The Pittsburgh Pirates Top 5 Managers of All Time

In times like these these, both off and hopefully on the field at some point, we need strong leaders to get us through. Now everyone who knows me is aware that I don’t talk politics, at least I try to avoid the topic, so I am not going down that rabbit hole. I also don’t feel the need at this moment to address the MLB and MLBPA negotiations, as we all have our feelings on this situation and it is not my goal to change anyone’s mind. With Monday having been Memorial Day I choose to look inwards, reflect on the past, focus on the positive, hope for the future and as always thank the men and women of our military who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect all that we and they hold dear.

All of this introspection and rumination made me start to look back on all of the Pittsburgh Pirates managers I have observed over the years and the ones that came before them. I also began to think about the type of manager Derek Shelton will be, but that discussion is meant for another day. For now I would stick to examining the list of the previous 45 Pirates mangers, behind the scenes of course, in order to provide all of you out there with the Top 5 of All Time, which was a lot harder that you might imagine since I have actually only seen one or two of greats in action.

5) Bill McKechnie

For any of you that have been to Pirates Spring Training game or a Bradenton Marauders home contest, the name McKechnie should sound pretty familiar, as the field was named after him before becoming LECOM Park in 2017. Born in Wilkinsburg, he became a Pirates player to start his career and got his first shot in MLB as a manager in Pittsburgh; a position he held from 1922-1926, bringing a World Series to the city in 1925. After a dispute between his players and management in 1926, 3 veteran players were removed from the team, ultimately costing the team the season and McKechnie his job. In 5 seasons as manager he posted a record of 409-293.

4) Chuck Tanner

The New Castle native returned to Western PA in the off-season prior to the 1977 season having been part of the trade that sent Manny Sanguillen to the Oakland A’s. Within 3 years he would bring a World Series back to Pittsburgh, their last one to date, as the leader of the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates. Unfortunately for Tanner he would not experience the same level of success, eventually being fired after a 104 loss season in 1985. He finished his time with the Pirates career with an overall record of 711-685.

3) Jim Leyland

I am partial to Leyland because he the manager of my childhood, but there is no denying that he is one of the Pirates all-time greats. With a career record of 851-863 in Pittsburgh, he is the only on this list who fell under .500. However, with three straight NLCS appearances (1990-1993), as well as two Manager of the Year Awards (1990 and 1992), he deserves to be on this list just as much as the men ahead and behind him.

2) Fred Clarke

Clarke was the manager for the Pirates from 1900 to 1915, along with being a player for all but one of those years. As the leader of the club both off and on the field, he led Pittsburgh to their first World Series victory in 1909 and four of their nine pennants in the team’s history. He hit .299, while helping his team to a 1422-969 record, both records for the Pirates, as is his .595 winning percentage. It also be discussed that it is possible that Clarke was possibly responsible, at least partially for the Pirates World Series victory under McKechnie in 1925, due to the fact that he was an honorary bench coach and McKechnie’s right hand man.

1) Danny Murtaugh

Murtaugh had four separate tenure with Pirates from 1957 to 1976, leading the Pirates to two World Series victories; most famously in 1960 over the heavily favored New York Yankees. During his time with the Pirates he compiled 1115 wins and 950 losses, both good for second all time behind Clarke. It should also be noted that on September 1, 1971, Murtaugh was the first manager in major league history to field a starting lineup consisting of nine black players.

With 45 Managers in their history, there were some tough decisions concerning the managers that had to be left of this list, as well as the eventual order of the Top 5. However, that is half of the fun of writing articles like these. The other half comes from the discussion with all of you that always follows.

Baseball Was Imperfect Perfection

There are times when I wonder what baseball could look like if not for one event. One egregious error, a terrible call that would instantly become a stain on baseball and set in motion an effort to take all human error and grey areas out of the game.

I’m referring to Armando Galarraga’s perfect game that never was. There he was, pitching for the Detroit Tigers against the Cleveland Indians and after retiring the first 26 men he faced, then Jason Donald stepped to the plate and hit a weak ground ball. The play was close at first, but he was obviously out, for a half second celebration looked primed to erupt when Jim Joyce, veteran umpire with almost four decades of distinguished work under his belt raised his arms and called him safe.

