Monday, July 31, 2006

Non-waiver trade deadline evaluation

Overall grade: D+

1) NOT acquiring Ryan Shealy: Why does everyone care so much? Yes, we probably could have gotten him for Grabow...maybe with Cota thrown in or something (how much longer is Doumit on the DL?), but he's not a power hitter, either, and he plays at Coors Field. He may be better defensively because of his youth (over Casey), but yinz make it sound like we missed out on Willie Stargell II. Grade: C

2) Sean Casey for Brian Rogers. I think Littlefield is trying to get in good with Leyland with this one. Seems like a salary dump tactic to me. In Rogers, we don’t even have a budding starting pitcher. He’s a relief pitcher on the AA level. Time will tell HOW one-sided this trade is, but right now, it seems as though we should have gotten another prospect and maybe cash in addition. Grade: D-

3) Kip Wells for Jesse Chavez. Typical Littlefield trade. Kip has shown improvement from game to game since his surgery, but Kip has had a stigma here in Pittsburgh of not getting quite enough run support, hence his 8-18 record last year with despite an ERA just over 5. Not only that, but Kip Wells enters the American League and will have to get used to not facing the pitcher. This may be a painful experience for him. For the Bucs, Chavez is also a reliever, mainly from the AA tier and his stats look even worse than Rogers. Surely, the Rangers had more on the block. Grade: F

4) Craig Wilson for Shawn Chacon. Ok. This is a trade that’s got everyone more upset than it should. It’s impossible to say what Craig’s statistics would have been had Tracy played him over Burnitz most of the season, but he was hitting just a point below his career average and seems to have plateaued. Craig gives the Yankees an outfielder, first baseman, DH, or even a catcher. Meanwhile, Chacon, his career ERA higher than Wells’, isn’t really a step down for two reasons: first, he pitched for years at Coors Field, and two, the important statistic is career WHIP. Despite pitching at Hitter’s Haven for 4.5 seasons, his career WHIP is only .03 higher than Wells. Another thing to note: Chacon had an outstanding rest-of-the-season in the Bronx after being traded from Colorado, but did not do so well after Mel Stottlemyer left the pitching coach’s position there. The onus now falls on Jim Colborn, whose abilities in comparison to Spin Williams are not yet clear. In my estimation, the trade was Craig Wilson for Jesse Chavez. Not that that’s a good thing, but grumpy folks in the clubhouse can make a bad situation worse. Grade: C- (“C” for Craig. “-“ for the hair he will now have to part with. He and Johnny Damon are quite the pair.)

5) Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez for Xavier Nady. I almost have to assign an “incomplete” for this grade (but I won’t, because I don’t cop out). Hernandez could be replaced by Jonah Bayliss or another AAA pitcher on the roster and there probably won’t be much difference. I also don’t believe his “veteran presence,” which has been talked about non-stop since he joined the Pirates, has had all that great of an impact. Oliver Perez is broken. And it’s beyond the staff of the Pittsburgh Pirates to fix him. Maybe Ollie’s down for good, or maybe a fresh start for a perennial contender will revitalize him. Either way, it’s clear that Perez was not going to impact the Pirates in a positive way again (at least not for any significant stretch). Xavier Nady is slightly younger than Craig Wilson and will likely be platooning with Jeromy Burnitz in RF. We all know how Jim Tracy likes his lefty/righty stacking. Nady has been in the shadow of Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. He may see this as his chance to rise to the top now that the surface is a bit shallower. He’ll probably bat out of the 5th spot (he’s been batting 6th a lot with the Mets). In regards to Nady and Chacon, you can give me a huge “I told you so” if they completely implode, but give it until the 2nd or 3rd week of August. Grade B-

On a semi-related note, I wonder what will become of the “Posse De Perez”.

Final comments: Littlefield seems to have forgotten that we do have a couple of “marginal” prospects of our own in the AAA and AA systems. If giving one of them up to get a Hank Blalock, for example, would do the trick, he’s got to try. And it’s no secret that we were going to be “sellers,” so landing Alfonso Soriano to improve the team was out of the question. Of course, I still contend that the Ramirez/Lofton/Simon sweepstakes showed the other GMs (and anyone else who follows baseball closely enough) the character that is the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates front office.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

AA assignment for Perez up next?

My title is kind of a backhanded slap, but seriously, Oliver Perez collapsed in a AAA matchup with the Yankees' top farm club, the Columbus Clippers.

