I’ve learned to like the sound of my own voice.

March 4, 2013

I’m sure there were times when some of you who are old enough to remember answering machines had the awful experience of hearing your voice for the first time.  Everyone’s responses to this even are pretty much the same: “That’s what I sound like?  I sound awful.”

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve started a website with some of my close friends with whom I spent time coaching baseball with over the past few years.  Throughout our discussions it was obvious how much we all shared a passion for baseball, so when I brought the idea up to them about starting a website that covers baseball in the tri-state area, their responses were both an immediate yes. (And my one friend Jason who joined in on the venture had said that he had been thinking about a similar idea himself.)

One branch of our coverage that we’re going to provide is going to be a podcast that, as of now, we’re producing weekly.  The first time I put on a pair of headphones and sat down to talk into the microphone, I was stunned to hear my own voice.  And then I was mildly annoyed by it.

However, over the last few weeks as I’ve gotten better with the podcasting thing, I’ve learned to enjoy my voice a little more. I’m excited to continue to work on developing unique baseball commentary and coverage throughout 2013.
And hopefully I won’t hate the sound of my own voice by the end of it.


Tri-State of Mind Baseball

February 18, 2013

I’ve finally found a way to blend my enjoyment from writing with my unnatural obsession with baseball.  Along with two close friends who live in the area, we founded Tri-State of Mind Baseball, a website which is going to cover and emphasize coverage of baseball in the Ohio-Pennsylvania-New York area.

Baseball coverage Ohio-Pennsylvania-New York

Bringing you the best of baseball in the Tri-State Area!

Not only are the Pirates, Indians, and Reds Major League Baseball teams in the area, but there are also dozens of minor league teams in the area as well.  If you visit tsmbaseball.com, you can see a list of Major League Teams as well as some minor league affiliates in the area in one of the menus on the right.

We’ve also started recording weekly podcasts, discussing topical news with baseball in the region, pop culture in baseball, and in our second episode, we even featured a musical guest from the area, Tyler James.

Overall, this has been a great venture.  You learn a lot about yourself when you put yourself out there like this.  I think it’s needless to say I’m probably going to focus a lot of my writing and creativity over at tsmbaseball, but it’ll be nice to have this as a creative outlet for when I want to write about something not baseball related.

So if you have some time and are interested in baseball, it’s definitely worth stopping by!  Hope to hear from you soon.


Ever wonder what it was like to be a top Pittsburgh Pirates prospect?

October 16, 2010

And, let’s be honest, who hasn’t?

If you’re at all curious about the day-to-day lifestyle of a professional ballplayer, Pirates’ catching prospect Tony Sanchez will be blogging about his experience in the Arizona Fall League this year.  Sanchez fell victim to a shattered jaw this summer and missed a huge chunk of the minor league season.  Now that he’s back in action, he also gets one of those sweet helmets with a facemask.  The kind the dorky kids had to wear in Little League because they were scared about getting whacked in the face.

"Make sure you clean off your classes and put in your mouthguard before you go up to bat, Reuben."

Sanchez has yet to be jaded by his baseball experience in Pittsburgh, and it’s refreshing to hear him speaking so positively about the farm system.

Our staff is full of guys with power fastballs and wipe out sliders, not any arms on this team throwing anything less then low 90’s, which is always impressive.

Of course, he probably has yet to meet Daniel Moskos, Brad Lincoln, Paul Mahalom, or the rest of our stable of busted first round pitching prospects.  Who knows.  Maybe he’s an undying optimist.

If you want to follow Tony Sanchez and his blogging experiment this fall, follow this link to his official MLB Blog.  It’ll definitely be worth a gander.


Joe Kerrigan, you’re fired.

August 9, 2010

In a stunning move that will probably cripple the Pittsburgh Pirates into 18 years of futility, both pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and bench coach Gary Varsho were relieved of their respective duties on August 8th.  The decision was made by manager John Russel, who deftly looked to deflect blame after signing a contract extension in the offseason.

