Tag Archive | "Eight Times"

Prediction: The Pirates will finish .500 or better in 2012

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Prediction: The Pirates will finish .500 or better in 2012

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Graham Womack

In this space last week, I wrote that I wasn’t buying the steadfast hype this offseason for the Washington Nationals. I wrote that in the densely-packed National League East, the Nationals would be hard-pressed to reign supreme over the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, and Philadelphia Phillies. I wrote that if the Nationals played in the NL Central, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, I might project them to win 90 games. Accordingly, it’s time for another prediction.

It’s been 20 years since the Pirates last had a winning season. In the two decades since Francisco Cabrera dumped a bloop single in front of Barry Bonds that sent the Braves to the World Series, Pittsburgh fans have gotten to know a special kind of futility. They’ve had at least 90 losses ten times. Not once in 20 years have they scored 800 runs, though they’ve allowed that many eight times. And Pittsburgh has more or less served as an assembly line for sending talented young players to other teams.

Few teams in baseball history have stayed this bad for this long. The Boston Red Sox had a similar run after Babe Ruth left town. The Philadelphia Phillies had one winning season between 1918 and 1948. But eventually, those teams made it out of their ruts, and this year, I see the Pirates doing likewise. In 2012, I predict the Pirates will finish .500 or better.

It has to happen at some point, right? I see a few reasons why this could be the year. First, the Pirates have assembled a solid, young core. Their pitching staff, while nondescript, managed a 4.04 staff ERA last season and will have A.J. Burnett this year. On offense, Pittsburgh has Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and others. Alvarez is a power-hitting third baseman who struggled last year but is still young and comes highly touted. If Tabata can stay healthy, he looks like a potential .300 hitter. And Walker could be among the best second basemen in the National League if he builds on his 2.5 WAR, 12 home runs, and 83 RBI from 2011.

The Pirates also showed they may have learned from their past, giving a six-year, $51 million extension to budding superstar Andrew McCutchen who, after three seasons, looks a lot like a young Barry Bonds. As it was with Bonds, McCutchen’s an All Star outfielder with speed and power, and like Bonds, he posted a 123 OPS+ over his first three seasons. Unlike Bonds, McCutchen may not be going anywhere through his prime years. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates continue to build around him.

All of this is moot, though, save for the most important fact here: The Pirates play in the NL Central, baseball’s most dysfunctional division, the Sarajevo of the MLB. It certainly looks to have all the order this year of a post-Soviet kleptocracy. Consider: The Cardinals and Brewers have gone forward without  Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, respectively. The Reds have much of a team in tact that won 91 games in 2010, but never underestimate Dusty Baker’s potential to create chaos. And as for the Cubs and the Astros, they might not even have a winning season in Triple-A.

So mark my words, good things should be happening in Pittsburgh this year, and for what’s it worth, at least one positive already has occurred. The Pirates kicked their season off taking two of three at home against the Phillies.

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Cardboard Hunters: 1933 Goudey Sam West

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Cardboard Hunters: 1933 Goudey Sam West

Posted on 13 March 2012 by Jared Thatcher

Welcome to the latest edition of Cardboard Hunters. If you read the previous post you know that right now I am working on gathering rookie cards from all of the Hall of Fame players. I have added a couple more cards to the collection that I will share with you in a later post. Right now I want to expose you all to my favorite card in my collection, my 1933 Goudey Sam West.

Sam West was an outfielder for the Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns, and the Chicago White Sox from 1927-1942. He was regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders of his time and hit over .300 eight times in his career with a high of .333 in 1931. His career is very interesting and it is relatively hard to find information about him. However, there are a couple writers who have put together a biography of him that is a good read if you have the time.

There are a couple things that really drew me to Sam West when I started collecting cards. First of all, I love the 1933 Goudey card set. The art is absolutely stunning and the card just looks classy. The colors are light pastels for the most part and the card is more square shaped than retangular. Sam West wore the number “6″ for most of his playing career (which happens to be my favorite number) and he was a gritty player who proved to be a difficult out.

West was a doubles machine in his time and averaged 32 doubles per 162 games throughout his career. He made the All-Star team four times in career and was the starting center-fielder in the very first All-Star game ever in 1933 (which is another reason I like his 1933 Goudey card). He was in the MVP talks a few times during his career but was over-shadowed by a couple big sluggers (Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig). A couple more of his accomplishments are 6 hits in one game, four years of 400 or more putouts, and one entire season with only one (1) error.

West got his professional baseball career break basically by sheer luck early in life. He was playing baseball for his high school team when for some reason, his coach decided to sit him one game. Records show that he was the best player on his high school team so his benching did not go over well with West. Instead of sit on the bench and watch his team, West decided to head into his small town and watch a Rule, Texas semipro game. To his luck, the Rule team was missing its right fielder that day and West volunteered to fill the position. After that he began his minor league career and excelled wherever he played. He was injured a couple times before he finally made his major league debut, but still managed to be a great asset to the Washington Senators. In 1932 the Senators traded him to the St. Louis Browns in a deal that included Goose Goslin. When Babe Ruth heard about the trade he was quoted saying “They gave away a dozen ball games when they traded Sammie West to St. Louis. I remember four or five games myself that he saved for them last year.”

In his later years, West would frequently criticize modern players for not hustling and for taking singles for granted. He liked to see a player take wide, aggressive turn at first base when he hit a single instead of just trotting to first. When he played he was known for stretching singles into doubles by flustering outfielders into making hurried and bad throws to second base.

Sam West was the definition of hustle in his time and reminds us what the game of baseball used to be. I agree with West and would love to see more hustle and aggresive play in baseball these days. His card is in my office and is a constant reminder of what made me fall in love with the game of baseball and the hobby of collecting cards.

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