Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bucco Optimist Exclusive: Interview with Pittsburgh Author Lee Skirboll!

Well, we all know our Buccos have hit a “rough patch,” for lack of a better term.  Seems like since Jerry Meals things have been “downward trending,” and are a “cause for possible concern.” 

Of course all loyal readers of the Bucco Optimist Blog – including the NINE people who took the time to actually sign up as followers (one of whom is me) know that we’re not prone to giving up easily.  We can always find those silver linings – just think how rested Hanrahan will be for the stretch run, and what a GREAT job Pedro is doing in preserving his At Bats for the final playoff push!  

And we DO know when a great opportunity falls into our hands! And I had JUST such an opportunity last week, when I was in Pittsburgh and got to spent some time with Lee Skirboll, renowned Pittsburgh author whose recent book, “Cage Days,” is burning up the charts!  I loved it, and I think it’ll strike a chord with lotsa loyal Pittsburghers! It’s got the BO Seal of Approval!  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If the Bucs DO become buyers

If the Bucs DO become buyers….

…Who would they buy? That’s the question.

Looking at comments Neal Huntington has made and considering the Pirates’ overall situation, I’d suggest the following:

1.       They can take on salary, and will likely look to do that, rather than shed elite prospects. Neal has said repeatedly that he is looking to build a long-term “championship caliber” team, and that for a market the size of Pittsburgh, the resources will come internally.  He is as excited as anyone about the Pirates’ resurgence this year and he wants to seize the opportunity, I am sure; but I don’t think he’s ready to mortgage the future quite yet. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

18 Haikus Inspired By Our Pirates!!

Good morning Gang! Like all of you, I am excited as can be about the improved play of our Pirates. And like everyone else I am sure, I was inspired to write 18 Haikus in their honor! Why 18? Well, I explain it below, but when I was about 8, Matty Alou was in a batting race with Pete Rose. From the near empty stands at Forbes Field on a rainy, dreary night, I called out, "Come on, Matty, you can beat Rose!" and he turned around and gave me the most humble, and appreciative of smiles. That's all it took - hero for life! Even named my daughter Madeleine Lucille - or Maddie Lou for short. Maddie Lou - Matty Alou - you get the idea! So to help cheer on our boys, here's 18 Haikus!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All-Star Ballot Suggestions!

Hey Gang!

Happened to be at the Orioles – Nats game yesterday and FINALLY got a chance to get in my all-star ballot. The game was ok.  It’s always great to see Adam LaRoche, an old Pirates alum doing his June .174 batting average thing, out on the field.  Good times, just like the old days!  Anyhoo, thought I’d share my all-star selections with you guys, in case anyone was looking for guidance.

My only rule for myself was simple: be as impartial as possible. There are a lot of deserving players in the majors, and there’s a lot on the line. Given that our Buccos will probably be representing the NL in the World Series, I wanted to do EVERYTHING I could to help secure home-field advantage for the National League!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Word - Straight From Bucco' PR Whiz Frank!

Hey gang!

Wow, what a few weeks it’s been! Being at or over .500 for two whole days…Ronny Cedeno asserting himself as our best hitter, just as I predicted a few weeks ago…and with the amateur draft coming up, there’s nothing but excitement with our favorite team! But I have to admit, after attending a recent game, I was a tiny bit worried.  Sure they lost, but their hearts were really in it so I wasn’t too upset about that.  But I did notice a few mental lapses – a couple fundamental breakdowns, so to speak – and yep, I was a bit concerned. We’re in a TOUGH division, and if we’re going to win the Division and not just settle for the wild card, we just can’t afford those kinds of mistakes!

So I did the logical thing and I contacted the Pirates’ Public Relations office. Well, believe me, when I identified myself – a MAJOR blogger with EIGHT followers - they were a bit intimidated and told me that their BEST PR guy would be getting back to me. And sure enough, soon after that an affable fellow named Frank called me back! He was FULL of new insights and observations, giving me SO MUCH NEW PERSPECTIVE on some of the players and issues! Here’s our conversation verbatim:

Frank, from the Pirates’ PR Office: Hello, I would like to speak with the Bucco Optimist please. My name is Frank and I am ready to answer any and all questions!

Me: Well hello Frank! You know you have a very familiar voice!

Frank: Oh no, you wouldn’t know me. I just toil away in the basement here on Federal Street, a completely unknown, nameless fella who just happens to be the guy they bring out for SPECIAL PR duties! I am a PR specialist – a master of the genre. Now, how can I help you?

Me: Okay, well here you go, Frank, let me get right to it. I was at a few games recently and I noticed some breakdowns in executing some fundamentals, like say, pitchers bunting foul with two strikes; players running to third with no outs and thrown out by a mile, and repeatedly failing to bring in guys in scoring position. So my question is: What gives? This isn’t what the world expects from our Buccos!

Frank: I am so glad you asked that. One second (shuffling of papers).

Me:  Do I hear some shuffling of papers?

Frank: Ah, yes, just trying to make sure I have the right answer to your GREAT question!

Me:  You mean, you have a script?

Frank: Oh no, of course not! DON’T get the idea that I’m some guy that’s been muzzled, or should be, and that I am reading prepared answers that sound good on the surface but in fact say nothing! Not the case! Now, as to your question (more shuffling of papers).  Ok, here we go, here’s the answer regarding the lapses in fundamental play. Ready?

Me: You bet I am!

Frank: OK, here goes. “We have a young and enthusiastic team and there are bound to be mistakes along the way as they get used to playing at the major league level.”

Me: That’s it?

Frank: Oh, no! Here’s more: “Clint Hurdle has brought a new attitude to the team. As everyone knows, Clint is a teacher first and foremost. We are confident that under Clint and his hand-picked staff, we’ll see nothing but improvement in how the team plays the game.”

Me: Wow, I hadn’t heard any of that before. You are really good!

Frank: I’m considered a master of PR. Or did I mention that?

Me: That’s ok! Keep saying it, it’s OK with me! Well, now that we’ve put that issue to rest, let’s discuss some other issues cropping up lately.  Here’s a good one:  Are the Pirates making an effort to sign Andrew McCutcheon to a long-term contract?