One thing is for certain: the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching staff has been horrible.  As it stands, Pittsburgh’s team ERA is at 5.08, second worst in the league behind Arizona.  The Pirates are also second worst in team batting average against (.283) and dead last in quality starts (47).  I have a feeling, however, that all of that blame can’t rest on Kerrigan’s shoulders as his starting rotation consisted of the likes of team ‘ace’ Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Ross Olendorf, Jeff Karstens, and a revolving door 5th spot, currently occupied by James McDonald.

In related news, Pittsburgh claimed 37 year old Chan Ho Park off of waivers.  The righty is currently 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA over 35 1/3 innings this season.  Despite those numbers, it must be reassuring for Pittsburgh to know that if there is a bench-clearing brawl, Park can defend the honor of his team with a viscous scissor kick.

And somewhere, Joe Kerrigan says, ‘I guess it could have been worse.’


Lower the Jolly Roger. The ship is sinking.

July 23, 2010

“I knew we were in for a long season when we lined up for the National Anthem on opening day and one of my players said, ‘Every time I hear that song, I have a bad game.'” – Jim Leyland

Ahoy, mateys! Take a fun-filled journey through years a futility with me! Let’s see what treasures we can unlock in Davy Jones’ locker. Arrrrrgh!

As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan in my mid-twenties, I’ve been witness to some of the most mismanaged finances, contracts, and ballplayers in the history of baseball.  I’m going to take a trip down Memory Lane and look at some of my favorite Pittsburgh Pirate players and contracts over the last 20 years.  Other than the fact I think they’re the worst five contracts Pittsburgh has ever committed to, these players are in no particular order.  So settle down in your most comfortable chair and let’s take this journey from Family to Futility together.

5. Matt Morris (2007 – 2008)

Thank you for choosing to ruin your career in Pittsburgh. Enjoy your 13 million dollars in retirement.

Pittsburgh had the pleasure of employing Matt Morris after we dealt then minor leaguers Rajai Davis and Stephen MacFarland to San Francisco in July of 2007.

“Matt brings a veteran presence and durability to our rotation that should complement our current group of young starters,” Pirates general manager David Littlefield said about Morris.   If his plan was to make Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitching worse than it was, Mission: Accomplished.

The Matt Morris Project stemmed from Littlefield having some extra money to spend during the 2007 season.  The general sentiment around baseball was that super catching prospect Matt Wieters was going to be a Pittsburgh Pirate after the 2007 draft, as the buzz around him was pretty positive.  Littlefield’s inability to work and play well with Wieters’s agent Scott Boras and a philosophy that spending money on unproven talent was a waste, however, led him to not spending money in the draft on Wieters.  Instead Pittsburgh drafted another first round pitcher (one of the many first round pitching busts in Pittsburgh), Danny Moskos.  These are a few of the decisions that led to Pittsburgh ending up with Matt Morris.

Choosing to spend money to bring in Morris to help anchor the Pirates’ rotation,  Morris was guaranteed $13.5 million over the remaining two years on his contract.  Of the teams interested in dealing with San Fransisco, Pittsburgh was the only team willing to suck up the remaining $3.4 million for 2007 as well as the approximately $10 million for 2008, which instantly made Matt Morris the highest paid player per season in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

During his tenure in Pittsburgh, Morris made 16 starts ($843,000 a start), compiled a record of 3-8, an ERA of 7.04 over 84.1 innings ($160,000 an inning).  He struck out 38 batters ($355,000 per strike out) and compiled a cringe-inducing WHIP of 1.75.  During his 16 starts in Pittsburgh, Morris raised his career ERA from 3.83 over 291 major league games, to 3.98 over 307.

Pittsburgh eventually cut ties with Matt Morris because of how terrible he was, which resulted in his retirement.  Needless to say, however, retirement at 33 probably didn’t seem so bad an option after those 16 games.