After the game, and after seeing the replay, a tearful Joyce would apologize profusely to Galarraga. The next day, Jim Leyland, Tigers coach at the time knowing that Joyce would be the Home Plate ump asked Armando to deliver the lineup card. Three men, all did the best they could to move past a terrible situation and show they could find a way to unite in the imperfect perfection of baseball.

I heard Dan Zangrilli talking about this on 93.7 The Fan over the weekend and it really brought home the downward slide replay has wrought since that fateful day in 2010.

Baseball had already succumbed to instant replay review in 2008, they stuck their toe in the water. Replay at the time could only be initiated by the crew chief and only for fan interference or homerun that were not called homerun on the field but might have been.

In 2014 the current replay system was implemented. None of this was done with bad intentions, but let’s look at what it has brought about in the interest of fairness and getting it right.

  • Stealing a base is now akin to sticking the landing in gymnastics because you no longer have to just beat the throw, now you have to end the slide with precision Simon Biles would envy.
  • Every close play at first is now met with “wonder if this will get reviewed” as opposed to cheers and gasps.

Now, does this mean I wouldn’t have liked to see the umps get it right when Spanky clearly tagged Sid? Of course not. But the spontaneity is half the joy in sports. The human element, aka the imperfection of sports is itself part of the game.

The replay train won’t stop, there is always something else that could be reviewed. Here’s one, how about allowing a review to catch a pitcher with a balk? Get it right after all. I bet there are a handful of pitchers who if called by the letter of the law balk 10 times a game.

Robo umps, which we may very well get to see this season sound wonderful on the surface but let’s play this out a bit. The best hitters in the world understand the strike zone so well they can take a pitch two inches off the corner on a 3-2 count. Partially because they can get the call from the ump who trusts their veteran eye almost as much as their own, and partially because they know they can’t do anything with the pitch. Now imagine two years of robo umps have played out already, the hitters who used to swing at those pitches 2 inches off the plate now easily let them go. There is no unknown as taking that pitch becomes muscle memory. No fallible umpire is going to give that call to Clayton Kershaw. Over time the strike zone consistency forces more pitchers to leave balls in the zone and the hitters have more incentive to sit middle-middle in all counts. Sure, hitters will still chase a slider 6 inches off the plate, of course batters will still take a hack at a curveball in the dirt, but the good ones will adapt and learn. Walk totals will skyrocket if hits don’t beat them to the punch.

If it benefits the offense, hey no harm no foul right Rob? If somehow it benefits the Pitching, we’ll hear arguments to augment the strike zone. But it will be right. 100% accurate.

The charm of the game of baseball is in its very imperfection. A player who fails 60% of the time to get a hit is a god. 70% a mere Hall of Famer. Umpires have never been given that much room for error, nor should they, but somehow, we have decided every event in the game must be fact checked and up for question before fans even have a moment to react.

You’ve all heard of the 3 true outcomes, right? Homerun, Strikeout or Walk, now I don’t really think that’s accurate, but we could very well be approaching a time when none of those three are entirely debate free.

Baseball history sheds a tear every time one of these new edicts comes down. I shudder to think how many times Ricky Henderson slid past the bag at second. I wonder how bad Greg Maddox would have been if he didn’t consistently establish and get calls on the fastball two inches outside. Maybe I’m weird but I think about these things more than whether Sid was out.

As Dan Zangrilli said yesterday on his show, what happens on a baseball field teaches us lessons that directly apply to life. There have been calls recently by Galarraga and seconded by Joyce to go back in history and give him credit for the perfect game. I agree with Dan completely, this is a big no. This is a lesson that nobody is perfect, but everyone involved rose above it and found a way to forgive and move on. While he doesn’t get to be in the record book as having tossed a perfect game, he does get to be the guy who said and did everything right in the face of adversity.

Sanitizing history doesn’t work, it simply breeds ignorance. If you don’t document mistakes, how can you learn from them?

I’ll always remember that night in 2010 as the perfect game that should have been. I’ll also remember it as the beginning of the drum beat that still rings on to eliminate human error from a game that itself is built upon the premise.

When changes like this come to baseball, I hope all the ramifications are played out and people realize a bit of error is part of the charm. Be careful what you wish for folks, you just might get it.

