Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.
First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.
Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.
Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.
Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220’s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.
Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.
Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.
Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.
Pitcher with the most to prove:
1. Ross Ohlendorf- Ohlendorf is a great guy, but he only had one win last year. He pitched quite well last season but never received any run support. This year he got a huge raise in $2.1 million and he will have to pitch well and stay healthy.
2. Kevin Correia- Correia pitched himself out of the San Diego Padres rotation while they were in the middle of the playoff race. Correia pitched with a heavy heart as his brother passed away and this season will have to prove that the Pirates made a smart decision in signing him. Thus far, it has not looked like a great investment as he has looked overmatched in Spring Training, but only time will tell.
3. Charlie Morton- Morton is expected to be the team’s fifth starter, and if he pitches the way he did early last year, then the team will struggle mightily. Morton has shown that he has been capable of pitching well, bouncing back from an Andrew Jones home run earlier this week and then calming down to take down the Yankees. If Morton can control his emotions and his pitching, then it could very well inspire his teammates.
4. Joel Hanrahan- Hanrahan has emerged as the closer, but he has to prove to management that he can handle the job. He was traded from the Washington Nationals due to his inability to close games. He “shared” closing duties last year with Evan Meek, although he closed almost all of the games. He blew a few games and thus I am concerned that he cannot finish the job.
Winner: Charlie Morton
Morton showed a lot of promise as a September call-up and even further by his willingness to go to the Dominican Winter League to work on his makeup. I think this season could be the season Pirates management expected from Morton in 2009 but if he does not succeed, then the Pirates may lose their patience with him.
Hitter with the most to prove:
1. Matt Diaz- Diaz was signed during the off-season and will be splitting time in right field with Garrett Jones. This experiment happened before when the Pirates got Lastings Milledge. Milledge like Diaz said the right things, but ultimately underachieved. At this very moment, Diaz is hitting .308 this Spring and will have to perform well.
2. Jose Tabata- Tabata came up and at least in my opinion underachieved. I expected so much and his playing of left field was not great and only had speed. This off-season he has clearly bulked up and hopefully will have a much better season. He is in the Pirates future plans, but this season could be an indicator to how he does offensively.
3. Pedro Alvarez- Alvarez was rumored to gain weight this off-season in what was considered the biggest no-big deal story of the Pirates off-season. Pedro is being compared to Adam Dunn and will need to rack up the home runs and have moments like that walk-off home run in Colorado. He a huge part to the Pirates offense so if he fails, so does this team.
4. Ronny Cedeno- Cedeno is an average defender and a below average hitter. He is hitting .217 this Spring and is only starting because there is no one who can replace him, although Pedro Ciriaco is having a nice spring. Cedeno needs to have a good season, or else there will not be any real reason to keep him in the lineup.
Winner: Matt Diaz
Cedeno is right up there but Diaz is going to be a big part of the offense especially since we could always use help hitting southpaws.
Finally here are my thoughts for 2011 season predictions.
Team MVP: Andrew McCutchen
Cutch is the best all-around player on this team and should put up similar numbers to last season.
Ryan Doumit will be released and not traded.
Paul Maholm will be traded to the New York Yankees and either Matt Diaz or Garrett Jones will be traded.
Pirates will have another winning April and will once again fall apart in May
Charlie Morton will have the most wins on the staff followed by Ross Ohlendorf, although no starter will have double digit wins
Jeff Karstens will somehow get back into the starting rotation
Brad Lincoln will come up to the big club and perform well
Rudy Owens will struggle when he comes up a la Brad Lincoln. He will be Brad Lincoln 2.0
Chris Snyder will continue the catching curse and he will get injured and Dusty Brown and Jason Jaramillo will platoon a la Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz from a couple seasons ago.
Pirates will steal bases left and right… and will largely be successful
Cutch will be the Pirates lone All-Star this season
It will be the Pirates hitting that sets them back as Ray Searage will do a good job as Pirates pitching coach
The Pirates will have a 42-39 record at home and thus will have road issues once again.
Earlier this week the arbitration case of Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf was heard. Ohlendorf wanted a salary of $2,025,000 and the Pirates wanted $1.4 million. Those values aren’t significantly far but they were far enough for a case to be heard.
The court ruled in favor of Ohlendorf and Ohlendorf will earn his desired salary of $2,025,000 for this, the 2011 season. Ohlendorf figures to be the number four starter for the season behind James McDonald, Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia.