Frank: GREAT question again! Ok, here goes (more shuffling of papers): “Andrew McCutcheon is an integral part of the Pirates future. We’d like to see him in a Pirates uniform for a long time. Of course, it takes two to make a deal (HINT, HINT), but we will do what we can to keep Andrew in a Pirates uniform for years to come.”

Me:  So you are saying…it takes TWO to make a deal between TWO parties?

Frank: Yes, exactly.

Me: I don’t think a lot of people realize that.

Frank: I am glad to help out.

Me: What did you mean when you said, “HINT HINT?”

Frank: Did I say that? I don’t think I did.

Me: No really, you did.

Frank: No, don’t think so. That would have been an extemporaneous comment, and I don’t make such comments.

Me:  Oh, okay. My mistake. Well thank you for ANOTHER great answer. Now, please give me your thoughts on a couple players. Some feel – now sit down because this is crazy – that even though the Pirates are clearly in the hunt for the division title, and kind of have the wild card locked up, some of our players could somehow be EVEN BETTER than they are now! Can we discuss a few of the guys?

Frank: Sure.

Me: Ok. Let me throw out a name or two and you can tell me what you think. Charlie Morton?

Frank:  “As we just saw in Cincinnatti, Charlie has electric stuff and is a big part of our future going forward. We are pleased with his progress this year. He has clearly learned to control his sinker and we see only good things for Charlie going forward.”

Me: Wow…that’s great. Ok, ready? Pedro Alvarez?

Frank:  “Pedro has always been a slow starter and this year is no different. We believe Pedro will be a big part of the Pirates’ future and we are confident that he will soon turn it around and make great contributions to our team.”

Me: AMAZING! Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit: Do we need to be spending $10 million on two catchers?

Frank: Both Chris and Ryan have distinguished themselves this year with their timely hitting and gritty style of play. Having both playing so well is “a nice dilemma to have.”

Me:  RIGHT AGAIN! Lyle Overbay?

Frank: “Lyle is a proven major leaguer with a track record of success.  He has brought great defense to our team. He is an accomplished hitter and it is only a matter of time before his bat comes around.”

Me: Matt Diaz?

Frank: “Matt has a history of terrorizing left handed pitchers. We believe it’s only a matter of time before Matt comes around and starts giving us that bat we need against left handed pitchers.”

Me: Scott Olsen?

Frank: It was important to give Scott the opportunity to succeed with another team. We would have loved to keep Scott on board – he has proven to be an individual of impeccable character – but we put the players’ needs first.

Me: Yes, you do! And speaking of that: Jose Bautista?

Frank: “With Andy LaRoche and other premier players on the team, we felt that there wasn’t really a place for Jose on the Pirates. We are glad to see him showing signs of coming around.” 

Me: Not to contradict, but he’s actually doing a good deal better than “showing signs.”

Frank: One second (shuffles papers). Ok: “they made some adjustments to Jose’s swing at Toronto and it clearly has paid off. We wish Jose only the best and regret that he is no longer a part of the Pirates family.” Better?

Me: MUCH! Well, you’ve been so open, and generous with your time. Let me just run a couple more questions by you. One: Who will the Pirates draft?

Frank: I have – I mean Pirates’ president Frank Coonelly – has “full confidence that Neal and his team will draft the best player who can help us build an elite franchise for the long term.”

Me: And that would be?

Frank: It goddamn better be someone that can get their freaking ass up here FAST and win some frigging games, kapeesh?? Maybe Neal can get it right just once before we’re both cleaning Bob’s toilets!

Me: Come again??

Frank: Oops. Strike that. Try this: “Under Neal and Kyle, I am certain that the draft will once again bring in a group of high-character individuals that will be welcome, productive members of the Pirates family.”

Me: It would be GREAT to have those kinds of people!  Hey, speaking of Neal, is he under consideration for a two or three year extension, or is it a lifetime one?

Frank: “We are confident in the direction that Neal has taken this team and I can assure you that everyone in this organization has one objective: a championship caliber team for years to come.”

Me: Okay, one last question:  Can we be reassured that Bob Nutting is committed to building a winner in baseball, and not just turning a profit?

Frank:  “No one is more committed to winning than Bob Nutting. I can assure you that “when the time is right” resources will be available to field a championship-caliber team not just for a season, but for years to come.  Fortunately, we have sufficient financial flexibility on this and we are ready to bring a championship team to Pittsburgh – as soon as “the time is right.”

Me: Well, I think that wraps it up. And let me just say, thank you for those GREAT insights that will surely put to rest any concerns of Pirates fans! I know I’m good!

Frank: Call on me anytime.

Me: Bye!

Frank: Bye!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Interview: Fake Josh Rodriguez - Rule V Pick Extraordinaire!

Bucco Optimist Exclusive! A Sit down with (fake) Josh Rodriguez! NOT the real one – don’t be deceived!
GANG – I’m sure you’ve all been following the amazing career of Josh Rodriguez (J-Rod) as closely as your intrepid blogger, the Bucco Optimist! Plucked from obscurity in the Rule V draft, this youngster tore up spring training and earned a coveted spot on the roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates! In fact, the Buccos put together quite the assemblage of underachieving infield acquisitions (UIAs), and J-Rod beat ‘em all!
Now, it’s true that he’s not actually starting – a certain elite SS named Ronny Cedeno is blocking his way, and well, if you’re goal is displacing Ronny Cedeno, then mister, you better set another goal! We talked to Josh about his relationship with his mentor Mr. Cedeno and a host of other issues. We learned more than we expected! Read on!
Bucco Optimist (BO) Congratulations, you made the team! What are your personal objectives for this year, besides miraculously staying on the roster the entire season?

Fake JRod (FJR) Obviously there's a lot of incredible love among the fan base for Ronny Cedeno, and the Pirates organization for his stellar talents.  As a Rule 5 guy I'm targeting 2012 for my first All-Star game start @ SS, although obviously the biggest hurdle will be unseating Ronny and his #9 spot hitting talents.
BO: Did you and Pedro Ciriaco, who was your final conquest in earning the spot on the major league roster, bond at all during Spring Training? He talked about being "stabbed in the back" but do you think he meant "slapped" on the back but it just got lost in translation?