Join Us Live for Bucs in the Basement – Every Monday at 9:00 PM on PodBean

When we write about baseball we like to keep things in the realm of realism. You know, we won’t suggest the Pirates trade Colin Moran for Mookie Betts, because we know that won’t happen and its a waste of energy and for some who believe everything they read a beacon of false hope.

These times have created some opportunities though, one of them is really having some fun with a completely virtual version of your Pittsburgh Pirates using MLB The Show 2020.

We can do anything we want to the team and the guys have already made some moves the real world would never allow. They have signed Yasiel Puig and Scooter Gennett, played Bryan Reynolds at CF and in general navigated the over and under hyping of players that The Show always does.

Kevin Newman sitting on 4 homeruns through two weeks of play isn’t the most ridiculous thing that’s happened if you want to know how crazy its gotten. Mitch Keller thus far is quite possibly the worst pitcher in the league.

One of the arbitrary rules put in place by our fake commissioner and GM by the way which must violate some virtual CBA somewhere, Chris has decided the Pirates can make trades but only those suggested by the simulation.

Well, it happened, and he jumped all over it. Miguel Sano was acquired from the Twins for Derek Holland, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Gregory Polanco.

Hey if you don’t like it you should have called in and stopped it. The dude is reckless! That said he quite literally only cares about 2020. Fake 2020, but at least we can go to stores and stuff virtually!

This Monday night we will be calling our “game of the week”, with the Virtual Bucs in the Basement Pirates sitting at 26-26, currently 5 games out of the NL Central and looking to win the 4 game series against the San Francisco Giants. Remember in game moves are very much so up for debate, so call in or give us your thoughts in the live chat. With some of the moves being made, it’s fair to say you’re our only hope.

See you there!

Bucs In The Basement LIVE!

The Appomattox Court House of Baseball

On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee famously admitted, “there is nothing left me to do but to go see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.” In Appomattox Court House that afternoon Lee met with Grant and agreed upon surrender, with certain concessions for his men; they would be fully pardoned, they would be allowed to return home with their personal property, especially their horses so that they could plant crops later that Spring and the officers could keep their sidearms. They would also be provided with Union rations for their journeys. Even in defeat they were allowed to retain some sense of dignity. The victors of the compromise did not gloat, as they knew they had bested their foe.

In a less dramatic and consequential set of circumstances, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark are set to meet, along with other representatives from each side, on Tuesday May 27th with the goal of hashing out a plan for the return of Major League Baseball for some semblance of a 2020 season. The last two plus months have been a battle, as documented in my previous article on the subject Baseball’s Civil War , but now is the chance for all of this to come to an end and for America’s Favorite Pastime to return. If an pact is reached, just don’t expect it to be without hard feelings and with joyous celebrations from the winners of the agreement; much like Grant as he quieted the band that began to play upon the surrender of the Confederacy. Neither side is going to be without losses and in the end the landscape of baseball may never be the same again.

Prior to this meeting the MLB and the MLBPA have been on opposite ends of the spectrum concerning some issues, with both sides appearing to hold firm in their beliefs that other is clearly wrong and unjustified in their requests. How can the owners expect players to accept a 50-50 revenue share as this a salary cap? How can baseball players not be willing to play a game for pennies on the dollar as many would be willing to do it for free and who cares if there was already some sort of agreement reached? If owners realistically thought games could be played, why would they propose such ludicrous and nearly unattainable health and safety protocols? If players are tested before the game starts why can’t they play baseball the way it was intended, without trying to ruin the sport? It’s a virtual staring contest, with each side waiting for the other to show weakness and blink; to realize they have much more to lose than could ever possibly be gained.

Ultimately if, but more hopefully when an deal is reached there will be a winner and a loser declared in the media and the court of public opinion. One side will more than likely be described as caving into the demands of the other and giving too much ground for future negotiations; and either Commissioner Manfred or Executive Director Clark will be given the responsibility of deciding whether or not the relinquished will be allowed to walk away with their dignity, their sidearms and most importantly their horses , for we must remember another battle is on the horizon at the end of the season.

Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday Services – 004

Good morning friends, and a happy Memorial Day weekend to one and all. Take a moment today to thank a veteran for everything they’ve done for you. We may have a new definition today for heroism, but these men and women deserve to lose no attention or gratitude.

Now for today’s remembrance of the game we love, in the city we cherish.