For the Pirates their record is three wins and four losses in the arbitration process. Ohlendorf in his own words says that he has a good relationship with the Pirates front office, and this salary increase is a huge increase from his previous salary of $439,000.
This arbitration case was the first since Jack Wilson’s in 2004, when the court ruled in favor of Wilson.
Many people have argued that Ohlendorf does not deserve this raise as his record was 1-11 in 2010. While this may be true, that is not all that is taken into account. Ohlendorf was injured throughout the year and it affected his command, not to mention that all of his Pirates career is taken into account as well. Ohlendorf also pitched all kinds of quality starts and only racked up so many losses as he received no help from his team. Our offense seemed to always sputter when Ohlendorf made his starts, and our defense made all kinds of errors behind him. Ohlendorf also had an ERA of 4.07 which is right around Major League average.
Ohlendorf will have a much better year this season, and will put this behind him and go out and prove that he is better than what last year’s record shows.
Because the Pirates gave me two more free season ticket passes for PirateFest I decided that I would go to Sunday, the last day of PirateFest.
I went to Sunday’s event with my friend Andrew. He arrived at my house a little late and thus when we went into line it was a couple of minutes after one, when the gates opened. His brother went with him, and when we went back into line where the line went as far back as the Convention Center would allow and then wrapped around. The line did not move as quickly as Friday and it took about 10-15 minutes to get in.
We parted ways when we got inside and I immediately went back into the MVP Zone. I of course went to the autograph line fully expected to be surrounded by spoiled brats, as Sunday is usually kids day, but that was not the case, as I waited to get the signatures of Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf. Maholm apparently took the 28 off of his signature at PirateFest.
Something I forgot to mention in Friday’s entry was that I had a brief conversation with him when I got my picture taken at the FanFoto booth. The Pirates had a few players there periodically throughout PirateFest and I happened to stumble upon Paul. We took a photo and chatted. I wish I could have received the photo as Paul and I both had great smiles, but it was $25 for two pictures. I am not paying that much for two pictures regardless of the size. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have enough money with me, the price was nuts.
I ran into Val Kercher, my 10 pack representative two seasons ago. She was the one who first recommended me being a season ticket holder. We caught up a bit and then Ohlendorf overheard me saying that that past Tuesday was my birthday, and he said “Happy birthday” to me, rather loudly which was surprising.
I then left the area and went over to the PirateFest Stage where Evan Meek had just finished a game and he was coming down the steps. I had on my new black and yellow/gold Pirates shoes and I went right to him. Meek said an enthusiastic “Hey Zac! What’s up?” He then offered a handshake which I took. We took this opportunity to catch up as about 10-15 other people came up to him. People were asking him for autographs and pictures and he ignored them in favor of a three minute conversation with Meek.
We had a great conversation and he signed my PirateFest program before we parted ways. This is why Meek is my favorite Pirate, he is a great guy both on a off the field and I cannot say enough great things about me. Evan, if you are reading this, shoot me a text, I can’t wait to see you in April!
After our nice conversation, we parted ways with another handshake and he signed for those who had asked before leaving.
I then started to walk around and quickly my back problems resurfaced, but I ran into a ton of familiar faces again and we struck all kinds of conversations.
A couple of guys that I talked to a lot were Anup Sinha and Matt Weprich of ProScout Magazine. They had a special magazine on Pirates Prospects and rankings of them and it was an interesting read. I do not know much about the prospects, which is something I will get to do soon, but we had a few nice conversations between the two days I was present about all kinds of things and it was exciting. The booth was never really that crowded which was a shame because it would have been great to see them get more business, but they were great guys and it was great to interact with them.
I then went over to PirateFest field and caught the end of the Youth Clinic with Jeff Banister and Manager Clint Hurdle. I was just in time to see a kid ask Jeff Banister if he had any World Series rings. Banister kindly responded that he did not but showed the kid his minor league ring and let him hold it and pass it around. Hurdle then said that he had been to the World Series three times, once as a player, once as manager and once as a coach and he did not win in any of the three appearances. Hurdle then remarked that he heard somewhere that the “fourth time was a charm”, which drew some laughs from the crowd, which was mostly made up of parents and their children.
