I will start this entry off by saying that I missed this event so much last year after participating in 2009 and 2010. Despite the high cost, Bowling With the Bucs benefits various charities and is worth every penny. Why don’t I let this pictures do the talking, and then I will come back with comments.
All in all Bowling With the Bucs 2012 was great. It was worth every penny which is hard to do since I paid $137.50. I would recommend this event but not if you just want to bowl. I only bowled two games, so if you are going to meet/interact with players and fans and are willing to help out charity, then this event is for you. This event offers more access to the players than a PirateFest does. This also offers you access to almost all of the team, something you may get with only a couple or so players as a season ticket holder.
The Pirates off the top of my head that were not present were hitting coach Gregg Ritchie, pitchers A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, catchers Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry and outfielders Yamaico Navarro and Jose Tabata.
Root Sports here in Pittsburgh will have a special for Bowling With the Bucs this coming Thursday at 6 PM Eastern Time. I know I said a couple of small things on there and filmed a less than stellar shot of mine so there is a chance I will make it on.
Finally, a couple of buddies and fellow season ticket holders sit in section 134 of PNC Park and write a blog. They interviewed me in a blog post entitled ‘Bowling with the Bucs’ a Success for Weiss, Fans.
Here is the link to a post, which includes more info on Kevin Correia’s home run guarantee, my charity iniative and how to follow me on various social media networks:
Just to reiterate from my last entry, I apologize for a mistake that I made in my centerfield entrance. I forgot to mention the strong possibility of Jose Tabata shifting from left field to center as it happened a few times last season. It appears to be the most likely option should Andrew McCutchen get injured.
Moving back to right field, here is the projected depth chart:
1. Garrett Jones
2. Matt Diaz
3. Ryan Doumit
Garrett Jones goes by many nicknames, G.I. Jones., The Legend, G(arrett) F(reaking) J(ones) (of Extra Innings With Rocco DeMaro fame) or even his preferred nickname of Bam Bam. He first got his chance with the Pirates when the team traded away Eric Hinske. He made the 2010 Opening Day Roster and on that Opening Day he homered in each of his first two at-bats, and then homered the next game as well. Jones finished the 2010 season hitting a lowly .247 with 34 doubles, a triple, 21 home runs, 86 runs batted in, 53 walks and 123 strikeouts.
I have talked in previous posts Jones moving to the outfield is beneficial to the team defensively but it helps offensively as well. Jones does not hit lefties well but seems to do a good job against righties.
Enter Matt Diaz. I have profiled Diaz in previous entries as well, and he is the opposite of Jones, as he does hit lefties well, meaning all signs will point to a platoon situation. Diaz could have signed for much more successful teams including the New York Yankees and had more money in salary and in performance and playoff money (and a World Series ring if he was lucky). Diaz signed with Pittsburgh for three reasons.
Money was obviously not a factor in his decision but the first was approaching former Pirates and current Atlanta Brave Nate McLouth. McLouth was very well liked by fans, and trading him upset many myself included. Having interviewed McLouth, I can say that he was a down to earth man and a great interview. McLouth gave Pittsburgh a good review which helped Diaz and his thought process.
Another factor for Diaz had to be the playing time. Sure Diaz would have received much more money playing for New York or a higher market team, but he would have had to fight for a roster spot that would not be guaranteed, and even if he made it be forced to ride the bench the majority of the time. In Pittsburgh, Diaz is in a platoon scenario and he can play both the outfield and first base, making himself extremely valuable to the Pirates organization.
The final factor for Diaz was Clint Hurdle. Diaz mentioned when he spoke with Pittsburgh Media that he thought very highly of Hurdle, and when he heard that Hurdle would be the Pirates manager, that that would be a big plus for the team.
I have discussed all kinds of other options in previous blog entries for the right field position so here is a run down.
Ryan Doumit essentially is the third string outfielder, unless he actually does get traded. As I have written in the earlier catcher and first base previews, the Pirates have seemingly made all of these signings in an attempt to show Doumit the door. He has a huge salary (in Pirates terms) and the Pirates don’t really have any where to put him besides the bench. In a sense this is much like when the Pirates sent Ian Snell to AAA, however unlike Snell, Doumit does not lack accountability. For the past two years on FSN, you have heard the commercial in which Doumit says that “you will be in a dog fight” in reference to playing the Pirates. Doumit is likely on the bench come April as he still can play multiple positions, though not really that well.