Song of Lacy – 05-24-1984 – “Then Lee said unto the masses, surely you still covet thine previous right fielder and deny my contributions.

The Spring of 1984 and the legendary rivalry of the seventies between the Big Red Machine and the Famalee were becoming a distant memory. Sure, there were holdovers, but the teams were evolving. In 1979 the Pirates brought in veteran outfielder Lee Lacy from the Dodgers to provide them much needed depth. He filled that role exactly as the Bucs had hoped and when the Pirates allowed Dave Parker to reach free agency Lacy was given a heavier workload.

Dave Parker signed with the Reds in the preceding off season to the chagrin of everyone who bleeds black and gold. Nobody wants to lose a player like Parker but to the Reds was like twisting the knife a bit. When Parker and his Red Legs came to Three Rivers Stadium some fans openly pined for Parker to still be in his rightful place patrolling right field, but Mr. Lacy was the unlucky man to replace a legend.

With one out in the bottom of the first Lee stepped to the plate against Joe Price even as some fans were surely trying to get Dave’s attention from the outfield bleachers and belted a fastball over the wall to give the Bucs an early lead. One that would stand as the Pirates took the game 5-1.

As 1984 played out something became clear, Lee Lacy was a pretty good replacement.
Lee Lacy – 138 G, 520 PA, 66 R, 152 H, 26 2B, 12 HR, 70 RBI, 32 BB, .321 BA
Dave Parker – 156 G, 655 PA, 73 R, 173, 28 2B, 16 HR, 94 RBI, 41 BB, .285 BA

Lee himself would be granted free agency the following season as the Pirates continued the downhill climb to total rebuild. For one day in May, Lee Lacy looked every bit what the team needed and today reminds fans there was a time in baseball when moving a veteran didn’t necessarily mean trusting a rookie to step right in.

My friends, players will come and go throughout the time we spend following a club. Sometimes the player who remains or comes in to fill the role is unfairly compared to the icon who left. We must remember that evolution is part of team building, sometimes that hurts as your favorite player leaves town, but it’s never the replacements fault. The player stepping in has worked just as hard to get to this point as the last player you loved, and maybe, just maybe, as Lee Lacy did, he’ll come through and show the faith placed in him by the club was not misguided.

The following year Barry Bonds was drafted number 6 overall by the Pirates as they needed to find a more permanent solution at corner outfielder, but for one season Lacy showed we would find our way through the loss of Parker and his bridge to the future in 1984 eased the loss of a superstar in the city that beloved him.

Change My Mind!

I love this format because it gets people talking, Craig and I want to try doing something like this and we’d like to launch them in the evening when we all have more time to really go after it.

Tonight’s topic is next.

Jacob Stallings will prove himself worthy of the number one catching spot whenever the next season they play is.

OK, let me have it. And in case you’re wondering, I wouldn’t say it if I couldn’t defend it.

Let’s have some fun.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Top 5 Pinch Hitters of All Time

It takes a player with a certain personality makeup to come off the bench ice cold and step into the box, usually in situation with added pressure, to deliver a crucial hit or at the very least just get on base. Some players excel in these types of situations, which often adds to their legend or allure. Often the ones that fit into this very specific mold are forgotten to the history books, unless they break some relatively unknown record that only us stats nerds usually care to discuss. They don’t stick out because they are generally not the every day player, the one whose jersey is worn by fans young and old or the ones whose name being announced over the public address system results in raucous cheers that echo throughout their entire home stadium or park.

In Pittsburgh Pirates history there were plenty of players that fit the bill to be considered as one of the all time best at this very specific skill set within their craft. Some found this success after they moved on to other teams, some were good, but not great and others just barely missed the mark. The ones that remained were among best at what they did for at least one season, which ended up being the criteria for this list of unlikely heroes in order to get it down to just five Pirates Pinch Hitters.

5) Jose Osuna-2019

This past season Osuna started out having to struggle to get back on the field due to a neck injury; working his way up through the system with rehab assignments in both Bradenton and Indianapolis. Arriving in Pittsburgh in late May, he spent most of his first couple of months filling in for spot starts and coming in off the bench. However, he started to make a case for himself to get more playing time, especially with his bat in pinch hitting situations, ultimately leading the league in pinch hit home runs for the season with 5. He also posted a .325 Batting Average, a 1.232 OPS and 10 total extra base hits in this role.

