First Pitch: The Next Avenue of Talent For the Pittsburgh Pirates?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are no strangers to finding talent in unique places. They were the first team to sign a player out of India, which the upcoming movie “Million Dollar Arm” will detail. They were the first team to sign a black player out of South Africa in Gift Ngoepe. They’ve signed players out of Australia, Lithuania, Belarus, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and more. So obviously the next avenue of talent would be finding the first female baseball player to reach the Major Leagues.

Tonight I saw an article in the incoming links of the site, posted on the Huffington Post. The article was written by Lee-En Chung, who was part of a “Baseball Basics for Women” camp at Spring Training this year. Apparently this is the fifth year that the Pirates have done this, educating a group of 50 women on the precision of pitching, the biomechanics of batting, and the structure of pro ball.

If you didn’t pick up on it, I was being sarcastic when talking about this being the next avenue of talent for the Pirates. It’s not that I don’t think a woman can eventually one day make it to the majors. I mean, Yuniesky Betancourt spent nine years in the majors. If he can do it, then someone lacking a Y chromosome certainly can make it. Also, no MLB player lacking a Y chromosome has ever had Tommy John surgery. That’s just science.

I don’t honestly think the Pirates are looking for a new avenue of talent with this program. I just wanted to share the article because I thought it was a good read, and it was an interesting subject that you don’t see too often when you’re caught up in the never-ending loop of “which out-of-options reliever will be traded, which top prospects will be playing where, and who will be in the first base platoon” analysis. If anything, it’s good to see the Pirates doing something to educate fans to the inner-workings of the game, to the point where it sounds like the camp might have given the participants more knowledge of the game than the casual fan who just watches on TV. So check out the article in the link above.

On a related note, for most of the off-season, I’ve cut “First Pitch” down to four days per week. That’s because there aren’t many topics to discuss during the off-season, and I wanted to avoid burnout. I increased that to five articles during Spring Training, and I’m aiming at going back to a nightly article this week. However, in an attempt to avoid burnout by the end of the year (which happened last September), I’m planning on doing a “Links” article like this on Friday. This will allow me to share an interesting article or two that I read during the week, while not having to think about an extra article topic to cover. Hopefully you’ll like the change of pace. If not, there will always be the links and notes at the bottom of the post, as well as about 30-50 articles on the site each week discussing the usual topics.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is in stock on the products page of the site. The book features profiles, scouting reports, and grades on every player in the minor league system, including our top 50 prospects. The Prospect Guide has been mentioned as a resource several times on the Pirates’ broadcast, and has been purchased as a source of reference by opposing MLB front office members, opposing scouts, and media members. If it’s a good resource for them, it’s a good resource for you. You can order your Prospect Guide on the products page of the site.

**Bryan Morris Will Make the Pirates 25-Man Roster. My guess is that Vin Mazzaro will be the odd man out in the bullpen. The Pirates have until 3 PM EST on Sunday to finalize their roster.

**Barry Bonds and Jim Leyland Will Present Andrew McCutchen and Clint Hurdle With Awards. I hope this doesn’t end up with Bonds getting booed. He becomes the villain because he left Pittsburgh, or because he did steroids. I don’t really punish him much for the steroid aspect, since a ton of people were doing steroids at the time, and MLB didn’t really care to do much about it. In fact, I find the whole crusade against steroids now to be ridiculous. Even with the new “harsher” suspensions that were passed today, there’s still a benefit to doing steroids: you get to keep all of the money you previously earned, and you still get big contract offers after you’re caught and suspended.

The reality here is that it is fitting to have Bonds presenting the award to McCutchen. Prior to McCutchen, the Pirates didn’t have a star player for a long time, and the last guy they had was Bonds. I don’t think Bonds needs to be celebrated. I just think all of the focus should be on the moment where two former Pirates who won MVP awards (Bonds and Dick Groat) present a current Pirate with his MVP award.