Hurdle and Banister then signed some autographs, and I went over to talk once again to Joe Klimcak and we caught up and talked some Pirates baseball and it was nice, because we never have had a conversation just involving Pirates baseball and we also seemed to be in agreement. At that point Hurdle came over as he was leaving for the day and he thanked Joe for everything and then he shook my hand last before departing through the curtain and leaving. I guess I can say that I left a lasting impression.
After that, Andrew and I caught up and walked around together. At that point Evan Meek was being interviewed by a radio station at the radio booth and after the interview was over, he signed some more autographs, and I introduced him to Andrew and his brother got Meek’s autograph.
After a couple more minutes, I split apart from them in favor of the MVP Zone, where Doug Drabek, a past Pirates hero whose son Kyle is a current Toronto Blue Jay and Jose Tabata were signing autographs.
While in line I saw ballhawk Erik Jabs, and exchanged hellos. I told him that I was going to talk to Tabata entirely in Spanish and checked with him to make sure I was saying a sentence right, which I was. Tabata was not talking to anyone and I figured that perhaps talking en espanol would break the ice.
After one last signature, it was my turn. I wish that I had brought my camera today, but unfortunately I did not. I started off my conversation with Tabata, and I was right as I talked entirely in Spanish, and I could barely hear him, but as expected he talked quite fast but we held a conversation for a minute or two and then I said thanked him and said good-bye. I then got Drabek’s autograph on a separate PirateFest program, thanked him and left.
I then ran into Danny a season ticket holder and Erik came into the conversation soon after. It was a nice 10-15 minute conversation and then we all parted ways.
The wait was a little while so I caught up to Andrew who did see a part of our conversation. Nothing special really happened but it was cool to walk around and hang out.
We then came to the West Penn pitching booth again which noticable looked worse for the wear as the top left part was not up and it was folded back because someone threw a hard pitch.
After that I saw that Andrew McCutchen was by himself in the MVP Zone and the line was backed up past the entrance. I decided to go for it and sure enough I parted ways with Andrew and got in line.
The wait was a little while, especially since my back was a mess. Still, I saw Matt Peaslee again and that made things better. We talked for a little bit and ultimately took a picture. Again please visit his blog, as it is a great blog about the Pirates. He also bought a Delwyn Young banner for $25 while at PirateFest. The banner is only one of two (Delwyn has the other) and are the banners that hang outside of PNC Park. Again please follow his blog at http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com.
When I got up front, I heard McCutchen mutter something but I just could not make anything out.
When I left I walked around a bit more and struck more conversation. I checked out some cards and some things that I never got to see on Friday such as the new batting practice jerseys.
I also passed the new promotions again and took note of those as well.
I finally decided that I had experienced enough standing and wanted to eat. I was around 3:30 and smack dab in the middle of Deal or No Deal where Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf were the bankers. You could tell that it was the end of PirateFest, because the offers soon became better than the grand prize.
Finally it was the time of the day that I was really looking for, as after the last game, the freebies were given away. Announcer Tim Nevrerett was giving away Parrot dolls, the Pirates people were tossing baseballs which I could not get even close to as I was on the other side. I think Jeff Karstens gave away t-shirts and DVD’s but not sure. I was on Ross Ohlendorf’s side. I could not get the Pirates jackets he was throwing but he handed me a DVD. It wasn’t just any DVD though as it was the DVD of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series that just came out. The list price of the DVD is $29.95 and they were just giving it away. It is a two-disk DVD with 3 hours and 44 minutes of footage.
A funny story about the DVD was that after the initial screening at the Byham Theatre was that there was a season ticket holder sweepstakes and I was one of the winners. The screening was at Lowe’s in the Waterfront, however I never made the screening because I never found out that I won until the day after the screening when I was talking to my season ticket holder representative. I was supposed to receive an email that I won but I never got it.
We then stayed until PirateFest was over to try and get more free stuff and I ended up with a couple of goodies including a shirt. Andrew’s brother also got an autograph from Jeff Karstens before he left PirateFest. It was my first time staying until the end as I left early Sunday last year because I was under the weather that whole weekend. So it was interesting to see people put the stuff away and wrap things up.
With that, PirateFest was over and I was sad because I will not see any live baseball action until April, but these two days of PirateFest reminded me how much I have missed baseball.
Baseball experts grade trades, but obviously there has not been a big trade in Pirates baseball lately. PirateFest is a way of players and coaches saying thanks to the fans and some players do it better than others. This entry is meant to grade the players on their off the field activities and behaviors and in Christmas terms show who was naughty and who was nice.