4) Matt Joyce-2016

In February of 2016 the Pirates signed Joyce to a Minor League contract and invited him to Spring Training with the hopes of him being able to take the job of a 4th Outfielder on the roster. In the end he made his way into the record books with the most walks in a single season by a pinch hitter with 21. He also hit 4 home runs and totaled 7 extra base hits. He did post a disappointing .234 Batting Average, but his .427 On Base Percentage more than made up for this.

3) Mark Johnson-1996

Drafted by the Pirates in back to back years (1989 and 1990) from Dartmouth College, Johnson would make it to the majors in 1995, becoming a regular contributor in 1996. During this season he had one of the highest Batting Averages of All Time at .45161; because when you make the record books they make you go out a couple more numbers after the decimal point. During this historic stretch he also had an OPS of 1.300 and crushed 4 home runs. Within two years he would be off the Pirates and was out of baseball after 2002 with minimal success during that time. However, in the summer of 1996 Johnson was one of the best pinch hitters ever.

2) Jerry Lynch-1963

Lynch came up with the Pirates in 1954, but was gone to Cincinnati by 1957. When he finally returned to Pittsburgh in 1963 he had already established himself as one of the most successful pinch hitters in MLB history by hitting 11 home runs as one. In his first year back he hit 4 pinch hit homers while slashing .317/.370/.634. As his career came to an end in 1966, he found himself on top of the NL’s All Time List with 18 pinch hit home runs.

1) Craig Wilson-2001

Wilson would spend five years and some change in a Pirates Uniform, but his first year was one of the most memorable in my opinion. Anytime you put your name in the record books during your Rookie Year, it seems to stand out all the more. As a pinch hitter it was all or nothing as he hit 7 home runs and not much else, so it felt almost like every time he stepped up to the plate the ball was going over the wall. In total he would hit 13 homers that year while slashing .310/.390/.589. He arguably had more success in other years, but it was his performance as a pinch hitter in 2001 that got him to the top of this list.

After completing the list I was fairly surprised how many Pirates players made a case for not only being the best pinch hitters in Pittsburgh, but also some of the best of all time. Sure we don’t have an Ed Kranepool, a Gates Brown or a Lenny Harris to call our own, but the guys we do have are not too shabby and there are others that arguably could have made the cut. Who did I miss?

Top Ten – Buccos Who Celebrated Ten Years in Black and Gold

Yesterday I celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary with my lovely wife Megan. It’s been the best time of my life and it feels great knowing there will be many more. Since I couldn’t afford a direct message from Antonio Brown for her on Cameo, she’ll have to settle for a Top Ten dedicated to her.

This list is all the “best” Pirates to spend ten seasons in the Black and Gold. It will obviously not have a large representation in the modern era, and it should be pretty obvious, if you’re on this list, you were a damn good ball player.

10. Roberto Clemente 1955-1972 – What can I write about The Great One that hasn’t already been said? Just sit back and enjoy that he is a baseball icon, a humanitarian icon and all Pittsburgh’s. OK, we’ll share.

9. Steve Blass 1964-1974 – Mr. Pirate himself. When you really think about how synonymies Blass is with Pittsburgh Pirates baseball and lore, its hard to believe he only spent 10 years in uniform, and that’s with an admitted stretch to include 1974.

8. Max Carey 1910-1926 – Max is probably the best player in Pirate’s history most have never heard of. In fact, the 1925 World Series Champion team is the least spoken of in the club’s history. He was moved during the 1926 season to the Brooklyn Robins finishing his career there in 1929 but let me lay down his career stats for you. 54.5 WAR, 2,665 Hits, .285 BA, 738 SB. In the 1925 season he hit .343 with 186 hits and led the league in stolen bases a total of 10 times.

7. Pie Traynor 1920-1937 – Hey why not double up with one of Max’s teammates. This list will only contain two of the three Hall of Famers that led to the Series, Kiki Cuyler will have to get his due another time. Pie was another burner, and his lifetime .320 BA sure helped make the most of that speed. Holding down the hot corner in Pittsburgh for all 17 years of his career.