FJR: I feel like Pedro had to have been misquoted with that stabbed in the back comment.  Obviously when you run up huge numbers, you can see why he'd expect to compete for that 2012 All-Star start, so I could understand why the writer would infer some frustration, but I think mostly he was just so set on having access to the nachos.
BO: Can you tell us why your three at bats are proving so essential to the team’s early success? Some folks may not “get it”right away.

FJR: I finally got the chance to apply all the batting notes I'd taken from Ronny against the Cardinals.  I don't think there's anyone that expected learning from the master to result in anything other than my stat line: 0-3 0BB 2K.  Ronny says he would've gone for the 3K, but being the Rule 5 guy, I figured 2 was enough.

BO: It’s WONDERFUL that you didn’t want to show Ronny up with a third strikeout! Seems you are a character guy too!  And speaking of character guys: I understand that Ryan D was Snyder's biggest booster, constantly urging him on, to "ignore those back spasms! Give it all you got! Don't listen to the doctors! Harder! Harder!" True? 

FJR: Ryan is such a warrior.  Some thought he was pushing Chris too hard, as if he were setting up Chris for an injury. I think anyone who knows Ryan would know that he’d never do such a thing!  He always tells everyone how he's never been on the DL a day in his life.  Just play through the pain, that’s what he’s all about!   
BO: For reasons I don't quite fathom, some were critical of the decision to keep you over Ciriaco, ranting to the full extent that 140 characters will allow. Is there anything you'd like to say to those people? How will you treat them when you see them at the ballpark?
FJR: I think the Florida Sun may have gotten to Dejan.  I'm sure the 10 to 12 spring training hits Ciriaco got were truly amazing, but I think he forgot the Pirates recent years of bringing in amazing talent via Rule 5 draft. It's fairly easy to get wowed by all the Pirates UIA talent in spring training after all!

BO: Are there any rumors you'd like to spread about Ciriaco or Fields or Marte or any of the other UIAs? Were any a "cancer in the clubhouse" or "not a team first kind of guy" or anything to that affect?
FJR: I feel like the spring training UIA competition was a reprise of the old Prince song:  "All 7 we will watch them fall, stand in the way of the Rule 5 UIA, and we will watch them fall (to Indy or be traded/sold)"
BO: That is so deep, so meaningful. I have no idea what you’re saying but I am truly moved!  Well, next question: I've noticed that an old friend, Andy LaRoche, has caught on with the As. Have you had any contact with Andy? Is there any truth to the rumor that even though he is alive, you can "channel" him?
FJR: All the numbers I crunch still say Andy's 4 homers & 16 RBI last year were essential to our development as a club, and I think everyone will always remember that epic chase of 15 RBI for good old number 15.  If the A's think he’s possibly expendable, I think that tells us everything we need to know why Texas, and Anaheim are favorites to win the East, right?  What a class act that guy is!

BO: If you are about to go on a date and she wants to see a Hugh Grant movie, do you a) agree, b) stand firm in favor of an action flick, c) run screaming as fast as you can in the opposite direction, or d) call off the date?

FJR: Just having a Pirates uniform makes dating so much different.  That was the kinds of dates Brewers players go on.  Everytime I go out, women are just begging me to come back to their place and watch the Pirates replay on Root Sports!
BO: I can understand that. You are after all kind of a “human highlight reel,” sitting in the dugout, watching the game so intensely, getting outs when at bat.  Great, great stuff. Now tell me, can you provide any insight into why Wimberly got cut, but McCutheon somehow made the team? McCutcheon has potential, but I don't like scholarships and Wimberly had such a GREAT spring!

FJR: I let 'Cutch use my MacBook one night, next thing I knew, Wimberly was an afterthought.  I'm not sure why Dejan somehow missed the true injustice coming out of Bradenton.  Esp since he's so in love with amazing spring training hitting numbers.  Wimberly = Wowberly theoretically in Dejan's scouting world.
BO: Looking ahead to the World Series, how do you assess our roster to say, the Yanks or the Red Sox?  I’m a little concerned that given the talent on those teams, pulling off a Series sweep might be a challenge.
FJR: When you compare every day lineups between the Pirates & either of those 2 teams, it's really hard to see how they would be able to compete with us.  I would say, and don’t get the wrong idea, that our bench players are better than their everyday regulars!  I'm not sure if Neal Huntington needs to be officially retired to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but I think he'd be a lock based on the roster full of future Hall of Famers that he's assembled.  Also any lineup that you can't find room to keep Andy LaRoche on I think speaks for itself.

BO: Has Hurdle been like a father to you? Or a Big Daddy? You tell me.

FJR: Here’s the thing about Hurdle: he’s ALL IN when it comes to late night runs to Primanti’s! I’m told that with Russell, the gang would say, “hey John, we’re doing a late night run to Primanti’s, are you ALL IN?” And Russell would say, “well, I’m kind of in,” or   “gee, maybe tomorrow I’ll be all in,” or sometimes he wouldn’t say anything at all! Now what kind of leadership is that? But Clint? Mineo’s, Primanti’s, doesn’t matter – he’s ALL IN! And that has profoundly impacted ALL of us!
BO: Any final words for my THOUSANDS of fans and eight followers, one of whom is me, and which is the same number of followers I’ve had for about a month now despite my constant efforts at self promotion??
FJR: Just get ready to start raising Josh's Jolly Roger, early & often!  Let's go Bucs!
And that’s the way it went folks! What a terrific young man – and so happy to be sitting on the bench, helping the batboy, and occasionally even getting an at bat. That, my friends, is what the spirit of Bucco Baseball is all about!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fantasy Baseball Advice for 2011!

