One of the many perks of being a Pirates season ticket holder is participating in the annual field day event. Fans are able to shag fly balls, play catch, and hit batting practice at PNC Park. It’s a unique experience, and we got the chance to head down on Saturday afternoon.
In mid-February, the Pirates and Yankees completed a trade that sent right-hander A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh. Some fans were pumped for the trade, while others were skeptical. Burnett never lived up to the hype in New York; he was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA in three seasons there. Would he be a veteran leader for a young team? Or was he just another washed-up, wasted acquisition? We seem to have our answer.
It wasn’t clear at first – he had an 8.04 ERA in his first three outings, including a 12 run debacle in St. Louis. However, Burnett went on an incredible run from mid-May to early-July, winning nine straight decisions. He held a 2.93 ERA during that stretch.
With his performance on Thursday, Burnett became the first Pirate since Todd Ritchie in 1999 to win 15 games in a season. The 12-year span was the longest drought without a 15-game winner in MLB history. He also told Hanley Ramirez to “sit the f— down” after he struck him out. Here’s what Dejan Kovacevic had to say:
“Burnett didn’t pitch great. Six runs is six runs. But he was still standing out there in the seventh, still showing he was competing. You can sense the effect that has on the team, on the crowd. Intangibles do count. And the Pirates have NO CHOICE but to keep using him every fifth day in the rotation.”
The Pirates got their name in the early 1900′s by “pirating” players from other teams. The A.J. trade seems to be quite a steal itself. The Yankees are still paying a large portion of his salary, and the Bucs only gave up two low-level prospects, Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno. Not only is New York literally paying A.J. to pitch in Pittsburgh, but the Pirates didn’t give up much talent.
Cayones, a 20-year old outfielder, has hit just .192 in 35 games for the Staten Island Yankees. Moreno, a 26-year old pitcher, apparently hasn’t even pitched this season; he had a 4.91 ERA for Altoona in 2011.
We love watching Burnett pitch and we have confidence in him every fifth day. The Bucs have won 18 of his 22 starts. He’s turned into a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, and rightfully so.
A big thank you goes to the New York Yankees for giving A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Casey McGehee came to Pittsburgh via trade in December, when the Pirates sent reliever Jose Veras to Milwaukee in exchange for the 29-year old infielder. McGehee struggled in 2011 after a promising season in 2010 in which he hit .285 with 23 HR and 104 RBI. Looking for a fresh start, McGehee entered the year as a contingency plan for third baseman Pedro Alvarez, and also took reps at first base for a potential platoon with Garrett Jones. He has adapted to first base well, and hasn’t seen much playing time at the hot corner since Pedro has been the everyday third baseman. After hitting respectably at the beginning of the season, McGehee has really struggled as of late. Here’s a look at his early season statistics.
Since 1999, the Pierogi Race has been a tradition at Pirates games. Inspired by the Racing Sausages from Milwaukee, the Pierogies have been sprinting around the warning track since the days of Three Rivers Stadium. The race is now a daily routine at PNC Park after the fifth inning.
The race used to include Potato Pete, but he was replaced with Oliver Onion after the move to PNC Park. However, he still makes appearances a few times per year.
The pierogies used to exit the right field tunnel after an animated entrance video that played on the scoreboard, and finished near the first base dugout. Starting in 2009, they now run from the umpires/grounds crew tunnel next to the Pirates dugout, all the way to the right field corner, which is about 280 yards.
The racing sausages from Milwaukee and/or racing presidents from Washington usually come to Pittsburgh once per year. Here’s a picture we took on May 10th when the presidents faced off against the pierogies at PNC:
One of the racers was fired in 2010 for comments about the team’s management. You can read that story HERE.
The Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N’at is a hit at PNC Park, as the crowd always rises to their feet after the bottom of the fifth. Although it’s just four people dressed as polish dumplings, many fans take the race very seriously. Tons of fans also make bets on the race- some jokingly, some serious- with other fans that sit around them. Even though it’s a childish act that is featured at ballparks across the country, it truly is a tradition at PNC Park.
Here’s a video that shows the old version of the Pierogi Race:
A video of the new version that features the longer course:
A video of the longer course, Pierogies vs. Presidents:
To explore more features and events of the ballpark, our page of PNC Experiences can be found HERE.
The Jackson 5 The Pirates 5
A Pirates broadcast is often tough to watch. Not only can the play on the field be frustrating at times, ROOT Sports also overuses gimmicks such as the AGH Cam and Range Resources Strike Zone. But even before changing the brand name to ROOT last spring, we have been faced with another monstrosity: the broadcasters. While they do a good job in the booth, it is awfully hard to listen to them 162 times a year. Here are our thoughts on the Pirates broadcasters:
Pros: - Enthusiasm. Greg loves the Buccos. You can really tell that it pains him when the Pirates aren’t playing well, and he gets so emotional in key situations. Greg does have good voice for broadcasting, and loves his job. Plus, he coined the celebratory phrase “Raise the Jolly Roger!”
Cons: - Surprisingly, there are not many flaws in a Greg Brown call. However, he can get overhyped about big plays, but this can be expected by a play-by-play man.
Pros: - Tim seems like a really nice guy who just loves calling sports games. He’s called every type of sporting event; from lacrosse to track and field. He even did some broadcasting for the 2004 and 2008 olympics. He would be the type of guy you’d love to have a sports conversation with.
Cons: - The biggest con of all the broadcasters is definitely Tim’s lack of depth perception. There’s nothing like missing a pitch, hearing “Jones hammers it! DEEEEP TO RIGHT”, only to look up and find a fly ball that didn’t even reach the warning track. Very frustrating.
Pros: - When it comes to pitching, Bob does know what he’s talking about. He is always able to break down a pitcher’s mechanics and explain why a certain pitch should be thrown in a certain situation. Plus, he played for the Bucs.
Cons: - Often calls out bad plays, such as miserable hitting or poor fielding, as if he could do a better job. He was a pitcher after all, so he should stick to pitching advice. Also rarely shows enthusiasm.
Pros: - Steve is never afraid to let his emotion show. Between Cutch’s walkoff against the Diamondbacks, Tabata’s walkoff against the Phillies, or Pedro’s walkoff against the Rockies, Steve has had some great calls. 2012 will be Steve’s 53rd year with the Buccos, and he couldn’t be more proud of that. He is always able to come up with an entertaining story about his days in Pittsburgh. Sadly though, we only get to hear him for 81 games a year.
Cons: - While it can be very enertaining, he rarely has self-control after big plays (walk-off homers) and unleashes his inner-child. However, he is 69 years old… settle down, Steve.
Pros: - Being from the Pittsburgh area and playing for the Pirates, Wehner probably has the biggest tie to the Bucs of the 5 broadcasters. Rock does know what he is talking about, and it’s entertaining to hear him get upset with the Pirates’ poor play (especially bad baserunning).
Cons: - Wehner can often ramble on and on about nothing, and his boring voice doesn’t help the cause. However, it doesn’t get too annoying since he only calls away games.
Are we being somewhat critical of the broadcasters? Absolutely. But there is nothing more frustrating than listening to constant rambling while the Bucs are losing. Hopefully, the Pirates will be successful, which will lead to the broadcasters being entertaining in 2012.