6. John Candelaria 1975-1985, 1993 – The Candyman was somehow only an All-Star one time, but Pittsburgh understood his value, so does the prism of history. 41.9 WAR, 177 Wins, 3.33 ERA, what else can you say beside the Candyman can.

5. Roy Face 1953-1968 – This 6X All-Star and 1960 World Series Champion was instrumental in securing victory. Most of his body of work came from the pen but this was long before the one inning outing it would become. It was also before glory was attached to the save.

4. Vern Law 1950-1967 – Vern is arguably the best argument the Pirates have for “franchise ace”. A Cy Young winner and 2X All-Star, Law eclipses Bill Mazeroski for reasons they got there in 1960.

3. Honus Wagner 1900-1917 – It’s hard to make a list about Pirate’s greats without including the Flying Dutchman. Want to overlook him? Try this on for size, 130.8 WAR, 3,420 Hits, 101 HR, .328 BA, 723 SB. He won the batting title 8 times and the 1909 World Series. In 1900 he hit .381, with 45 doubles and 22 triples, out of his 201 total hits. It’ll never happen again. Period.

2. Paul Waner 1926-1940 – 3X batting champion and Outfielder extraordinaire for your Pittsburgh Pirates, a lifetime 73.9 WAR, 3,152 Hits and a .333 batting average. He was lightning and consistent topping .360 three times in his career.

1.  Willie Stargell 1962-1982 – Pops was the leader on and off the field. 57.5 WAR, 2,232 Hits, drilling 475 homeruns while maintaining a .282 BA is unheard of. His iconic left-handed swing hit some of the longest home runs the league had ever seen and much like Roberto, what more can I say.

I am 100% confident I missed some, because I fought myself on some of these, like Bill Virdon 1956-1968, or Bob Veale 1962-1972. I could have gone with Bill Mazeroski 1956-1972 or Manny Sanguillen 1967-1976, 1978-1980. But quite possibly the hardest to eliminate for me was Dave Parker 1973-1983. That’s not it, but this one was actually hard.

Friday Focus – Foundation of the Franchise

Well, as some of you know, once a week or so I like to put out a piece called Five Thoughts at Five. These always get some fun conversations going with all of you, and this one was no different Wednesday night.

The question I was hoping would draw response was number three and here is the gist, in the last forty years of Pirates baseball, which one player would you choose as your first pick if you were starting an expansion team? I asked that everyone take some pretty tough looks at this too. This should in no way just be “my favorite player ever”, there is much to consider.

Here was the exact question “If you could choose one player from the Pirates 40 years with no World Series rosters to start a franchise with, who would it be? We’re talking you’ve seen what you’ve seen, you know what you know, career still ongoing or not. Factor in everything, like Doug Drabek was really good, but pretty short career, sure you want to start your franchise with him? Gerrit Cole could have seven more excellent seasons or he could get TJ next year, want to take the risk. Barry Bonds is the all-time homerun king, but man is that the guy you want as your core leader? Think about this one and tell me why.”

The replies were anything but predictable, this one was from Joe “As far as a core leader from the last 40 years I would have to go with Jason Kendall. Though he wasn’t much of a power hitter he was able to consistently hit for average. More importantly he was able to play 140 plus games as catcher constantly every year for 9 years with us. We have not been able to have a catcher give us that kind of durability year after year since he left for Oakland.” So, Joe places a huge amount of importance on the durability factor when building his team.

Randomly, one gentleman simply said, Bob Walk. Ummm.

Brian said, “Bonds….look at when he hit his prime. Could bat him 1st, 3rd, or 4th. Build a lineup around him yet plug him in where he fits best in regard to the other talents. Also was still more than capable of playing CF if your other two guys had to play LF n RF.” Solid argument, no? Certainly, he never was punished for his perceived use of steroids, so the “fear” of that cropping up is long gone.

This is a simple difference between super talented and someone you want to build around and I’m glad to see some out of the box thinking going on.

So, where do I come down? I was able to narrow it to three candidates and I’ll elaborate on those along with my top three who just missed the cut.

The Just Missed Candidates
1. Tony Pena
– Harkening back to what Joe said up there, catcher is quite possibly the most important place to start as he can affect the offense and defense. Tony was simply amazing. In his 17 seasons in MLB he posted a 24.7 WAR, with 107 HR and a .260 BA. These totally acceptable numbers were dragged down by his time out of Pittsburgh where he was a perennial all-star. That’s the exact reason he doesn’t quite make it, his career went on a pretty steady decline after his trade from the Burgh.