Things are worse than expected in O-town. That happens about once every year or two to all but the best major league pitchers, and it's something else when someone comes from the AA level and has a game like that in AAA (sort of like a Landon Jacobson or Mike Connelly). For someone who has pitched and (occasionally) delivered on the Major League stage to have a game like that, especially when it's clear he's got something left to prove to the organization, Ollie seems to have thrown in the towel on his year, at any level.

Meanwhile, the Pirates take on the Giants and try to sweep their first three-game series of the season (not sure why this is such a big deal as the Bucs swept the Brewers in four games earlier this season.

I'll wager that the Pirates take an early lead and blow it late.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Trade deadline 4 days away...

Cutting to the chase on this:

With so many bloggers and their readers fearing what Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield is going to do, acknowledging that we have naught to offer in order to get good players (unless it's a 2-fer or something) and the abomination that was the Ramirez/Lofton/Simon for Hill/Hernandez/bloody rectum forever to be his legacy, I have one thought to offer.

Do nothing, Dave.

Other GMs are expecting to get something from the Pirates for nothing. By going after ML-ready prospects or a starting pitcher for one of your veterans whose contracts are up after '06, your peers are wondering where the rimshot is when you suggest these things.

Many take the side of "Well, if we don't get someone for Craig Wilson, we're going to get nothing as he signs with another team."

I say, "How is this different?" At least in this case Littlefield shows that he's starting to learn that he's the doormat of the major league GMs (particularly Jim Hendry of the Cubs'). By doing nothing rather than taking what, on paper, will look like trading a $5 for a nickel, he may show that he wants to conduct business rather than run a charity.

Disagree? Good. Tell me about it. And while you're at it, tell me why we want to jettison Sean Casey so badly. I like the lefty in the lineup. Especially one who hits for average (.300 as of 7/27).


In the meantime, yinz can look at my 2006 Pirates preview and laugh. Especially if I told you I thought I was being reasonably pessimistic.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Trying to figure yinz out...

One of the reasons I decided to start a blog (in addition to trying to get additional visibility as I try to deke and duck my way into the Pittsburgh sports media) was because I started reading some of the other ones available.

However, I'm finding that decent writers and, in my estimation, knowledgable fans, are failing to see what the Pirates have in Matt Capps. Honest Wagner, Pat from "Where have you gone, Andy Van Slyke?", and a few of the people who leave comments on their blog seem to just lump Capps in with the rest of the middle relievers (more on this in a sec). And Jake of the Bucco Blog deems Jose Bautista a failure at CF and campaigns for the return of Chris Duffy. I need a better explanation as to why. Because Pirate triple-A performances have been indicative of major league prowess? Pirate center fielders have ALL fallen way short of Jim Edmonds-esque play, rewinding through Bautista, Nate McClouth, Duffy, Tike Redman... I don't think Bautista has been any worse than what we've seen in the last 13 years.

Back to Capps, he took a beating (relatively speaking) today in Miami and was nearly the losing pitcher, but if I see that single performance used as a "see what I mean?" tactic insofar as using him as trade bait, that will be a completely unfair and keyboard-warrior-level assessment. He's still the only strikethrower on the team (note the winning run was aboard courtesy of a Gonzalez walk). And Craig Wilson left the bases loaded in both the 1st and 3rd innings.

Further, I don't understand why there is this fever to get rid of Sean Casey. This Ryan Shealy, upon whom many Pirate fans are high on, does not jump off the page at me as an offensive player. His average is fair enough, but he looks like he could be had for, say, John Grabow and Humberto Cota (someone else who's clogging up our roster). A right-handed first baseman is probably the last thing the Pirates need right now. Offense has not been as much of a problem this season as has quality pitching.

If we're not bringing quality, major-league ready arms in, I'll be perfectly fine to see Littlefield sit on his thumbs for a change at the trading deadline.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I hope Dave Littlefield is watching...

First of all, the latest addition to my sarcastically-titled: "I'll Bet He Never Got Picked on in High School". Of course, the "list" to which these "additions" belong does not actually exist in print, but I'll be sure to bring them up at a later date. I just know that Seattle fans (and probably the league at large) have a field day when he blows a save.

Secondly, Kip Wells should have only been charged with 1 earned run today in his 5.2 innings against the Marlins. Bautista's first inning drop in right center was an error that resulted in two of the three runs scored whilst Wells was on the mound. Despite that, Kip's ERA drops almost another run-per-9-innings. Unfortunately, Kipper is on pace to surpass everyone on the Pirate staff for losses by this time next month.

