntington took over prior to the 2008 season, weren’t really good players except for Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez. The Bay trade in hindsight should of gotten a better return, but Sanchez had been hurt and struggled at the time he was dealt, so the Pirates weren’t going to get much there. The point being that the others who were dealt weren’t going to get you “Major League ready” prospects in return. Therefore, those players had to be dealt for “lower level” prospects who had upside, but would be a few years away from the big league club, which was the right way to do it by Huntington, even though some fans don’t seem to think so. Some still haven’t made it to the big leagues yet, because most of them were either in Low A ball or High A ball when they were in their respective trades. Another thing that has hurt the Pirates now is not having Matt Wieters as their catcher.  The all-star catcher for the Orioles, was inexcusably not selected by Littlefield and as a result, was taken by Baltimore in the 2007 MLB Draft. Not taking Wieters in that draft changed everything. Ryan Doumit would of been long gone, Chris Snyder would of never been dealt for, and Tony Sanchez would of never been drafted. Now the Pirates are relying on a stop gap veteran in Rod Barajas, and Tony Sanchez seems like a question mark now.  The biggest thing however, is that Littlefield had poor drafts year after year – leaving the farm system in shambles with virtually no top tier prospects with the exception of Andrew McCutchen. Huntington has had to really stock up in these last four drafts and although he does have his share of prospects now, the farm system is still considered “middle of the road”,  just because of how far Littlefield and his adminstration set them back. One can only imagine if  Dave Littlefield would of never drafted Andrew McCutchen, how bad this team would really be. 

BN: 2011 Pirates Treasure Awards

As 2011 draws to a close, it’s time for the first annual “BN: Pirates Treasure Awards”

Best Facial Hair Award: Ryan Doumit’s red beard

Best Pregame Routine Award: Andrew McCutchen using a Shake Weight

Best Uniform Number Award: Joe Beimel’s 97

Best Nickname Award: Michael “The Fort” McKenry

Oh My God! Award: Jerry Meals call at home plate in Atlanta

Rookie of the Year Award: Alex Presley

Defensive Player of the Year Award: Ronny Cedeno

Comeback Player of the Year Award: Charlie Morton

“Wilbur Cooper” Award: Jeff Karstens

MVP Award: Andrew McCutchen

Best Home Run of the Year Award: http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?c_id=pit&content_id=19256351&topic_id=8879096

Best Moment of the Year Award: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DuhWWnZZOE

 

 

 

The Pirates All-Decade Team

Since there isn’t a whole lot going on in terms of Pirates news, I decided to have a little fun and put together a Pirates All-Decade Team. These are guys who have played at least two seasons for the Bucs since 2001. 

Left Field: Brian Giles

Center Field: Andrew McCutchen

Right Field: Xavier Nady

Third Base: Aramis Ramirez

Shortstop: Jack Wilson

Second Base: Freddy Sanchez

First Base: Adam LaRoche

Catcher: Jason Kendall

 

Bench

Outfield: Jason Bay

Outfield: Nate McLouth

Infield: Neil Walker

Infield: Craig Wilson

Catcher: Ryan Doumit

 

Starting Rotation

Oliver Perez (2004 version)

Kip Wells (2002 and 2003 version)

Ian Snell (2007 version)

Paul Maholm (2008 version)

Zach Duke (2005 version)

 

Closer: Joel Hanrahan

 

Manager: Lloyd McClendon