Manager Clint Hurdle Grade- A+: Clint Hurdle gets it; he knows that Pirates fans have dealt with a losing team for 18 seasons and he knows how hungry this city is for a winner. I was at PirateFest on Friday and Sunday and both days Hurdle was active. Friday he endured two consecutive hours of questioning from fans (Ask Pirates Management which he also participated in on Saturday and Q&A involving all players and coaches) and also had interviews with Joe Bendel of ESPN 970 AM and Stan Savran for Inside Pirates Baseball. I was at the Savran interview, and before it, he posed for pictures (including one with me) and signed autographs. He really is the anti John Russell as he tells you what he thinks and tried to make an effort to talk with as many fans as possible. He was very active on Saturday as well I heard. A small complaint was after his obligation of participating in the Youth Clinic on the baseball field, he left. Still, after the clinic he signed autographs for as long as he could and talked with some fans. Before he left he thanked host Joe Klimchak and shook my hand and left. Kudos to Hurdle for making us all huge believers in his philosophy. Here’s to hoping, he can keep the players motivated and build a winner.
Jeff Banister- Grade A: Banister had a tough role, because if you did not identify him, chances are that not many Pirate fans would have known who he was. He had only one question directed towards him at Friday’s Season Ticket Q&A so it was tough on him there. Also, when the players were escorted to the break room, I saw Banister being escorted and no one ran after him for an autograph or anything. Banister was a big part of Saturday’s and Sunday’s Youth Clinic. I saw a part of the Sunday event and Banister seemed to be a big hit with the kids. One kid asked him if he had a World Series ring and Banister said that he did not, but he took off his Minor League ring and let the child hold it and pass it around. The fact that Banister trusted a kid with a valuable possession of his and also was able to interact with parents and children really speaks a lot about him as a person. Banister stayed longer for autographs than Hurdle after the Sunday clinic. Banister still will not be a household name, but remember, he almost became our manager and he showed glimpses of being able to handle the job.
Ray Searage Grade C-: This grade would be lower if he did not participate in Saturday’s Youth Clinic. Searage got a lot of questions thrown at him at Friday’s Season Ticket Q&A. One such question involved whether Searage or Chris Snyder should receive more credit for the pitchers improving their numbers. Searage immediately replied “Sny-rich” which drew some laughs. Searage was not used much and I did not see him at all on Sunday which was a shame as I would have been interested in talking with him. Still, I am taking it a little easy on Searage, especially since fans have not been too high on pitching coaches in the recent past.
Garrett Jones Grade B+: Jones was at PirateFest on Friday and Saturday. Jones made an immediate impact on Friday as both him and Kevin Correia were the first to sign in the MVP Zone which was exclusive for season ticket holders. Jones was active throughout Friday as he participated in two games, autographs signings and the season ticket holder Q&A. Someone asked Jones a question and said, “hypothetically if you were to marry my daughter, which Pirate would be your best man?” Jones paused as the question was an awkward on all counts and then answered Steve Pearce as he was a good friend. After the question, the audience could hear Jones whisper awkward into the mic. Still, not many would answer that question. Jones is really nice to the fans and if you ask him for an autograph, he is one of the nicest guys to get it from. Jones is an engaging guy. He got some points taken off for not attending Sunday’s festivities as I know a lot of kids love Jones. Still, he made an impact on PirateFest.
Jose Tabata Grade B+: Tabata was a huge hit at his first PirateFest. The fans loved Tabata and his charm, as well as his willingness to sign countless autographs for fans. The fans loved when he said “Black and Yellow” when mentioning that he would root for the Steelers. Tabata needs to be less shy and show more of his personality. I was able to break through because I spoke to him in Spanish, but he is not completely comfortable with English yet and that forced him to be a limited and that is why he did not get an A.
Neil Walker Grade B-: I know that I am grading Walker harshly, but he is “The Pittsburgh Kid”. Walker was sick for two days although he did appear Friday on Inside Pirates Baseball and the Player Q&A. He agreed to use “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa as his new at-bat song in order for one Pittsburgher to support another. Despite being sick, Walker tried to make up for lost time by making appearances on Sunday and it was noticed by parents and kids, but still regardless of the excuse, I was a little under the weather Sunday but I still showed up.