4. Jeromy Burnitz (2006)

A picture of Jeromy Burnitz that looks like it belongs on the Megan’s Law website.

In 2006 Pittsburgh signed 37 year old journeyman Jeromy Burnitz to a $6 million contract.  My blood pressure just spiked typing that.

Burnitz managed only 313 at bats for the Pirates that season, but somehow still managed to finish tied with Jose Bautista for second on the team in home runs with 16.  His .711 OPS finished behind the likes of single-smashing Sean Casey (.785), catcher Ronny Paulino (.754), and doubles machine Freddy Sanchez (.851).  He did beat out Joe Randa (.704), though.

He finished hitting .230 that season, which was low even by his already low standards (career .253 average).

Burnitz also had the nasty reputation for not hustling.  He was, however, appreciative to Dave Littlefield for paying him $20,000 per at bat.

3. Pat Meares (1999 – 2003)

A career on the decline signals full steam ahead for the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is why Pat Meares was such a great fit in the City of Bridges.  Signed as a 30 year old free agent for the 1999 season, Meares managed to hit .308 in 91 at bats before the DL hit him.  In management’s infinite wisdom, Pittsburgh signed Pat Meares to a 4 year, $15 million extension after that 91 at bat year.

His career as a Pirate was as follows:

823 AB, 17 HR, 79 RBI, .238 AVG, .647 OPS.  Oh, and he hit into 23 double plays as well.

He did also manage to steal one base, which meant that he was more successful at stealing bases (1-3) than he was at filing grievances against the Pirates (0-1) for supposedly keeping him on the DL while he was healthy.

Pat Meares did rock the mock turtleneck better than any other player on Pittsburgh’s roster.

2. Kevin Young (1992-1995, 1997-2003)

For years scouts referred to him as ‘the next Frank Thomas’.

Kevin Young is probably the most productive player on this list.  Unfortunately, that’s like saying you’re dating the hottest Hilton sister.  Not a lot to brag about.

My personal bias towards Kevin Young and how terrible I think he really was stems from watching him be the definition of ineptitude for a decade as a Pirates fan.  I watched him pop up to first basemen all season long at Three Rivers and then had the pleasure of him christening PNC Park with his anti-clutchness as well.  The fact that some scout dubbed him the ‘next Frank Thomas’ should make the Hall of Famer Frank Thomas throw up in his mouth.

From the time that Pittsburgh signed him to what was then the largest contract in team history in 2000 (4 years, $24 million.  Have you noticed a correlation between players who sign the largest contracts in our franchise history and productivity?), he did more damage than good in our lineup .  This was, of course, after both Pittsburgh and Kansas City had already cut him, which should be a pretty good indicator in and of itself that requisite baseball skills may be lacking.

All Kevin Young managed to do from 2000 until the end of his career in 2003 was have an average Rbat value of -9 (Rbat measures the number of runs better or worse than average a player is as a hitter).  I’m no sabermatician, but anything in the negatives in a counting sport like baseball probably isn’t good.

He did manage 1% of the vote for the National League MVP in 1997 though, so he had that going for him.

1. Derek Bell (2001-2002)

Quite possibly the greatest example of ineptitude in the history of professional sports, Derek Bell was handed a contract for 2 years and $10 million to help christen PNC Park in its inaugural year after posting pedestrian numbers his entire career.  Of course during the 90’s and early 2000’s, mediocrity was rewarded in Pittsburgh baseball, so Derek Bell seemed like a natural fit for the ball club as they transitioned into the new millennium.

The Crown Jewel of front office management in Pittsburgh.

In his first season in Pittsburgh, Bell managed to hit a mind numbing .173/5/13.  As a professional hitter, his batting average was lower than teammates Joe Beimel (.269), Jason Schmidt (.174), and Omar Olivares (.222), who were all professional pitchers.

It’s understandable after that performance, how one may think that Derek Bell’s job could have been in jeopardy going into the 2002 season.

Well, hopefully you didn’t tell Derek Bell that.