Just so I don’t make the mistake again, it is not insane to think that Jose Tabata could move from left to right field. It is an option and right fielders at PNC Park have had trouble fielding the balls that bounce off the Clemente Wall. Perhaps Tabata bucks that trend.
Another option is John Bowker. Bowker did see some significant time in right field as a September call-up, and he did a respectable job at the position. Bowker could turn some heads this season.
As I wrote in yesterday’s entry, Alex Presley is also a possibility.
Lastly, I will throw out the name Gorkys Hernandez. He was a part of the unpopular Nate McLouth trade and will be a big part of future Pirates teams. He did get injured for a good chunk of last season though. Last season, Hernandez played in 92 games hitting .266 with 11 doubles, 4 triples, 2 homers, 26 runs batted in, 17 stolen bases and 95 strikeouts for AA Altoona. For Hernandez it has been a long road, and that road will continue for at least another season, but he definitely will be one to keep an eye (or two) on.
With that being said here are my projected Opening Day depth charts with the first being with Ryan Doumit and the second being without Doumit:
1. Garrett (insert nickname of your choice here) Jones
2. Matt Diaz
3. Ryan Doumit
4. John Bowker
5. Alex Presley
1. Garrett (insert nickname of your choice here) Jones
2. Matt Diaz
3. John Bowker
4. Alex Presley
Nothing changes in either of these, although if Doumit gets traded, it will be interesting to see what happens to the team.
Tomorrow will be my first of two entries on pitching. It will focus on starters. The Pirates have a ton of starters, but what is my projected rotation? You will have to read tomorrow’s entry to find out.
As it stands now, here is the current centerfield depth chart:
1. Andrew McCutchen
2. John Bowker
3. Matt Diaz
We all know the Andrew McCutchen story and how he took over for Nate McLouth in centerfield. While McLouth did win a Gold Glove award, the criteria for the award is severly flawed and his range was not that great. McCutchen defensively is worth the price of admission, and a reason why I get centerfield seats as much as possible. He entertains the fans as a seemingly neverending human highlight real.
Another thing that sets McCutchen apart is his offense. The Pirates love speedsters in centerfield, and Chris Duffy, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth and others (obviously McCutchen) fit the bill. McCutchen goes against the grain however, because unlike many of these previous options, he has a bat to go along with the speed.
McCutchen also earned high praise from one of the best names in the game, Bobby Cox. “He’s an All-Star. This year, probably,” said Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. “Hitting. Running. Defense. Throwing. He’s got it all. He catches the ball like Andruw Jones did when he was 19. You can’t hit a ball [past him] out there. He’s got lightning in that bat too.”
The year started off slowly for McCutchen, however he slowly recovered and raised his batting average over .300. Both McCutchen and Garrett Jones had career days on May 14 vs the Chicago Cubs. The teammates were the first to both go 5 for 5 since Willie Stargell and Bob Robertson in 1970. “I guess we were just kind of competing against each other,” McCutchen said, laughing. “I don’t know. I’d get a hit, he’d get a hit. He’d hit a homer, I’d hit a homer.”
The biggest surprise of the year was that “Cutch” was not named to the All-Star game. McCutchen was the most qualified of the Pirates to be named so it came as a little bit of a surprise to some fans that he wasn’t named to the team, but the Pirates usually only get one player on the team each year and Evan Meek made more sense as he was a solid reliever all season with a sub-one ERA for quite a bit of the time before the All-Star Game.
McCutchen had a rough August hitting .226 but hit .326 after that. On his batting during these times, McCutchen stayed true to himself. “Honestly, I don’t think I’m doing anything any different right now. You swing, and the ball finds a hole. That’s it. That’s the game of baseball.”
His second season with Pittsburgh was not a sophomore slump, as he hit .286 while hitting 16 home runs, batting in 56 runs and he also stole 33 bases.