Finally, to the title: I hope Dave Littlefield is watching what's going on in Miami. And I mean by what the Marlins are doing. They cleaned the damn house and are playing above expectations. And how are they rebuilding? They kept Miguel Cabrera as their slugger and Dontrelle Willis as their ace, and brought up a bunch of good young arms around them.

For those who would argue that's what Littlefield is trying to do with Duke, Maholm, and Snell, you also have to look at the 2002 draft. First pick: Bryan Bullington. A guy who most agreed would never amount to more than the fourth, possibly third starter in a rotation, and many local fans said Littlefield's strategy was to be sure he'd never command a large salary. Keep an eye on how much Scott Olson will command in a year or two, or who he will be traded for should the Marlins deal him.

Of course, if D.L. has pretty much been instructed by the folks higher up the ladder that making money takes precedence over building a winner, it's very possible he doesn't care what's going on with the Marlins, who are already light years ahead of where the Pirates are.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Cody Ross: Pirate Killer

Well, it's a better title than, say, "Walker: Texas Ranger."

Cody who?

Just a guy who's played for the Dodgers, Reds and Marlins. THIS YEAR. Cuz he's a ROOKIE. Batting in the .250-.260 range, and, vs. the Buccos this year, is 8 for 14 with 3 HRs, a triple, a double, and 11 RBIs. Those home runs are a 2-run, 3-run, and a Granny.

If he hits a solo HR against the Pirates in their next two games vs. the Marlins...or perhaps if he ends up on another team after the trade deadline (I mean, why not? Four Major League teams in a year for a rookie would have to be some kind of record), then he'll have hit for the cycle in terms of home runs, in addition to already owning a cycle against the Pirates in a handful of at bats.

Just looking at him, he reminds me of what Ty Wigginton was supposed to be for the Pirates in the much-maligned Kris Benson trade.


There's a thought I had a long time ago (during an Astros/Pirates game at PNC on May 26). Maybe someone out there can bless me with my first comment and explain why this is such a bad thing.

During the 4th inning of this game, Willie Tavares swings at a pitch and misses, and the bad goes flying between the mound and first base line. It comes to rest, pretty much between the rubber and the bag (there's a double entendre in there somewhere, I'm sure).

The bat boy does not enter the field to retrieve it, likely because he's, like 13, and isn't sure whether or not to go get it. So, Ian Snell picks it up himself and meets Tavares halfway between the mound and the plate and hands it off personally.

Bob Walk, I believe, in the radio broadcast, instantly criticises Snell for this display of sportsmanship. It's not like Snell ran for it immediately. He's supposed to stand there and hold his johnson while nothing happens? Or is this some baseball superstition where sportsmanship should not be displayed during the actual game? Tavares ended up singling shortly afterward and Walky was kinda like, "See?"

I don't know.

Sportsmanship should be encouraged rather than disdained, especially with so many youngers idolizing these players. When the Dodgers and Cardinals in the 2004 playoffs ended their series in Dodger stadium with the Redbirds advancing to the NLCS, both teams did the little league-style, pass-through, hand-slap ritual. I loved this. Even in football, all those religious-types gather together on the field after the game and do a prayer circle. Sometimes, they even help opposing players up. In a non-rivalry game, I love this kind of stuff. It takes the focus off the obscene amounts of money these guys make and makes them human beings instead of demi-gods.

Anyway, the pre-soapbox question was: Why was it wrong of Ian Snell to hand the bat back to his opponent when it was obvious the batboy wasn't going to do it?


I'm starting to miss Spin Williams. Paul Maholm has given up 13 homeruns and has an ERA over 5. Of course, he usually doesn't get much run support, but in 6 of his 9 losses, he pitched his team into an early hole (by the 3rd inning...4 of those holes in the first). I don't know if the change of pitching coach from Spin Williams to Jim Colborn was akin to backing up a car at 25MPH, then suddenly shifting into second gear and flooring it, or if Colborn was overrated coming in.

The Pirate team ERA is only slightly better then the D-Ray ERA, but the D-Rays play in the DH-laden American League.

I shake my head. Could Mel Stottlemyre or Lee Mazzone do anything with this staff? I'll be continually forced to wonder.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The more things change...