Not only did he feel that he belonged on a Major League roster after that disaster of a year in 2001, but he also felt that he should be a starting outfielder.  When questioned about his job security in spring training of 2002 and how he may have to compete for a job in the outfield, Derek Bell then went on what became my favorite rant in the history of professional sports:

“Nobody told me I was in competition. If there is competition, somebody better let me know.  If there is competition, they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they’re going to do with me.  I ain’t never hit in spring training and I never will.  If it ain’t settled with me out there, then they can trade me.  I ain’t going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job.  If it is [a competition], then I’m going into ‘Operation Shutdown.’  Tell them exactly what I said.  I haven’t competed for a job since 1991.”

After Operation: Shutdown, Pittsburgh cut ties with Bell during spring training of 2002.  Bell sailed off into the sunset on his houseboat with $4.5 million and a well documented, well developed a crack habit.

A true Pirate in every sense of the word.

Honorable Mentions

$7.75 million for Matt Lawton?  Seriously?  The only player in baseball history whose performance was negatively enhanced by performance enhancing drugs.  I hope that .273/10/44 was worth it, you ass clowns.

Akinori Iwamura, currently Pittsburgh’s highest paid player at $4.85 million, was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Jason Kendall.  6 years, $60 million.  Pittsburgh needed a face for their franchise.  His face was not the right one.  A terrible attitude in the clubhouse and the most expensive singles hitting machine in the history of baseball.

Jose Hernandez had a couple tours of duty in Pittsburgh.  He was paid per strikeout.  Which isn’t good, because he’s a hitter.

Pittsburgh was about a decade too late on Benito Santiago.

Raul Mondesi, you clever little minx.  Raul figured out how to get released by the Pirates, get signed by a contender, and get a raise in the process.  Another true Pirate, through and through.


Neil Walker’s roommates.

July 23, 2010

Neil Walker has some pretty cool roommates.  They do his laundry, take care of his dog Brisby, and cook him omelets.  That’s because his roommates are his parents.

I think they already made a biopic about Neil Walker

His mom isn’t sold that Neil loves living at home as much as he leads everyone to believe.  As long as she keeps up with the omelets and not caring how many groupies he brings home, I don’t see what’s not to like about that living situation.


On Pedro Alvarez

June 18, 2010

I know professional athletes are incredibly rich, and thus they can afford to be more eccentric than the average man.  Like Ron Artest.  I’m strangely intrigued by the man.  He scares the bejeezus out of me.  I feel like he’s a Vietnamese landmine waiting to explode.  But if you watched his interview after Game 7 last night, I think you can understand why I find the man so interesting.  People can’t behave like him in real life, which is part of the appeal of him, I suppose.  I enjoy seeing what he can get away with before someone says something to him.

I digress.  Anyways, that leads me to this question and I’m looking for a genuine answer for this one.  I was watching the Buccos on FSP the other day and we had a rookie make a big 0-fer splash that night.  As the game progressed, I noticed something very odd about this rookie, and not just his strike outs.  Disturbing, I’d dare say.  Does anyone know why (newly anointed) Pittsburgh Pirates savior, Pedro Alvarez, wears his hat like this:

Why is your hat sitting over-top of your ears?

Has anyone seen Pedro Alvarez’s ears?  I don’t want to make fun of the kid if his ears were mauled by a pack of vicious wolves when he was growing up, or if he lost the top of them in a tragic farming accident, or something along those lines.  Does he have mouse ears?  I need more information about this guy’s ears before I can decide how to approach this situation.  However, if it turns out that he wears his hat like that just because he’s a professional athlete and can afford the eccentricity, or he thinks it’s “cool”, or because he’s rich enough that he doesn’t care what people think, well I’m going to have to make fun of him for as long as he continues to wear his hat over his ears.