McCutchen is clearly the team’s starter in centerfield for this year, and for seasons to come. McCutchen did get a little banged up last season though so that could be a cause for concern.
If Cutch does get injured, I have discussed a lot of the previous options in Matt Diaz, John Bowker, Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins. It is worth noting that Steve Pearce played the outfield as well for the Pirates, so there is a chance that he could play the position as well.
One guy I have not talked about is Alex Presley. Presley was drafted in the 8th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He was promoted to the Majors on September 7, 2010 and is a current member of the 40 man roster. Presley played in 19 games and got 23 at bats with 6 hits for an average of .273. He struck out five times and stole one base (and was caught stealing once as well). He often pinch hit for the pitcher during his time, and also would play the outfield in games where the outcome was essentially decided. He did start a few games due to injury or to give guys a day off, but he did not homer or drive in any runs. Presley was named a Minor Leaguer of the Year in the Pirates’ system. Presley would be able to play any of the three outfield positions which helps his chances, but it is likely that the Pirates want to see more of Presley in the Minors so that they can see what he has to offer, and plus he will get more at-bats that way as well.
Here is what I see as the likely depth chart for the outfield:
1. Andrew McCutchen
2. John Bowker
3. Matt Diaz
4. Alex Presley
It is likely that neither Fields nor Atkins could play the centerfield position and Diaz is more suitable for corner outfield position and Bowker has much more power than Presley.
Tomorrow I will blog about the platoon scenario in right field. All signs point to Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz in a platoon but Ryan Doumit is waiting in the wings.
The Pirates next move was to sign Matt Diaz (pronounced Die-as). The following is his Wikipedia biography:
“Diaz attended Florida State University and as a two-year starter led the team to two College World Series appearances including the 1999 title game. In 1998, Diaz was named man of the year by Sporting News.
In 1999 Diaz was drafted by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 17th round. In the Minors, Diaz excelled, but struggled in the Majors hitting .167 in 30 at bats in his two years with the team. He was released by the team and then signed by the Kansas City Royals, where he hit .281 with 1 home run, 10 extra base hits and 12 runs batted in during a 2005 reserve role.
On December 19, 2005 Diaz was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Minor League pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez. Diaz earned a backup outfielder spot for the Braves during Spring Training. Appearing in 124 games, including many starting assignments in the second half of the season, Diaz batted .327 in 297 at-bats. On August 14, 2006, Diaz had four hits for the second straight day and tied the National League record with 10 straight hits. He grounded out in the ninth inning to end the streak.
Diaz had his first career two-homer game on August 29, 2007 against the Florida Marlins. On September 5, he hit a three-run walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves a 9-8 win. Diaz finished the season with a career high .338 batting average in 124 games.”
Diaz has career numbers of .302 with 41 home runs and 186 runs batted in.
Diaz provides the Pirates with a much needed right handed bat with some power, as the team has a ton of lefties in the line-up. What struck me was that Diaz turned down deal which involved more money and a much better chance at winning to sign the 2 years and $4.25 million with the Pirates so he could play more and also play for Clint Hurdle, a man that he really respects.
“The more I talked with Rangers players, they started singing [Pirates manager and former Rangers hitting coach] Clint Hurdle’s praises,” Diaz said in regard to Hurdle. “Everyone was talking great about Clint.”
Diaz also was on the 2010 Atlanta Braves which rallied for Manager Bobby Cox in what proved to be his last season, so Diaz will be a great influence in the locker room, as he can bring passion as well as a true winning experience to the young Pirates.
Unlike other free agent deals in the past, the Pirates signed Diaz to a second year which struck me as quite interesting, but Diaz explained why he wanted a second year.
“I said, ‘I would love to come in and help the young guys out as much as I can. But in 2012, I don’t want to be doing this all over again while you are having the time of your life,'” Diaz said. “We can have some fun in 2011 and really surprise some people with the plan they have in place. But I think 2012 can be special.”
Diaz initially did select Pittsburgh because he would get at-bats, however former Pirate Nate McLouth probably was able to tell him about being on the Pirates.