Andrew McCutchen Grade D: I have a huge problem with Andrew McCutchen and it is his off the field attitude. I am a huge fan of his on the field play but off the field he is conceited. I had a similar problem with Nyjer Morgan as both shine when a camera is in their face, but when it is off, they seem to care less about being anywhere. I first encountered this with Cutch at Bowling With the Bucs. I don’t know how to describe it, I mean he signed stuff, but he just felt indifferent and didn’t really feel like talking. McCutchen started out Season Ticket Q&A by signing a kid’s baseball, but soon the autograph requests came in and he kept saying “we’ll see”. Cutch fled quickly afterwards. Fellow ballhawk Erik Jabs also put up a Youtube video of McCutchen at a Caravan stop rolling his eyes at someone who was talking to Ross Ohlendorf because he was taking too long to get to him. At PirateFest on Sunday, he was in the public autograph signing wearing just a black shirt. All of the Pirates wear their home jerseys and it has been that way for years, the problem was corrected during Sunday’s MVP Zone signing session. McCutchen will have to improve his attitude, and fans need to see what is going on.
Paul Maholm Grade A+: Maholm is always good with the fans and if he does go at the trade deadline, then it will be a true loss for Pittsburgh. Maholm posed in photos with fans at a booth on Friday and also signed a ton of autographs all three days. He was a part of games such as Minute to Win It and the Perogie Eating Contest and he is a clear fan favorite. Maholm also was one of the Pirates with which it is easy to communicate with. Hopefully, some of his teammates will take note.
Brad Lincoln Grade A: Lincoln put himself out there, signing autographs for the public and even signing in the Pirates team store. It is easy to root for Lincoln to turn himself around after a disappointing 2010 season in the Major League level. Lincoln was at PirateFest all three days.
Kevin Correia Grade A: Correia told Rob Biertempfl of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he went to PirateFest to meet his soon to be teammates but he was very social with the fans as well. He put himself out there right away signing for the season ticket holders on Friday in the MVP Zone. There was a video of him released showing a child how to release when throwing the baseball as part of Saturday’s Youth Clinic and he offered encouragement to the child. Correia also signed autographs even when he did not have to and also was willing to talk with the fans. I really hope that he has a nice season, and I believe that if he has any run support, that he will be the breakout player of this team.
Jeff Karstens Grade A: Karstens was at PirateFest all three days and he was active during all of these days. Karstens signed countless autographs without complaining and also participated in a lot of games. He was not a part of Friday’s season ticket Q&A as I believe he was signing autographs elsewhere at PirateFest. What is holding him back a little bit is that he is shy and he is not that engaging when it comes to interacting with the fans. Still, like Maholm, Karstens is very active in Pirates initiatives in the community.
Ross Ohlendorf Grade A+: Ohlendorf easily could have stayed home. I mean he is having a disagreement with Pirates management over his contract and it could take him to arbitration. Freddy Sanchez missed PirateFest a couple of years ago because of this and Doumit missed both the Caravan and PirateFest over a loss of favor in the organization. Ohlendorf could have pulled a Doumit and not come, but that is not Ohlendorf’s style. Not once did I hear Ohlendorf complain, and he signed many autographs and even on Friday when he was supposed to leave the main stage right away, he still signed an autograph and allowed me to take a picture of him. Ohlendorf is one of the nicest players on the team.
James McDonald Grade D+: I heard that McDonald was very nice on Saturday, but still because of illness he was not at Caravan stops and he was only at PirateFest on Saturday. This is supposed to be the ace of the staff and to not have him consistently represent the team gives him a low grade.
Charlie Morton Grade B: I did not see Morton much if at all on Friday. It seemed like he laid low unless he had an autograph signing. I know he played the games, but not much of his personality came out either. Still he did show up and did not complain at all, and for that he deserves a lot of credit.
Evan Meek Grade A+: Meek was great on all three days of PirateFest. He did not complain when signing autographs and he hosted a ton of games while at PirateFest. He made a funny banker at Deal or No Deal and at season ticket Q&A on Friday he really let his personality shine. After games and radio interviews, players are normally whisked away as soon as possible and not allowed to sign autographs, take pictures or sometimes even shake hands. Meek frequently made sure that he had time to do this. This review is unbiased although he is my favorite player and we had a couple of nice genuine conversations. Still, Meek is a great person and should have a great season.