I keep thinking that this is the new “thing” that kids in baseball are going to be doing, and that thought makes me sick to my stomach.  I hope this is just a douchey, prima donna phase he’s going through and that when he realizes that he won’t be starting a new trend wearing his hat like that, he’ll eventually get one that fits his pumpkin properly.  Or I hope he has a medical reason he wears his hat like that.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, he does wear his hat like that during games as well.

People laugh at the Pirates enough as it is.  I’d prefer not to give them another good reason to laugh at us more.  I just want answers, damn it!  Does anyone have them for me?


Wall, meet forehead.

December 29, 2009

I’ve been a fan of Pittsburgh professional sports my whole life. Well over half of my life my uncle has had season tickets to the Steelers. Countless summer days have been spent driving to and from Three Rivers Stadium, PNC Park, Heinz Field and yes, even the Mellon Arena once. I will always be passionate about Pittsburgh sports because those are powerful moments that I vividly remember from my childhood: Chuck Noll retiring, Bill Cowher’s spittle, Lemiux and Jagr scoring 50 goals, Sid Bream trying to ruin my childhood and making me cry…. I could go on for hours.

Sadly for me as a Pittsburgh sports fan, my passion lies in baseball. “Why is this sad?” you ask. It’s sad because as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I’ve been subjected to 17 straight losing seasons (with an 18th all but guaranteed by our ownership at this point). Being passionate about a team that wins less than half of their games for 17 consecutive years is psychologically and emotionally exhausting. However, it has made me a much better fan of baseball overall.

I spend most of my summer watching what similar small market teams do that make them successful (like the Tampa Bay Rays), and then scrutinize the shit out of everything that the Pirates do that doesn’t make sense (which is pretty much everything). Baseball is a stock market-like game of numbers. You want to spend less money on a player, but by the end of the season you want their numbers to outproduce what you’re paying them. Then, you can either trade them before the Break or offer them arbitration, which they can accept or deny. If they deny arbitration, when someone else signs them, you receive a compensatory pick, which hopefully you can spin into a solid prospect at the tale-end of the early rounds (in other words, you want to buy low and then sell high).

Let me give you an example. Let’s choose a random player… oh, say… former Pirates outfielder Nate McLouth. (NOTE: This is actually not random. I’ve been in a days-long discussion about how we shot ourselves in the foot trading Nate) We drafted Nate McLouth in the 25th round of the 2000 MLB draft, which means there were a bajillion other ball players taken ahead of him who were all supposedly better and, as a result, made more money than Nate. Nate kicked around in the minors until 2005 when we called him up and by the mid-way point of 2007 he had become a full-time starter for us. Not bad for a guy taken in the 25th round, right?

Well, it gets better. In 2008, Nate was our All-Star representative and won the Gold Glove (the best defensive outfielder) all while hitting .276/26/94/113/23 (AVG/HR/RBI/R/SB). That’s a pretty dammed good season by all measures. Now Nate did all of that while only making $425,000 (sorry for those of you who don’t understand baseball economics, but that is a pittance in the big leagues). Now, after that season, Nate was so good that our organization decided to lock him into a 3 year deal (with a club option for year four) worth 15.75 million dollars. More expensive, yes, but certainly a bargain at an average of 5 million a season if he puts up those gaudy numbers year-in and year-out. Golly, Nate was so good, our new general manager had this to say about him after he locked him up for potentially four years:

“We agreed to the deal because we believe in Nate and believe we’re going to feel as strongly four years from now as we do today. We get cost certainty as we move forward. The player certainly gets the security of the money that’s coming his way. He can go out and relax and play and we can build around him.” -Neal Huntington, a total douche.

So 2009 rolls around and 168 at bats into the season, Nate was doing what he does (.257/11/31) when the Atlanta Braves came knocking at the door. The Braves outfield had been decimated by Andruw Jones and too many Big Macs, so they decided they needed some help to supplement things in their grassy knoll.

“Certainly Pittsburgh isn’t the place to come to look for outfielders. We only have Brandon Moss and Nyjer Morgan in the corners. Neither of those guys are the caliber of outfielders you need. And we just locked Nate up for four years. You mustn’t think we’d trade him,” Huntington must have said.