“Originally I viewed Pittsburgh as a place to go get at-bats and prove that I’m healthy,” Diaz said. “The more I talked to them, the more I realized that I could get at-bats and be a part of something really great. It was just a comfort thing, just a peace thing.”
Diaz is likely to platoon in right field with the left-handed Garrett Jones as both complement each other as one will hit against righties and one against lefties. This means that both players can be well-rested and even give Lyle Overbay a day off at first base if needed. Overall this deal is a pretty solid one for the Pirates.
Zac’s Grade: A–
Well the Pirates made some moves that had to be made one way or another by releasing these three.
With Duke, I remember the Opening Day 2009 start. It was his best outing in a Pirate uniform and he was really becoming a good pitcher until Joe Kerrigan messed up a good thing. Duke was great with the community as evidenc…ed with his Bowling With the Bucs event this past season. Duke leaving leaves Maholm and Doumit as the only two holdovers from the earlier rosters. I interviewed Duke during the 2009 season and he was very honest, candid and even funny during our brief time together. My other interviews were with Nate McLouth and Matt Capps, so obviously Duke was the last one standing. When I gave Duke a transcript of the interview during Bowling With the Bucs 2009, he quickly remembered me. I will always remember that and how nice he was to me.
While the Duke cut put a lot of money off of the table, the Andy LaRoche cut had to be the most painful for the Pirates. LaRoche was the main part of the Jason Bay trade. With Brandon Moss now on the Phillies, the release of LaRoche finally shows that management officially agreed with the public that the trade was a failed one. It probably took a lot for management to have to do that, and that makes me respect them. LaRoche had a lot of pressure as Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez were both ready to take his spot. Walker had a fast start to the season in Triple-A and Alvarez was showing the team his power as well. LaRoche had a couple of good weeks early in the season, however faded fairly fast after that. The team tried to move LaRoche to second base and first base, but it never worked out. LaRoche was a big part of the community as well winning the Pirates Roberto Clemente Award. I was frequently at PNC Park during LaRoche’s time with the Pirates, and almost every game he would sign autographs for fans. I first met him on the final game of the 2009 season when we were allowed to take pictures with the players. Our camera was out of memory and thus we had to boost it up, LaRoche was very patient about the entire situation. He may not be missed for his accomplishments on the field but he was a champion off of the field.
Delwyn Young was a big part of the teams’ bench over the past two seasons. He would play third base, second base and the outfield, making him a very useful option. His glovework at third base was not pretty, but it would be expected as he was trying to learn a new position. Under Perry Hill in 2009, Young tried his hand at second base and did a decent job, however he was a bit slow in terms of turning the double play. His outfield work was average at best as well, and he was not the fastest of runners and had trouble dealing with the right field of PNC Park. Young hit the first home run off of Stephen Strasburg. He also hit a bottom of the ninth game tying home run against San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson with two strikes and two outs. Young’s bat was great, however the team cut him, as he just was not getting the job done. He also did a great job in the community.
I decided to go to this game and upon walking up to the line, I saw the longest line I have ever seen. It was an alumni autograph day and tons of people were there for autographs.
I quickly cut through the line and joined Nick in the front. No one raised a stink about it, and I was glad as I did not want to start a fight with anybody.
I was coming off of my two best games and I knew that today was going to be hard. My “best friend” the sun was out and there was a lot of uncertainty between Nick and myself and we both were excited yet anxious.
We both worried that we would get in and have a shut gate or that only one team would take batting practice. Just as we were talking about facing only each other as competition, Jim Saylor showed up and we all had a conversation.
With that the gates opened and I ran ahead of both of them. I searched for easter eggs as batting practice had just started, however I was unable to find anything.
I endured a slow start as not many home runs were hit. I just missed getting a Chris Snyder home run and Nick had a couple balls at this point. Jim got a Ross Ohlendorf toss up.
I was frustrated as nothing was coming up and Evan Meek wasn’t tossing anything up.
It wasn’t until the final group of the day that I got something. It was from an unlikely source, as I finally snagged a Lastings Milledge home run for ball number 1 on the day.