All: I have played Fantasy Baseball since 1986 (true). I’ve won a few championships and usually finish in the money (true).   I read a lot about fantasy baseball and think about it probably a bit too much (true). That’s why I feel qualified to share with you some recommendations and forecasts with one goal in mind: to help YOU win your league (true, though these aren’t those recommendations!).
Anyway, let’s dive right in and deal with what I consider a major dilemma in fantasy baseball: position scarcity and how it fits into your draft strategy, particularly in the early rounds. As a general proposition, and this is my first insight, “there are a lot of outfielders and a lot of first basemen.” So let’s say you’ve targeted Lyle Overbay as your 1B. Certainly worthy of a first or second round choice, but you may want to lay back a bit and take your chances that he may somehow be available in later rounds – say, the 4th or 5th.  Yes, that is risky. But you do have options – you may, if you are lucky, be able to snab Garrett Jones, who also qualifies at OF, this late in the draft. Don’t wait too long though!
But the fundamental issue with respect to position scarcity has to do with when you draft the scarcer positions. A quick look at ML rosters, for example, tell s you right away that Shortstop is a premium position, with only a few “game changers” out there.  In a mixed league scenario, there is the widely recognized “big four” – Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Ronnie Cedeno – and then some serious dropoff.  Bear in mind that Tulo and Reyes are injury prone, and that with the loss of Uggla Ramirez won’t have the same support as in the past. 

On that basis, the smart money would be on ranking SS as follows: Cedeno, Tulowitzki (shown flashes of power), Ramirez (decent all around player), and Reyes (can have a good year if he can stay healthy).
One word of caution though: make sure you know your league’s eligibility rules.  My sources all telling me that Cedeno trade talks with the Phils may be heating up – they see him as providing the same offensive output as Utley, but stronger defensively. While the Bucs asking price begins and ends with a SP whose initials are RH (all I can reveal at the moment, sorry), it could happen if the Phils meet the Bucs terms and pay all of RH’s salary.  Cedeno could then ALSO qualify as a 2B this year.  Keep an eye on it.
Another ongoing dilemma for fantasy players is, of course, when to draft starting pitchers. Some will absolutely not draft SP in the early rounds; others feel if they can “lock up” one or two premium SP, they’re set for the draft and can then focus on other needs for a while.  I’m normally in the second camp, but one key development is leading me to rethink this strategy:  Scott Olsen is now a Pirate.  Olsen emerged as the staff ace last year in Washington, and looks to continue his immeasurable success as a Pirate.  One look at his first spring training appearance today gives a glimpse of his mighty potential.  Given that the other “elite” SP are dropping like flies – first Wainright, then Grienke, now Duke – you might want to consider nabbing Olsen as your first or second rounder.
 ANOTHER aspect of the “Olsen Impact” that you probably haven’t considered is his incredibly positive impact on the other SP in the rotation.  Olsen is known as a great clubhouse presence, a favorite of teammates and a team-first guy.  When it was recently suggested that he may start the year in the Bucs’ bullpen, for example, he responded (I believe I have this right):  “That probably makes sense, considering I am injured and haven’t even thrown yet in Spring Training. But to be honest, it doesn’t really matter where they put me. All that matters to me is how I can help out the team.”(I think I have it right, though I might need to do a bit of fact checking on that).
THIS is a guy that is going to raise the performances of everyone around him. I happen to know, for example, that he’s gone out of his way to bond with Morton and Charlie’s early success is in no small part due to Olsen’s mentoring. 
RECOMMENDATION: Grab Olsen in the early rounds, and don’t wait too long on Morton and Maholm. You want a staff that’s going to win you a championship, and THESE are the guys that’ll do it.
And just think:  Your competition may waste their top picks with “Pujols” and “Ryan Howard” and “Roy Halliday” and “Felix Hernandez” and “Ryan Braun” and “Evan Longoria” in the early rounds, but if you follow my advice, YOU could end up with Cedeno and Olsen as your first two picks, with Overbay, Maholm and Morton not far behind! May as well start measuring your championship ring!
Good luck in the upcoming season, and I’ll keep you informed over the year with other GREAT fantasy baseball tips! I LOVE to share my knowledge and I want to see YOU win your league!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates 2011 Forecast!

Sometimes people say to me, “how can you be so optimistic?” I’m not sure where these people are coming from, given the marked improvement the Bucs have shown every year under the Best Management Team In Baseball And In Fact All Of Sports, as measured by the best standard there is in baseball, lower payroll. (everyone knows that the lower the payroll, the more financial flexibility, and therefore the more dollars you have available to allocate ‘tomorrow,” when the team is ready to compete for an NL championship. Granted, it’s a complex formula, but there you go).

I thought I’d address that issue head on, as I do get so many inquiries. Actually, I’ve never gotten any inquiries, but some may be THINKING of making an inquiry, and I’m saving you the trouble!  So, here’s my preseason outlook for the NL Central.  In short, one thing is clear: after their exceptionally successful off-season, the Bucs are the front-runner for the NL Central division championship.

First, let’s dismiss the winter ball maneuverings of the other NL Central teams (and if you’re not a fan of sophisticated analysis relying on the most nuanced of sabermetric and other advanced tools, skip ahead):

Astros: total losers. Did they do ANYTHING?
Cubs: That’s some payroll you’ve got! You must be ready to take the next step and compete for a championship! What’s that you say?? It’s all wrapped up in one over-the-hill ex superstar for like, FOREVER? Oh sorry, NO CHAMPIONSHIP FOR YOU!  But hey, Kerry Wood is back!

Cards: Nice job protecting your ace pitcher. Nice job signing your superstar first baseman! Nice job getting some lame-o over the hill guy to play right field! NOT!

Brewers: Going backwards – big time. While the Bucs built UP the farm system at the EXPENSE of the major league team, the Brewers built UP the big league team at the expense of the farm system. I think Doug Melvin better pay a LITTLE MORE ATTENTION when Neal talks about building a long-term championship caliber team, and not just build for a year or so! And Grienke? Uh…kinda rhymes with Stinky?

Reds: well, they did a couple things, if you call “locking up” your “core” to long-term deals a sensible way to run a baseball team! Hello! Where’s the financial flexibility there dudes??  You are SO BEAT down the road!