Actually, he must have said the exact opposite of something like that. So Neal Huntington, who just months prior had signed Nate McLouth to an extension and said that Pittsburgh was going to build around him (much like Tampa Bay did with Carl Crawford or Florida with Hanley Ramirez) and that he strongly believed he’d feel the same about Nate four years down the road traded him. It turns out he didn’t feel the same four months down the road.

And who did we pick up in that trade? Nobody. I would take the time to post the players and their average/below average stats in the minor leagues to show you how bad they are, but, as previously stated, I’m now emotionally and psychologically exhausted from wasting all of that effort explaining why Neal Huntington is a total douche. Suffice it to say, we made a terrible trade and Neal Huntington made a total ass out of himself. He certainly alienated himself from a lot of Pirates fans who were looking at him under a microscope prior to that because, well, we’ve have a lot of shitty general managers before him. Now it’s his turn on the chopping block.

Now, over at jeffpearlman.com I’ve been making this same point, and I have been using actual data to show why the Nate McLouth (and other trades) are actually not good trades… and people are arguing with me about it. I actually have numbers that show them that what we’re doing as a franchise isn’t good and they STILL are arguing with me about it. God, I don’t know what’s more frustrating at this point: being a Pirates fan or being a Pirates fan and knowing that there are other Pirates fans out there that are so dumb that they think we’re doing good things right now.

Go check out my point and everyone else’s stupid counter points here while I go sit in the corner and think about the upcoming baseball season in Pittsburgh.

**EDITOR’S NOTE**
I couldn’t come to terms with not posting some of those stats that I was too emotionally drained to post on here. So here were some of my favorite ones:

PLAYER A

1084 AB
203 R
49 HR
57 SB
157 RBI
.286 AVG
.853 OPS
120 OPS+
144 K

PLAYER B

1094 AB
202 R
48 HR
52 SB
166 RBI
.263 AVG
.827 OPS
117 OPS+
199 K

Player A compiled those numbers over the last two seasons (2008-2009). Player B compiled those stats since he became a full time starter and before he was traded to a new team last season (2007-2009).

If you guessed that Player A is All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers, you would be correct. Player B is, SURPRISE, All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth, now of the Atlanta Braves.

Kinsler is in year three of his 5 year, 22 million dollar contract that maxes out in 2013 with a 10 million dollar club option or 500k dollar buyout.

McLouth is in year two of his 3 year, 15.75 million dollar contract that maxes out in 2012 with a 10.65 million dollar club option or 1.25 million dollar buyout.

I have yet to hear one person say that Ian Kinsler, perennially ranked in the top 30 of baseball’s 50 greatest players, is overpaid. And he’s been on the disabled list numerous times since his rookie year. I don’t wanna knock on the guy’s misfortune, but, I’m just sayin’.

So here’s what I want you to do if you doubt the statistical value of Nate McLouth and how much we undercut ourselves when we traded him: go to any knowledgeable baseball fan that you know. Ask that fan, “If your favorite team was presented the option, would you want to add Ian Kinsler to your roster tomorrow?” Keep track of how many say yes.

When you look at Nate McLouth’s last 1094 at bats in Pittsburgh, the only players who have put up comparable numbers over their last 1000 or so at bats are Kinsler and Curtis Granderson. When you factor in stolen bases, McLouth beats out Granderson by twenty (and Granderson strikes out a significant amount more).

Honestly, maybe it’s the curse of anonymity in the market he’s played in so far that’s kept Nate so far under the radar. Maybe it’s the position scarcity of Kinsler playing second base versus Nate playing in the over-saturated, power-happy outfield. Whatever the case, if you ask every GM in baseball if they would want Ian Kinsler on their roster, not-a-one is going to tell you no. I’m not sure how many GMs, outside of Frank Wren, really understand statistically what Nate McLouth has to offer a Major League team.


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