I almost had ball number 2 off the bat of Jose Tabata but a kid made a great catch and it was the first of many bad breaks on the day.
That would be all for the Pirates and their batting practice. Both Nick and I noticed that the Braves were getting set for BP and we both rejoiced. We quickly reminded each other of the challenge we had set for each other.
In previous trips to PNC Park the Braves have not really thrown any toss ups up to fans during BP. We decided to see who could get more toss ups from the Braves.
Things started off funky as Eric Hinske, a former Pirate was throwing balls to kids but Nick and I couldn’t get our hands on them.
I moved to right field as I saw some action out there. Unfortunately once I got there, I got nothing. Jason Heyward wasn’t hitting anything out and because of this and some toss ups, I moved to center field.
Not much action occurred there and batting practice was dead for quite a while.
The lone Braves hitter that was consistently hitting baseballs out was surprisingly Melky Cabrera.
I took an early lead on Nick in the Braves toss ups as I actually got Mike Minor to toss me ball number 2. It was a lead that I was able to hold and I won the Braves toss up game.
This game in particular was the most frustrating game of my life. I’ll recap this part the short way.
Failed toss up #1: Cutch toss up in my direction. Gloveless woman screams “it’s mine”, drops it and drops a couple feet from her.
Failed toss up # 2: McLouth toss up in my direction. A little short.
Failed toss up # 3: McLouth toss up in my direction. Gloveless hand comes up at last second. Ball is lost.
Failed toss up #4: McLouth toss up. Right section, wrong direction.
Failed toss up # 5: Cutch toss up. Under thrown and batted around.
Failed toss up # 6: McLouth toss up. Wrong section
Failed toss up # 7: McLouth toss up. Just short and gloveless woman bobbles ball again and it short hops me.
Failed toss up # 8: Cutch toss up. Ball is coming right at me, but under thrown and a random gloveless hand comes up at the last second. I throw my glove down in frustration and cuss.
Failed toss up # 9- I lost count: Ok I give up, you get the idea.
This was my last game of the homestand, and my next game is Friday the 17th vs the Arizona Diamondbacks.
This game was an absolutely frustrating one. I went to this game with my best friend Colston, and we got pretty close to the front of the line.
I called the Pirates and they said that BP would still be on but in line I noticed that that wasn’t the case. I went in and checked in with season tickets and entered the bleachers.
Things were looking good early as despite no BP Kenshin Kawakami was warming up in the bullpen. With my red Under Armour on, it looked as if I would get on the board early. However, Erik came up and although I knew how to ask for the ball in Japanese, Erik ended up with the ball. However I had to act fast, and sure enough I ran over to the left field bleachers right by the bullpen and asked Bullpen Coach Eddie Perez for a ball.
Perez then said that he had no baseball, but asked if I wanted the rosin bag, knowing that he was joking around, I played along and said sure. Perez then threw the bag halfway up and the dirt spread. We both laughed, and then he reached into the bag for ball number 1. After this, Erik, Colston and I went upstairs and tried to get more baseballs.
With no one throwing, I decided to go for autographs and started out with an autograph from Cristhian Martinez.
While waiting for them to throw, Jesse Chavez and Billy Wagner came out and started to sign. I made sure to thank Chavez and when Wagner signed I told him that if this was his final season than congratulations on a great career. Later on, I got a picture with Wagner, and this was the result.
I was unable to get any of the warmup balls from the Braves and my next attempt at an autograph was all for not as Tommy Hanson ignored all of us.
He threw a baseball with coach Alan Butts and Peter Moylan threw around with Eric O’Flaherty and then it started to rain and again I came up empty handed.
I then went into the Hall of Fame Club and soon after back into my seat.
Then came the long rain delay. This was a very good thing as Erik and Jim were nowhere to be seen and Nick was in Cleveland.
When the game resumed, I had a clear advantage with trying to get an Andrew McCutchen toss up. Unfortunately I think he recognized me.
Nate McLouth also tossed up baseballs but never threw it into my section.
The bullpen was also crowded and we left around 11 and despite my clear advantage ended up with only one ball and three signatures. What a disappointment. I am unsure of when my next game is, but it is not until next month.