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An in-depth look at the Pirates' decade

Pirates/MLB Videos

Monday, Dec. 21, 2009
 

Sports writer Joe Starkey and the Tribune-Review staff break down the best and worst moments of the decade for the Pirates.

SIGNATURE MOMENTS

1. April 9, 2001: Pirates christen new home, PNC Park, only hours after franchise icon Willie Stargell dies of complications from stroke. An emotional sellout crowd turns moment of silence and video tribute into loud and lengthy salute before 8-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

2. July 22, 2003: Pirates provoke fan outrage by trading 25-year-old, homegrown slugger Aramis Ramirez and center fielder Kenny Lofton to Cubs for package of nobodies.

3. Sept. 7, 2009: On a drizzly day at PNC Park, Pirates lose to Cubs, 4-2, to clinch 17th consecutive losing season, a record for professional sports teams in North America.

4. June 7, 2007: Pirates confound baseball world by bypassing consensus best player on board, catcher Matt Wieters, to take relief pitcher Daniel Moskos fourth overall. Team press release says "(Moskos) was ranked by Baseball America as the fifth-best pitcher available in the draft."

5. Jan. 12, 2007: Kevin McClatchy, long-time face of the franchise, steps aside as principal owner, cedes control to Bob Nutting.

ALL-DECADE TEAM

Catcher — Jason Kendall ('00-04): Franchise leader in games caught.

First base — Adam LaRoche ('07-09): Got a better idea?

Second base — Freddy Sanchez ('04-09): Surged from backup to batting champ in '06.

Shortstop — Jack Wilson ('01-09): Sparkling glovework, boundless optimism.

Third base — Aramis Ramirez ('00-03): Kind of player Pirates needed to keep.

Outfield — Jason Bay ('04-08): Quiet guy whose stats shouted for attention.

Outfield — Nate McLouth ('05-09): Breakout year included Gold Glove, All-Star berth.

Outfield — Brian Giles ('00-03): Mashed 38 homers in '02.

LH Pitcher — Oliver Perez ('03-06): Had one great full season, which is one more than anyone else had.

RH Pitcher — Josh Fogg ('02-05): Winningest righty at PNC Park, which is saying something.

Closer — Mike Williams ('00-03): 140 saves in two nail-biting stints in Pittsburgh.

Manager — Lloyd McClendon ('01-05): Gets major points for stealing first.

BEST PLAYER

Jason Bay, LF. After coming to Pirates in '03 trade with Padres, won NL Rookie of the Year and twice represented Pittsburgh in the All-Star Game. Left Pirates in top 10 in slugging pct. (.515, 4th), OPS (.890, 8th) and home runs (139, 8th).

BEST GAME

Giles grand slam shocks Astros, July 28, 2001. With two out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates rally from an 8-2 deficit to beat the Houston Astros on Brian Giles' grand slam off Billy Wagner. Houston's Vinny Castilla hits three home runs and is robbed of a fourth by Giles, who isn't sure what kind of a pitch Wagner threw him. "When a guy throws that hard, it's hard to tell," he said. (July 28, 2001).

BEST PLAY

Delwyn Young makes miracle catch, July 28, 2009, at San Francisco. OK, so the umps missed it. We don't have to. Right fielder Garrett Jones bobbled, then kicked Randy Winn's fly ball into the air. Second baseman Young dived into the picture and snagged the ball with his right hand. Umps' ruling• A hit. Our ruling• Best play of the decade.

FEEL-GOOD GAMES

· June 20-21, 2003: Pirates beat pennant-chasing Indians in two raucous, 15-inning games at sold-out PNC Park.

· May 28, 2004: Hours after wife Jennifer gives birth to first son, Rob Mackowiak hits walkoff grand slam to beat Cubs in first game of doubleheader and game-tying homer in ninth inning of nightcap. "It's just hard to imagine ever having a better day than this," he says.

· Trailing 9-3 in seventh, 10-4 in eighth and 11-10 in 10th, Pirates rally for 12-11 victory over visiting Cardinals on Jason Michaels' two-out, two-run homer (July 12, 2008).

· Trailing Rockies, 11-6, with one out and nobody on in bottom of ninth, Pirates rally to win when Jason Kendall singles home Tike Redman (Aug. 1, 2003).

· July 11, 2006: American League rallies past National League, 3-2, in the 77th MLB All-Star Game, at PNC Park.

· Carrick High School grad John Wehner homers in final game at Three Rivers Stadium, a 10-9 loss to Cubs (Oct. 1, 2000).