2. Gerrit Cole – He is still in the middle of writing his story and shows no signs of slowing down. He’s a fine candidate for starting a club, you’d have an anchor for years in your rotation and a chance to win even if your bats weren’t ready for primetime. But if his career did end now due to some catastrophic injury or it just changed how he pitches, there just isn’t enough already in the bank for me to pick Gerrit.

3. Austin Meadows – I seriously considered Austin. First, I hear from folks almost daily that losing him will ultimately be the most painful thing we remember from the Huntington era, and second, you could do worse than starting your franchise with a speedy outfielder who has power too. This would be the ultimate High floor, high ceiling guy, right? He just misses out for one fact; I think I have 3 betters.

The Candidates
1. Andrew McCutchen
– Let’s start with his career (so far) numbers shall we, a 44.8 WAR, 233 HR, and a .286 BA. He’s a consummate pro on and off the field and his ability to patrol CF ups the ante. Early in his career he was a real threat to steal a base every time you held him to a single and while he has evolved into less of a threat to steal, it didn’t come with much reduction in speed. He’s 11 years in and looks like he’ll go for a few more at least. That’s a nice stretch of consistency and leadership I would be very comfortable hanging my hat on.

2. Barry Bonds – Everything my man Brian said up there. Literally. At the same time, Barry had to be that good to rise above the personality traits I personally find unbecoming of someone I’d like to start my franchise with. That said, 162.8 WAR, 762 HR, .298 BA in 22 seasons. There was a time, specifically 2001 where Barry was intentionally walked with the bases loaded, more than once. Let’s just say that doesn’t happen often.

3. A.J. Burnett – In 17 seasons A.J. posted a 28.8 WAR, and a 3.99 ERA. His Wins and Losses sit at 164-157 which is pretty understandable when you consider some of the teams he played on in Florida and Toronto. He grew into leadership which does give me pause but not enough to take him out of my top three. In no way do I think he is the best pitcher to every wear black and gold, but the length of his career and the attitude he brought to the club pushed him over the edge for me.

Well, how did I do? Anyone I missed? If you have a name, bring your reasons too. Happy Friday everyone.

Baseball’s Civil War

It’s a tale as old as time, or at least one that has existed since players began taking to ball fields in an organized fashion and especially ever since they have been paid to do so. The battle between players and owners has been been the topic of countless arguments, potential game stoppages, lock-outs, strikes, salary, contract and arbitration negotiations and collective bargaining ; among many other issues that have arisen during the history of America’s Favorite Pastime. It has also been at the root of many of our favorite baseball movies, both fact and fiction. We all know about the legend of Charles Comiskey’s frugal nature that caused the 1919 Black Sox to throw the World Series, the tale of the villain, Tom Glavine during the walk-out/strike of 1994 and the evil plan of former show girl Rachel Phelps to tank the Cleveland Indians season in order to move the team to Miami. These and many other examples during this great games history have been interwoven into the fabric of time, often pitting the greedy rich owners vs. the spoiled and selfish players in a battle for our approval in the court of public opinion; and what is going on right at this very moment, during a global pandemic no less, is absolutely no different.

On the afternoon of Thursday March 12th, as I was walking around the outfield boardwalk at LECOM Park, Major League Baseball came to a screeching halt amid concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19. Initially it was announced that Spring Training would be suspended and Opening Day would be delayed for at least two weeks. From the moment this came out MLB and its owners, along the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association) began to scramble, and rightfully so. Although at this time it was thought, somewhat due to the overall ignorance of the magnitude COVID-19 would eventually have on our lives, that baseball would delay for a little bit, but things would eventually get back to “normal”; as evidenced by the first few statements and agreements that came to light in the wake of this decision.