            Okay, so now let’s focus on the one team that got it right: our Pirates. Let’s start with first base, Lyle Overbay! What a ringing endorsement from fellow pundit Jayson Stark when he said that Overbay “should be better than last year’s hodgepodge!” RIGHT ON! And Neal, shrewd as always, KEPT part of that hodge podge – I guess the podge part – and is platooning him with young up and comer Matt Diaz! So clearly, RF and 1B reflect major upgrades. Pencil each position in for about 30-40 HR and about 100 RBI or so, and you can see why ANYONE would be optimistic.
            But that’s not all! Expect improvement from all of last year’s rookies. Tabata will find that elusive “power stroke” we keep hearing about and is a lock for 75 RBI to go with his 60 steals, though yes, I am being conservative. But all these moves pale compared to Neal’s biggest coup –signing Ronny Cedeno to a two-year deal.  We all know that contract uncertainties were the main reason Ronny seemed so distracted last year. BEHIND US! I was only going to give the Bucs an A for their offeseason, but locking up Cedeno when the skeptics insisted it couldn’t be done made it an easy A+.

            Now the offseason hasn’t been entirely pain-free.  Let’s be honest. We DO have to accept the reality that Corey Wimberly’s tremendous, historic spring surge may cost McCutheon a roster spot.  But as I’ve noted elsewhere, even this would work out for us, given Neal’s EXEMPLARY capacity to pull off trades and bring in HUGE returns for our over-the-hill veterans! So let’s keep our fingers crossed on this one.

            I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple other things. Now, as many of you know I have a certain “insider status” in the Pirates organization that’s given me incredible access.  Of course, the PREMIUM INSIDER service is now a pay service for only $79.99 a month (a great bargain!) but what I want to tell you is that I happened to be at the last Winter meetings with all the GMs, making the rounds, getting the inside scoop, the works. As usual, the GMs were sitting around and comparing Underachieving Infielder Acquisitions. It happens every year, they’re obsessive about it, and to be honest, faithful readers, it gets a bit tiresome. “Oh, Kenny got two UIAs this year,” or “Oh, Brian only got one UIA this year.”  It’s all they talk about and this year was no different – blah blah blah, UIA, UIA, UIA, blah blah blah…

But when Neal walked in the room: SILENCE. The silence of respect. Of adoration. Of sheer awe and humility. For no one in the HISTORY OF BASEBALL has acquired as many UIAs as our general manager, Neal Huntington.

Fields. Atkins. Marte. Rodriguez. Wimberly.  The list is endless. ALL in a Pirate uniform, and all guaranteeing one thing: the greatest underachieving infielder depth in the history of the sport, with no – repeat no – exceptions. And we, lucky Pirates fans, get to enjoy it all summer long. Wow. Hand me a Kleenex, will ya, ya big lug?

We all know the great strides the Bucs made in upgrading the pitching staff so no point in belaboring it here. We all know how HUGE the demand was for Scott Olsen, for example, and we got him! What a great guy to have in the clubhouse!!  And we all are a bit worried about the new manager, given his quiet and unassuming demeanor. But we’ll be ok. We all got a little spoiled with the wild demonstrativeness of the last guy, but let’s give Clint a chance, OK?  With a little time, he’ll come out of his shell - I guarantee it!

So there you have it! While I AM concerned about the overspending, the bottom line is that the BEST GM in baseball did the BEST job of any of ‘em, so let’s buckle up, put that baby into overdrive, and get ready to raise that jolly roger almost every day!

FEARLESS FORECAST: 120 wins, 42 losses, and as Bob would put it, the WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP!

Saturday, February 26, 2011



Hello again, dear friends! I know everyone is breathlessly awaiting to hear what happened when Ol Blue Eyes and the Crooner made their way to the Burgh! But once again, an opportunity came up that I have to tell you about, and I simply must put Frank and Bing on hold once again!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know of my uncanny record in bringing you insider stories AS THEY DEVELOP! For example, I reported that Ryan Doumit was on the trading block, that JOEL HANRAHAN was in the mix for the closer role, and that Corey Wimberly is on the verge of displacing Andrew McCutcheon on the 25 man roster.  Of course, the insider service has gone PREMIUM and is available for only $79.95 a month, but – and I do hate to crow but I’ve got to say it – I’ve had my BIGGEST COUP yet and I’m sharing it with you free of charge!

Imagine my surprise when I was summoned to the Bucco Bunker last week and offered the opportunity of a lifetime: a roundtable chat with THE BEST MANAGEMENT TEAM IN BASEBALL, AND IN FACT ALL OF SPORTS! ALL of them!

Yep. The owner, president, AND GM of our team wanted to talk directly to the people, as they put it, to set the record straight, and NOT have their words misconstrued by some “reporter” digging around for “facts!” Well, I told them, I AM YOUR MAN!

So what follows is my roundtable discussion with (NOT) Bob, (NOT) Neal, and (NOT) Frank, the best management team in baseball and yes, I WILL say it, ALL OF SPORTS!

Now one quick warning: this interview is not for the squeamish. My only condition was that it would be no-holds barred, and they’d have to deal with the hard questions. They agreed, and here’s how it went down. Hope you enjoy and be prepared – it’s perhaps MORE illuminating than even I expected!

Bucco Optimist (BO): Good afternoon, gentlemen, and thank you for having me here. What an honor it is for me to be here with the Best Management Team In Baseball And In Fact All Of Sports, or BMTIBAIFAOS!


BO: Now as we agreed, this is an “everything goes” discussion, so let me get right to it, because my readers want to know! This one is for Bob.

Bob: I’m ready, dammit. Bring it on. Because there’s nothing I hate more than losing. And I know your question is going to be, “is there anything you hate more than losing?”

BO: Well, no, but that would have been a GREAT question! MY question is this: A couple years ago, you declared that collectively, the Pirates were run by the Best Management Team in Baseball, Or Perhaps All Of Sports.” Now, for years I have been troubled by your use of the word “perhaps.” That implies that there might be some doubt in your mind as to whether your team is in fact the Best in all of sports? And if that’s the case, can you tell us which management team is better? I sure can’t think of ANY.