Tonight against Colorado, Kip Wells brought his ERA down from the ionosphere to a point between the mesosphere and stratosphere...which, to the layman, would be approximately where the o-zone is. In 7 innings, Kipper reduced that inflated number from 12.42 to 9.13, surrendering only a solo home run to Clint Barmes in the 3rd inning. He also pitched himself out of a couple of jams in that span: runners at second and third with no one out in the 2nd inning, and a two-on, one-out situation in the 6th.

That's a definite change of color from the Wells we saw come off the disabled list, get rushed through a couple of rehab starts, bypassing a AAA rehab start, only to get shelled by the Royals. In the last 12 innings, only one run allowed. Now we can all get back to thinking about the normal stuff:

Kip Wells and the Curse of the No Run Support!

In Kip's first 3 losses, the Pirate offense was able to plate 16 runners. But in his 4th start, the game was over in the first inning as the Pirate offense decided to take in the sights of New York.

I do wish that Josh Fogg hadn't pitched yesterday. It would have been fun to see a Wells/Fogg "duel".


Matt Capps got his first save tonight. He's a slimmer Bobby Jenks. If Dave Littlefield has any brians, he will not deal Mr. Capps, probably the only, true strike-thrower on the team. He's a rookie...and he's only walked 5 batters in 55 career innings (one of these intentionally).

I'll take watching this guy give up a few hits in a rocky outing over him start to nibble at the plate like everyone else on the staff. That is what makes you a feared pitcher in this league. Derrick Turnbow has blown 7 saves in 30 chances. This was not a problem last year. He's losing his confident facade. Mariano Rivera, meanwhile, continues to intimidate in big-game situations. There have been a couple of cracks in that facade, most notably Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona and Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS in Boston, but there are usually more cracks in opposing hitters bats.

Is Capps a Rivera? Probably not, but compared to the other Pirate relievers, Gonzo included, you bet he is.

That is a change that could help cement the bullpen.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

New article at

Click here to go straight to the article - "New Depths: Pittsburgh Pirates 2006 Midseason Review"

Possibility that the next edition of "Steeltown Sports: Live!" on WMBS may occur on Tuesday, July 25, 2006. I may already have a guest lined up in the form of an athlete's publicist.

If anyone in my small, but loyal fan base knows of anyone I should try to pursue for that show, give me a shout.

All-Star game thoughts: Too bad Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay went a combined 1-for-5 at the plate. Phil Garner made sure there was a Pirate on the field the entire game at the expense of not getting everyone in. Andruw Jones in the outfield due to Jason Bay's 5-inning presence, and infielders Scott Rolen, Dan Uggla, and Nomar Garciaparra. Thanks, Mr. Garner, for giving Pirate fans a reason to watch the game...kinda makes up for Tony Larussa making sure Jason Bay didn't get in at all. Some good defensive plays by the Pirate duo also.

The All-Star game should still not mean anything. What makes these guys stars? The fans. The fans, throughout baseball, want to see their (sometimes) one guy (unless you live in New York or Boston) get on the field and at the plate at least once. And why is everyone so certain the White Sox are going to repeat?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

You'd think I'd learn...

With all the stuff I learned yesterday, you'd think not much gets by me.

Well, per yesterday's expectations, Paul Maholm got his 100+ innings before the break, but he also gave up 6 runs in 4 innings, which, in my estimation, is pretty close to a pooch-screw.

And what is up with Jason Bay and his lack of timely home runs? He has 21 of 'em, but I'm sure that close to half of 'em are solo.

Either that, or (still relating to the subject of this entry), you'd think I'd learn to have no expectations of this franchise, specifically the 2006 version.

(Begin rant) I suppose it's the same thing that makes me angry when people can do NOTHING BUT mock the team. Yes, it's extremely easy to make jokes, and it's warranted to a point, but it's like kicking a man when he's down. Besides, we all know why the team is in such disarray: Ownership and management. If you want to do your mocking at an unlimited level, focus it there.

At least I know that the players want to win. So I root for them. That's one thing I have learned.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Things I learned today:

1) Don Mattingly holds the record for most Grand Slams in a season with 6. Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians has 5 Grannies before the All-Star Game

2) Greg Brown has a brother named Charlie.

3) John Wehner regards the 5, 6, and 7-hole hitters as the "bottom of the order". I wouldn't exactly imply that Aaron Rowand, David Dellucci (who turned out to be pinch-hitter Pat Burrell), or David Bell are automatic outs.

Wow. When I learn stuff, I learn stuff.