Bob Nutting Grade B+: Nutting was very engaging with fans, myself included on Friday before his appearance on Inside Pirates Baseball and thanked all of us for coming. Nutting takes a lot of heat from fans, and a lot of the criticism he receives is unfair. I know it is easy to blame Nutting, but it is not all his fault. I am not saying that he is doing the best job ever, but still he obviously is doing something right if there is a record breaking crowd at PirateFest. I know that he was there on Sunday to speak to Suite Holders, but compared to Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly, he was not out enough talking to the fans.
Frank Coonelly Grade A: The only thing preventing him from an A+ is that I did not see him on Sunday. I grade Huntington, Coonelly and Nutting harsher than others because they are expected to be out and about more than the others at PirateFest. On Friday, Coonelly was out and about all day talking to as many of the 3,500 fans that attended as possible. He posed for all kinds of pictures, answered questions at both Ask Pirates Management sessions, signed countless autographs and also tried his best to talk to the fans. The job he did is very commendable and Coonelly understands the need to talk to the fans to find out what they like and don’t like about what he is doing and the direction of the team. Here’s hoping that Coonelly will take in the fan’s opinions all season long in good times and bad.
Neal Huntington Grade A: Neal also took a beating from fans as like Coonelly, he had to answer questions in Ask Pirates Management. I did not see him make the rounds on Friday but he did make the rounds on Sunday and I was one of his many stops. For Huntington this is a make or break year as if the team does fail this season, he very well could go.
I will have recaps of my Friday and Sunday adventures at PirateFest as well as pictures from Friday’s proceedings up later this week.
There will be a part 3 for a break down of these features and a part 4 when the autograph schedule comes up, but the press release on information of the year’s PirateFest has been released. I actually got the press release in my email and thus found out about this before it was released. Here are the features:
Ross Ohlendorf answered questions today from Pirates fans on Pirates.com. He only had half an hour and was only able to answer five questions which surprised me. I actually got one of the questions I asked Here is the complete transcript:
Ohlendorf: “Hi fans, welcome to today’s chat. I am looking forward to answering as many questions as I can before out 1:30 team meeting.”
From bucsin09: “Ross, what is your favorite book?”
Ohlendorf: “Thanks for your question. As it sounds like you have heard, I have been in the habit of reading on game days over the last few seasons. While I don’t have a favorite book, I have several favorite authors. Some of them are Dan Brown, Patricia Cornwell, Daniel Silva and Dick Francis. I generally read mysteries and detective type books.”
From Edmonds15: “Ross, the past July & August, you appeared to regain your 2009 form. Are you set to enter 2011 healthy and ready to match your last 11 starts?”
Ohlendorf: “Edmonds, while the season didn’t get off to the best start for me, I was very happy with how I pitched those two months and feel I learned a lot from my early season struggles. My arm is feeling great right now, and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season.”
From wewill1992: “What pitch do you feel is your out pitch?”
Ohlendorf: “This is a question I am often asked but to which I don’t always have the same answer. My most important pitch is my fastball, in large part because I throw it a vast majority of the time. I always feel I will have a great game if I am able to command my fastball, throwing quality strikes to both sides of the plate. As far as my best strikeout pitch, the answer varies game to game. I would say my slider most often gives me the most swings and misses, but there are games where my changeup or high fastball will get me strikeouts as well. I hope that answers your question.”
From sumboddy: “What nickname do you prefer, Boss Ross or Mr. Wonderful?”
Ohlendorf: “Sumboddy, thanks for your question. Boss was my nickname in college, and I know Rocco brought it back last season as well. My teammates tend to stick to Ross, Dorf and Ohley, all of which work well for me. It is funny that you asked about Mr. Wonderful. The Rockies announcers I believe are the ones who started that rumor. I think they may have confused me with Dodgers’ pitcher Justin Orenduff, but I never heard that until Huston Street, one of my friends growing up, told me the Rockies announcers had said it was my nickname on TV.”
Ohlendorf: “I have time for one more before our meeting.”
From bucsfan87: “How much impact does Clint Hurdle have on the rotation and how do you look to improve going into the 2011 season?”
Ohlendorf: “Clint has already been making a great impression on all of us down here at mini-camp this week. He has great energy and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the game. He has been to the World Series twice in the last five years and we were all working towards sending him back there soon!”
Ohlendorf: “Thank you all for the great questions. I’m looking forward to answering more at Caravan and PirateFest at the end of the month.”