Bob:  I admit, I had a moment of modesty. I didn’t want to insult the other management teams in other sports. As you may know, they are insanely jealous of what we’re accomplishing here in Pittsburgh, and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

BO: So, in reality, the word “perhaps” was misused? And while some “reporters” thought you were crowing, the opposite was true – that you were being modest and unassuming?

Bob: That would be correct.

BO: And in your mind, there is no better management team in all of sports?

Bob: Of course not.

BO: What a relief!

Bob: Glad I could help out.

BO: Well, let me hit you with a couple more hard ones, because as surprising as this may sound, there are still some doubters out there. Here’s the question: How much DO you hate losing?

Bob: I hate losing more than anyone on earth.

Neal: If I may interject here, I would never want to cross the boss, but I hate losing even more than he does. Say, times ten!

Frank: Well let me step in here. The fact is, I hate losing more than both of these guys combined, times infinity. And then add one more. And then multiply it be infinity again.

BO: Wow, that’s a lot of hate for losing. Given that, why haven’t the Pirates won more the last few years, since you guys have been in place?

Frank: It all comes down to attendance. Our players get discouraged when there are only a few people in the stands at PNC. If there were more fans in the seats, they’d be energized, would play better, and we’d stop losing.

BO: WOW, that is SO insightful! Our readers will now understand that it’s THEIR fault for all the losing! And that puts the players in a whole new light! Why SHOULD they bust their butts, risk injury, get their jerseys dirty, and all that, when there are so few fans there to see it!

Frank: Well, now you get it. You’re one of the first to really understand where the blame lies.

Bob: If only the fans understood my pain, my anguish, when we lose. I know I’m an extremely popular figure in town, and besides an almost completely publicly financed ballpark, I don’t really ask for much. Maybe the fans could come out, even if it’s just to support me?

BO: That is GREAT THINKING! That is an argument that will really resonate with the fan base and will be sure to fill the seats!

Frank: I hope so. If the fans don’t do their part, we’ll NEVER have a winner in Pittsbugh.

BO:  Well, maybe that’s a good time for me to move to Neal. You have been extremely open and transparent about how we’re going to win. When asked recently about it, you said “we have to play better.” My question is: don’t you think this is perilously close to overplaying our hand? If our opponents see this quote, they will get a LOT of insight into our highly sophisticated, extremely nuanced, strategy for winning. I’m worried about this.

Neal: Well, I like to be clear about how we go about things. For example, I was very clear recently that on draft day, we’ll draft Anthony Rendon, unless someone else is higher on our list, in which case we won’t.

BO: You know, some might see that as an incongruous and hard to understand statement bordering on non-sensical, given that you draft first and have complete control of the board.  But I don’t see it that way at all.

Neal: Thank you.

BO: If I were Rendon, I’d be FLATTERED with such an all-out, over-the-top endorsement.

Neal: You would think.

BO: Did Rendon publicly thank you for that statement of total, unequivocal support?

Neal: Not yet, strangely.

BO: Maybe he doesn’t have the character to be a Pirate.

Neal: You know, that could be a GREAT reason not to draft him.

BO: That one’s on me, friend!  Now, I’m going to ask a “frank question.”

Frank: You mean a question for me?

BO: No, haha, you so funny! But no, it’s more of a question for Neal.

Frank: Rats. I am SOOO good at public speaking. I was hoping to answer another question which is such a special talent I have.

Bob: HO HO HO! Oh yes, Frank, you sure do!  

BO:  OK….but let me ask Neal something. Some crazy lunatics have said that while you get credit for bringing in a higher level of role player that Pirates fans have seen in the past, they’re still role players. They’re saying that you never seem to be able to get the “game changer.” Would you comment on this?

Neal: I’m afraid I can’t agree with that. Gregg Olson – game changer! Lyle Overbay – Game Changer. Matt Diaz – Game Changer!  And most important, we’ve cornered the market on underachieving infielders. GAME CHANGER!

BO: All GREAT acquisitions! And you are right of course. Olsen has changed a LOT of games from what I’ve seen. But that leads me to another rumor out there, which is that it looks VERY LIKELY that with Wimberly’s spring surge, McCutheon may be traded or DFAd. Is there any truth to this rumor?

Neal: I am glad you raised that. Corey Wimberly has been an outstanding performer this spring – we all know that. And while finances NEVER enter into our thinking, I will say he comes at considerably less cost than McCutheon. I’d also remind you that trading players at their highest value has been a winning strategy for us. Everyone loved Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, but we got Lastings Milledge. McLouth was a fine performer for us, but two words: GORKYS HERNANDEZ. Nuff said.

BO. You are right. And I’ll bet McCutheon is a clubhouse cancer. The way I look at it, if you DON’T trade him, well you are not doing your job.

Frank: And may I add, it takes two to make a deal. Not that I’m negotiating in public, or dropping hints that any stalemate in efforts to sign Andrew to a long-term deal is completely the fault of the player. We would never do that kind of thing.

BO: Okay, you guys have been so generous with your time. Last one: Frank, you recently told a fellow blogger that with respect to a 70-80 million payroll, “We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number.” Bob, YOU recently stated attendance was not relevant to payroll, and that “we are in a position to allocate every year the dollars needed to have a competitive team on the field.”

Now, some have suggested there are inconsistencies in those two statements, but I don’t see any whatsoever. So my question is, what’s wrong with those writers and so-called “fans” who try to horribly twist your words to make you seem like buffoons?

Frank: Yeah – and THOSE are the idiots we’re relying on to come to games so we can raise payroll. How screwed up is THAT?

Bob: Uh, what Frank was saying is that all of us are dedicated to winning, and look forward to bringing back a National League – what’s the word I’m looking for?  Crown? Super Bowl? Oh I got it, Championship for the great fans of Pittsburgh? A National League Championship!

Frank: Isn’t that what I just said?

Bob: Let’s let it go, Frank.