Good job on the Bucs being able to hang on to a 1-run lead. Although that lead had been 2 runs. Oh, yeah, and 3 runs before that. Good roadblock by Ronny Paulino to deny the Phillies a run, but a couple of wild pitch/passed ball whatevers that let another run eventually come around to score. Still can't help but feeling a sense of doom if the Pirates aren't winning by, like, five in the bottom of the 9th. And even then, I don't get confident until at least one out is recorded.

So, on this, the 88th game of the Pirates season, they notch their 10th win on the road, and 30th overall.

And, unless Paul Maholm completely screws the pooch tomorrow against the Phillies and doesn't escape the 2nd inning, the three youngest members of the Pirates staff will have logged at least 100 innings each. If Zach Duke can go 7 innings and give up 3 runs or fewer, all three will also have an ERA under 5.

Normally, I wouldn't celebrate this last "feat", but considering where these guys were at the outset, it's not that bad.


If you wanna hear the interview I conducted with Ike Taylor (via Telephone) on July 6th, click here.

His call came in with less than a minute before I came in, so I didn't even have a chance to say hi to him off the air. Kinda stumbled around for my first question, but then I think it went rather smoothly from there.


And in case I don't figure it out in the meantime, how you do put a "friends of" portion on your blog? Must give a shoutout to "Mondesi's House" on a more permanent basis. Funny stuff over there. And it's (mostly) only funny because it's true.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ike Taylor schedule to appear today...

...on a special broadcast of "Steeltown Sports: Live!"

Folks in the Pittsburgh market can tune into 590AM, WMBS in Uniontown at approximately 5:10PM Eastern.

For those outside, the listening area, you can listen online by:

opening your Windows Media player and input this URL:

or, in RealPlayer:

If you listen online, there is approximately a 2 minute delay through the buffer.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Another Bucco Rally Falls a Run Short

So, who do you blame? Do you blame the pitching staff for giving the Tigers nine runs, or do you blame the Pirate offense for wetting themselves in the 7th and 9th innings with the tying run both times standing at third (and the go-ahead/winning run also on)?

Or do you take the road less travelled and say: "If the Tigers score only five runs in that game, the Pirates would have found a way to stay at four"?

The Bucs are now 8-24 in 1-run games. Of the 24 losses, seven of them featured the Pirates in a hole of four runs or more at some point in the game. Figuring if the Pirates rallies fell one more run short, their overall record would be the same, but the slim-margin losses would be slightly less depressing to look at.

In other thoughts:

What the hell is wrong with people? You'd think that they'd rather have no team at all rather than one who perennially sucks. This applies to both the Pirates and the Penguins.

Wake up. 'tis better to have a team that does not contend than to root for the Yankees.

The Penguins are finally in a system that features a salary cap. This means, with a competent front office, it's likely that in just a year's time, the Penguins may not actually be eliminated from the post-season early.

Unfortunately, baseball is making too much money right now to have any true incentive to change.

Sure. I want the Nutting Syndicate to sell the team, but only with the stipulation that the club 100% stays in Pittsburgh.

This isn't difficult.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Pirates pound Tigers, 9-2

Six of the Pirates' nine runs are unearned. Looking at it mathematically, they still win the game 3-2, but really, if they only get one run in the bottom of the 7th, do they hold the lead?

Well, anyway, the Pirates essentially "rout" the Tigers, though Detroit's errors on three consecutive plays is what ultimately killed them.

In my observations, a big Pirate win is usually followed by a big Pirate loss.

Ian Snell vs. Zach Miner. Miner has a 2.59 ERA in 5 career starts, including a complete game in his 2nd start against Milwaukee.

Snell has got to have the stuff he had in San Francisco and Colorado to go deep in the game and keep the Tigers to three runs or less, and Jason Bay has got to start producing again.


The Beginning

Good day, and thanks for checking in!

I'm Steeltown Mike - radio personality for WMBS radio in Uniontown, PA (590 AM on your dial), rabid Pittsburgh sports fan (sports in general, actually), podcaster, occasional contributer to, and very tired.

I've been inspired lately to start a blog after seeing some wonderful work out there, both on and other hosted sites with regards to Pittsburgh sports. And, considering my busy schedule, I find this to be an excellent way to throw out my thoughts on the little things that may not be worth mentioning in a podcast or broadcast.

If you're a blogger or podcaster and would like me to plug your blog/cast here on my page, just e-mail me at the address below this blog's banner.

Comments are not only welcome, they are virtually required.

Let the innanity begin.