Within two weeks of this nearly unprecedented decision, the MLB Owners, represented by Rob Manfred, and the MLBPA, led by Tony Clark had come to an agreement as it pertained to service time, the draft and salary advances. I discussed each of these in further detail after they were first announced in The Battle To “Save” Baseball. Immediately after this decision was made and upon pressure from the media and fans, a decision was also made to pay Minor League players as well. As far as the salary advances and MiLB pay were concerned only April and May were officially agreed upon or so it seemed at the time, which has become a major point of contention, but we will get to that later. Anyone who knows me is aware that I was, and still am, extremely opinionated on each of these compromises or concessions, as evidenced by My Letter To Rob Manfred : One Man’s Plea. I also have multiple opinions on the new conflict and concerns caused in part by the unforeseen ramifications that continue to unfold on almost daily basis; influencing the desire to write this and other articles.

A little over three weeks after this agreement had be finalized, rumors began to trickle out concerning MLB’s plan to return to play, as early as the middle of May by some accounts; the Arizona Plan (aka “Bio-Dome), the Cactus and Grapefruit Plan and a third plan that brought Texas into the mix. None of these plans were met with any level of optimism from the players, the media, fans and medical experts. It was at this time that we were reminded of the original three conditions of return to play, per Jeff Passan of ESPN: 1) There are no longer any bans on mass gatherings in place that would prevent games from being played in front of fans at the ballpark. 2) There are no relevant travel restrictions in the U.S. or Canada. 3) Medical experts determine playing games would not present health risks for players, fans, or other team personnel. MLB and Rob Manfred also tried to remind everyone of the idea surrounding the possibility of asking players to take additional pay cuts if games are played without fans, which Tony Clark was quick to put the kibosh on, stating that this issue had already been worked out and the players were already happy with their prorated salaries. This statement by Clark was overshadowed at the time due to another decree from Manfred allowing MLB teams to furlough or reduce the pay of their employees.

Then on May 11th a bombshell was dropped by MLB and its owners. They had come to an agreement to propose a 50-50 revenue share for games played, an 82 game regular season, an expanded playoff system (14 teams), active rosters of 30 players with a possible 20 man “taxi squad” and the desire to have all games played in team’s home ballparks. This is when all hell broke lose. Immediately Tony Clark rejected it as as a possible cap proposal. Then Sean Doolittle unleashed, Trevor Bauer had a Q &A with his agent and Blake Snell let his feelings be known on Twitch. People automatically felt the need to dissect every piece of information that was presented and how it was presented. MLB then released bulletins about how they would produced documents as to how much they would lose with lost games, as well as without fans in the stands; totaling nearly $4 billion dollars. Pandemonium was about to break loose.

Then baseball fans realized most of this stuff didn’t matter and was only glimpses at the truth. Do Blake Snell, Trevor Bauer, Sean Doolittle and all other players in MLB deserve to be paid their salaries at the agreed upon prorated amount? Yes. Will MLB owners lose $4 Billion? No, but technically yes. Based on last years profits, 2020 will potentially produce approximately $4 billion less than it did in 2020 with half a season being played, even though the latest data showed this loss as being representative of no games being played. However, they will save a half a year in salaries or potentially more based on their current proposal. Of course without fans in the stands, certain revenues will be lost, including ticket sales, concession purchases and merchandising. So, it begs the question how much of this is about losing money and how much of this about making the amount of money you are accustomed to?

Then came the infamous 67 page health/safety manual, which I would argue is the first thing that the MLB owners and Manfred did that addressed what they claimed was their main priority, player safety. Sure it was a little over the top with the no spitting, no high fives, no licking fingers, no sunflower seeds and obviously no Ubers. However, if they didn’t go into this much detail they would more than likely be accused of not caring about their employees enough. It was a lose-lose situation. Propose something that makes it seem impossible for the game to return or propose something that could be seen as putting players at risk. Either way you can be perceived as the bad guy.

Prior to me being able to really consider any of this to the fullest extent, MLB decided to drop another bombshell in the form of an email exchange between the MLB and the MLBPA lawyers discussing the possibility of revisiting of the prorated players salaries if the games were played with no fans. Based on this new information I would ask only two questions; 1) Does MLB have the right to ask players to play for a revenue share instead of a prorated salary based on games played? 2) Does the MLBPA have the right to reject this proposal? Unsurprisingly, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes.

Now that we are all up to speed it is time to hurry up and wait, while arguing for our beliefs about the situation on Twitter of course. In the the end we are right back to where we were in the beginning. The tale as old as time. The greedy owners versus the spoiled and selfish players. Everyone taking a side, with no clear winners and only one real loser, the fans.