BO: And Bob, prescient as ever, it IS time to go! Thank you, and I look forward to our next meeting sometime during the season!

BMTIBAIFAOS: Thank YOU, Bucco Optimist!

Bucco Optimist: And to my loyal legions of followers and friends – have any questions you’d like this insider to pose to the BMTIBAIFAOS? Send ‘em my way!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Breaking News! Interview with (fake) Clint Hurdle!

Good day, loyal friends and the one follower who isn't me! I know everyone is breathlessly waiting to hear more about Frank and Bing's visit to the President, BMTIBOPAOS. I sure am! But with Spring Trainng right around the corner, a great opportunity has availed itself and I must give it priority! The new (not) manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, (not) Clint Hurdle, held an informal chat with fans the other day and granted me exclusive rights to the transcript! Oh, how I have waited for such a day!

Mr (fake) Hurdle's words were so incisive, so compelling and honest, I decided to bring them to you as fast as I could! So for your enjoyment, what follows is the verbatim transcript of Mr. (not) Hurdle's recent chat!

1: What made you choose Pittsburgh?

Good afternoon.  Thanks for joining me in today's Q&A session!  Great first question! Coming to Pittsburgh was one of the easiest decisions that I have ever made.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are an elite organization with strong leadership and a rich tradition in winning.  After meeting with Bob, Frank and Neal during the off-season, I immediately sensed their commitment to winning, and I knew that Pittsburgh is where I wanted to be.

2: What do you see as the strengths of this team?

The answer is quite simple: our starting pitching depth.  I believe that Paul Maholm will rebound and turn things around in 2011.  As for Ross Ohlendorf, his ERA has been right around 4.00 during his first two full seasons in Pittsburgh, which is quite respectable by today's standards.  We look for James McDonald to build upon his late-season success and have another great season in 2011.  During the off-season, Bob Nutting assured the fans of Pittsburgh that we would aggressively pursue several highly-regarded veteran free agents.  He kept his promise and delivered by signing Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen.  Last, but not least, we have Charlie Morton battling for the #5 spot.  When I think of Charlie Morton, one word comes to mind: "Oh My Gosh!" Actually, that was three words.  The kid's got electric stuff.

3. Given the obvious parallels between Tulowitzki and Cedeno, both of whom are widely acknowledged to be elite performers at their positions, do you think the Pirates will be able to work out a comparable long-term deal with our incumbent starting SS?

Signing Ronny Cedeno to a long-term contract continues to be THE highest priority for the Pirates.  After weeks of negotiation throughout the off-season, Neal and Ronny's camp were able to come to terms on a contract for 2011 with an option for next season.  We were ecstatic by the signing.  If Ronny plays anywhere near the way that he played last season, you can expect him to be in a Pirates uniform for many years to come.

4. There has been some concerns raised about your stoic and reserved demeanor. Pirates fans are used to outgoing and gregarious managers, like the last fellow. Are you concerned that you won't be able to match up?

First and foremost, I want the fans to know that I will never be able to match the tenacity and passion that they were accustomed to seeing in John Russell.  However, this isn't my first rodeo, and I do have a few tricks up my sleeve in hopes of motivating our young Pirates team, day in, day out.

5. You look like a guy that would love a good Primanti's sandwich. Have you been down there yet? If not, have you checked with Pedro about arranging a road trip? He seems like a Primanti's kind of guy too if you catch my drift?

Yes! I am a huge Primanti Bros fan!  I have only tried the Roast Beef and Turkey Breast sandwiches so far, but Pedro and I plan on trying every item on the menu AT LEAST ONCE by the end of the season.  Thankfully there are several Primanti Bros shops located inside of PNC Park.

6. During the September run, will you be encouraging your players to grow playoff beards? Who is most likely to grow a beard like Keisel's?

I will encourage our team to begin growing playoff beards in mid August, which will likely be around the same time that we clinch the NL Central division.  It would be ideal if we were able to acquire Bobby Crosby before the trade deadline.  He has been known to grow quite a beard.

7. Did you ever watch "Three's Company?" Are you more "Janet" or "Chrissy?" Come on, you know what I'm talking about. Ok put it this way: MaryAnn or Ginger? Oh, come on.


8. It's a given, of course, that you have been handed a playoff caliber roster, so all eyes will be on you. Have you lined up excuses in the (however unlikely) event that we miss the playoffs? Can you share some of them?

I refuse to even speculate on that scenario.  The Pirates WILL make the playoffs in 2011.  That is a guarantee.

9. Up close, does Neal look like Ron Howard? Or is that just a media thing? Does Neal SOUND like Ron Howard? Just curious, I don't have a Ron Howard obsession.

It's funny that you mention that.  When Neal first called me about the opening with the Pirates, I thought that it was Ron Howard calling!

10. Personally I was relieved to see just one Pirate in a recent list of Top 50 Prospects.  There is SO MUCH pressure on those guys!! I am wondering about your thoughts on this topic?

Great question!  Honestly, there are many, many elite prospects in our system right now that deserve to be in the Top 50.  However, the scouting reports on these players are not always 100% accurate.  If I recall correctly, weren't Lastings Milledge and Andy LaRoche Top 50 prospects several years ago?  Now neither of them are even playing professional baseball.  Lastings has gone on to record a hip hop album with Death Row Records, and Andy is currently working as an Assistant Shift Supervisor at Office Depot at The Waterfront.  On the other hand, no one in the league had ever heard of Rudy Owens until last season, yet he has already been guaranteed to win the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year award.

11. Over the years I have learned that there is only one great source of truly impartial, balanced reporting on the Pirates, and that's a website called ""  Have you had a chance to check it out? Do you have ANY idea about who is really behind it because I haven't a clue.

Yes, I am a frequent visitor of Pirates Report.  Their reports are highly-regarded in the Pirates clubhouse.  The internet has become a great way to communicate with our fan base.  Twitter has become one of my favorite hobbies!  I encourage everyone to follow me @FakeClintHurdle.

12. According to, and I just can't give them enough free advertising because they are just so great, Stephen Drew is an underachiever because he only averages about 15 HR and about 65 RBIs a year. Does reading that make you appreciate Ronny Cedeno all the more?