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

· Pitching coach Jim Colborn berates shortstop Jack Wilson in dugout during game.

· Pitching coach Jim Colborn tinkers with Zach Duke's mechanics in spring following Duke's magical rookie season.

· Manager John Russell removes Duke from 2009 home finale with two out, nobody on in ninth.

· Pirates put Tike Redman in three-hole because computer tells them to after simulating thousands of games (presumably all Pirates losses).

· Kevin McClatchy predicts Pirates will win 90 games in 2000 (they lose 93).

PRETEND IT NEVER HAPPENED

· Red vests

· Doug the Camel

· "We Will"

· Pedro Alvarez signing saga

· Chris Stynes

STRANGE BUT TRUE

· Pitcher Oliver Perez heads to DL after injuring foot by kicking laundry cart in clubhouse (June 28, 2005).

· First baseman Randall Simon is arrested for clubbing a racing sausage at Miller Park and is fined $432.10 for disorderly conduct (July 10, 2003).

· Pitcher Ian Snell requests and is granted demotion to minors, saying, "I think the team is better off without me." (2009).

· Outfielder Raul Mondesi, saying he fears for family's safety in Dominican Republic, leaves team on May 7, 2004. He signs with Angels on May 29.

MOVES THAT MADE PEOPLE VERY ANGRY

· McClatchy raises ticket prices after 100-loss season (2001).

· Littlefield/McClatchy trade Aramis Ramirez (2003)

· Huntington/Coonelly trade Jason Bay (2008)

· Littlefield/Nutting bypass Matt Wieters (2007)

· Adam LaRoche walks to on-deck circle in April or May (2007-09)

ROOKIE STARS

· Jason Bay becomes first Pirates player to win Rookie of the Year (2004).

· Andrew McCutchen, 11th overall pick from 2005, finishes fourth in Rookie-of-the-Year voting, despite playing only 108 games (2009).

· Zach Duke becomes second Pirate to win first five decisions, posts 1.81 ERA in 14 starts (2005).

DATES

Nov. 18, 2000: Catcher Jason Kendall signs richest contract in team's 114-year history, a six-year, $60 million extension.

May 29, 2004: Latest date all decade Pirates were over .500, at 23-22.

Aug. 14, 2009: Pirates drop 17-2 squeaker at Wrigley Field, marking fourth-worst beating in team history.

DIGITS

18 — Strikeouts in brutal 25-at-bat stretch for shortstop Brian Bixler in 2009

.462 — Winning pct. of interim manager Pete Mackanin in 2005 (12-14), best of any Pirates manager this decade.

.173 — Derek Bell's average in 2001, year of "Operation Shutdown."

3 — Players left from Littlefield era: Doumit, Duke, Maholm.

33 — Years calling games for broadcaster Lanny Frattare, who stepped down after the 2008 season.

WE WROTE IT

"Chuckles emanated from the gallery when the fourth and fifth Pirates players were drafted away. A few picks later, the volume increased when the Pirates decided to pass on their chance to make a selection. 'I heard the laughs coming from back there,' Pirates farm director Brian Graham said. 'Realistically, it's a compliment. You don't want to lose players, and it's not a positive for us, but it is a compliment.' " — Joe Rutter, reporting on reaction by MLB executives as the Pirates' farm system is picked apart during the 2003 Rule 5 draft.

THEY SAID IT

"We feel comfortable projecting him as a No. 3 starter." — Dave Littlefield, on the day he drafts Bryan Bullington first overall, ahead of B.J. Upton.

"This story is bigger than Israel-Palestine. It's amazing. We're talking about bottled water." — Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy, at a news conference to reverse policy that bans fans from bringing bottled water into PNC Park.

"I fear they will take advantage of the good will of the people who continue to show up. For my money, that's disrespectful. At some point, you have to write the check." — Pittsburgh-born actor Michael Keaton, at team-arranged news conference on day Pirates invited him to throw out first pitch at 2006 home opener.

"Did you think he was going to be safe?" — Manager Jim Tracy, responding to question about why Jeromy Burnitz dogged it to first on a grounder.

"Dave, I can't thank you enough." — Jeromy Burnitz, to then-GM Dave Littlefield, on the final day of the 2006 season, a season in which Burnitz was paid $6.7 million and hit .230.

"I think it surprised a lot of people, but I was like, 'If they want to pay me that much ($2.4 million signing bonus), I'll do anything.' " — John Van Benschoten, looking back to when Pirates converted him into a pitcher upon drafting him, even though he led the nation in home runs at Kent State.

 

 

 
 


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