Don't get me wrong, Stephen Drew is a good baseball player with above-average skills.  However, Ronny Cedeno is the anchor of our offense, and we will continue to add pieces and build around him.

13. Charlie Morton is my candidate for comeback player of the year. However, he had a good finish to the season so he wouldn't really be "coming back," but more "continuing his good finish." On this basis, do you think the Comeback Player of the Year award should be renamed, and if so, to what? Would the "Continuing His Good Finish" award be better?

Thanks for the great questions!  I have time for a few more today.  If the award was to be renamed, Charlie Morton would undoubtedly be the leading candidate in 2011.  He finished 2010 on a high note, and we look for him and his electric stuff to be a strong, deciding factor in the Pirates 2011 success.

14. It's well known that your nickname is "the girdle" but given your girth, you may actually need one. Would you like a new nickname and if so, what would it be?

Honestly, I haven't given much thought about a nickname.  A few ideas have been tossed around, but I have yet to commit to one.  I would gladly welcome any suggestions via Twitter @FakeClintHurdle.

15. During a recent Pirates chat, President Coonelly referred to a promising reliever named Daniel Oshkosh. Yet there exists nary a word about this young fellow.  Can you shed any light on this mystery performer? Everyone wants to know!

Ah yes. I have received many, many questions about this subject.  However, per instructions from Frank, I am unable to comment further about Danny at this moment.  All I can say is: "Electric Stuff!"

16. If you were a pretzel, what kind of pretzel would you be?

Another great question! Keep them coming!  If I were a pretzel, I would be a cinnamon raisin pretzel with extra icing.

17. Any advice for the Rooneys, who certainly look to the Nuttings as role models? It seems to me that the Rooneys could in fact learn quite a bit from the Nuttings about running a professional sports franchise. Your thoughts?

Throughout my first several months in Pittsburgh, one of the first things that I have learned of is the strong relationship between the Nutting and Rooney families.  Both families share a passion for winning and providing the city of Pittsburgh with winning teams each and every year year.  If the Steelers can build a solid foundation of young, elite players, they can continue to be a competitive team for many years, just like the Pirates.

18. Why were we in arbitration with Ross? 2 million a win seems entirely reasonable in today's market, don't you agree?

In 2010, Ross's record was 1-11, while earning a salary of approximately $425,000.  That equals $38,000 per Loss.  On the other hand, Zack Duke's record was 8-15, while earning a salary of approximately $4,300,000.  That equals an astounding $286,666 per Loss.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Example: if Ross were to put up similar numbers in 2011, and if we had been able to negotiate a $1,500,000 deal, it would equal only $136,363 per Loss.  This would be the ideal scenario for both parties, both in the short-term and long-term future. 

19. Thank you for taking the time to work with this lonely blogger who has only one blog entry so far and one follower that isn't actually himself. Any final thoughts to your readership of two?

Thank you, and good luck in your future blogging endeavors.  I look forward to having another Q&A session in the near future.  We hope to see all of you out at PNC Park this season to cheer on your Buccos to victory!

And thank YOU, Mr. (fake) Clint Hurdle! Who is not, repeat NOT, the real manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates and no one should be deceived about that!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back! And He's Got the Buccos on His Mind!

Hello there friends. First I want to thank this Bucco Optician guy for letting me take over his very first post. "I got something big," I told him, "and YOU my friend should be the first to know."

Seems I was chatting with my old pal Bing Crosby the other day. Yeah up here we've got a lot of time to talk, if you get my meaning. Sometimes I wonder if it might be more fun down at the other end, but that's me. Anyways, to make a short story long, me and ol' Bing were chewing the fat about all kinds a things. Yeah, we didn't always see eye to eye in the old days, him being Mr. Clean "No I WON'T join the Rat Pack, and won't you join me in a Christmas Carol" and all that. But now we're like brothers and I said to him, "hey you know, they found an old film at your place a while ago, back from when you were a part-owner of some baseball team that wasn't the Yankees and all, and it's looking pretty good. Show's your boys winning the World Series and everything."

Well, Bing smiles, takes one long puff from his pipe, sits back and says, "well, let me contemplate on that. That was some time ago...over 50 years I believe, if it was a day. Can't believe anyone cares about that anymore. I'm sure they've won quite a few championships since then, you can bet on that."

I told him, "Bing, you won't believe this, but since then they've only won two championships - in all those years.  But the only one people seem to remember is the one from the old days. But even worse than that, your old team has gone almost 20 seasons without even a winning record!"

Well, I never saw ol' Bing so sad. Them big ol' dog eyes got all teary, and he said, "Frank, we've got to fix this. Who do we talk to? Back in my day we had a fella named Frank McKinney, a good businessman from Indiana, keeping an eye on this. Let's go talk with him."

Just then, if you can believe it, who would come floatin' by but Mr. Frank McKinney himself. "Ears were burnin!" he said. Y'all wanna talk, well, here I am!"

"If you're here," said the old Bingarooster, "who in tarnation is runnin' that baseball team?"

"Well Bing," I said, "I checked around and the word from my boys is that you got it half right. There's a new Frank in place, fella by the name of Coonelly. He's the one we need to talk to."

"By Golly," said the old crooner who crooned like a crowin' rooster, "let's just go do that."

And that's how we started on our amazing journey to talk Pirates baseball with Mr. Frank Coonelly, or some guy that might be him but isn't really, so no one should think I am trying to decieve you into thinking that we're talking to the real Frank Coonelly, or even that I am the real Frank Sinatra or that the Bing or Frank McKinney referred to above are the real Bing and Frank McKinney. We're all dead, ok? There is no basis for libelous action here because we aren't trying to deceive you, or even make you think for one second that we're really who we're pretending to be. We just exist in some weird dude's imagination, got it??

Well I digressed a bit there. But in our next post you can join me in our journey to track down and talk with the (not) President of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who is NOT in fact Frank Connelly. We'll call him...hmmm...ConnellyDeFacto (CDF) for short.