**The Pirates Rotation Has Some Red Flags, But Still Projects to Carry the Team. One of five season previews, looking at every position group on the team. Tomorrow I’ll have the outfield in the morning, and the infield in the afternoon. Sunday will conclude with the bullpen and the bench. I’m holding off on those, since those are the two positions I could see impacted by potential trades.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Luke Weaver Throws One-Hitter

First Pitch

  • Tim…do whatever is necessary to avoid burnout….

    and, if you ever need to take a week off during the season, well….DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT BECAUSE WE’D ALL GO CRAZY WITHOUT A P2 FIX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Flipped Out Foo

    • Sorry Foo. Already have a few days of vacation planned this month. However, you probably won’t know I’m gone. I’ll be at Universal Studios and you’ll be reading the articles I wrote before I left.

  • It is time everyone starts talking about what the Pirates HAVE, great players in MOST positions, instead of what the Pirates do not have, eg, first baseman. Should be a great year…

    • I find it weird that this team has:

      -an MVP
      -a young outfielder who was worth four and a half wins in his first full season
      -the NL home run leader
      -one of the best defensive catchers in the game
      -a guy who pitched like an ace last year
      -a guy who looked like an ace at the end of the year and projects to be an ace in the future
      -a guy who returned from Tommy John and looked like a solid middle of the rotation pitcher
      -a pitcher who finally looks healthy, and posted strong numbers before his injury
      -a group of talented relievers — to the point that they’ll be forced to trade someone who will probably be a 7th inning man elsewhere
      -two of the game’s top prospects expected to arrive this summer
      -a group of about 2-3 starting pitchers in Triple-A who could probably make the Opening Day rotation for about 10 teams this year
      -and at least league average production or better at the two middle infield spots

      And despite all of this, there’s doom and gloom, and the only thing people talk about are the first base platoon and the 5th starter spot. As if every other team in baseball has all of the above, without having any holes on their roster.

      • Spot on Tim. The very fact that they won last season seems to have brought out any number of folks who not only are now sabremetric experts, but are almost disappointed that the organization has righted itself.

  • In the vein of this ‘filler Friday article plus” I figure an old fashion ST Bulletin felt appropriate.
    1. There should ‘officially’ be no Clint Hurdle doubters out there any more. His character, and his results – if only for a single year – make him undoubtedly the coach as long as he wants to coach – Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and Jamie Dixon style. So suck it if you weren’t behind him!
    2. There is no question this is a playoff contending team – so, regardless of what you’ve ever felt about Pirates baseball – this is a brand new feeling 22 years fresh, and regardless of the end results this year – this team can win, and will fight for a championship. This is and should be all that any ownership group should have to provide to a fanbase.
    3. The Cabrera deal, and the Kershaw deal really bring doubt into my head and heart when I think to what extent are fans willing to go for this game. 300, 400 million – if anyone thinks that the fanbase isn’t paying those salaries your being delusional. Why does it have to get so gross and gluttonous? I think there should be a max financial deal established by the commissioners office. Fan’s pay enough, players and owners make enough, lets find a little reality and make a committment to the people of baseball for once.

    • About #1…Clint has yet to put up back to back winning seasons….let’s see if he can do THAT before putting him in the Torre/LaRussa class.

    • BB: Excellent points and I totally agree with 1&2. On #3 we have too many balls in the air and the Owners have not acted like they see this as a pathway to ruination of the sport we love. The NFL has done everything possible to keep the small markets and large markets competitive with one another – baseball has acted in a manner that favors the major TV Markets. Can you trade a draft pick? – yes in the NFL, No in MLB; can you package players and draft picks and move up in the draft? – yes in the NFL, No in MLB. Can you buy a reddi-made winner? Yes in MLB; No in the NFL. The Major TV Markets control MLB, and it will continue to get worse and worse. The Pirates have shown it is possible to build a winner with National and International Draft Picks and a strong developmental system, but it took 6 or 7 years to get to this point, whereas the Yankees and Dodgers just reload each Spring. And the Yankees are waiting until after the season begins to make a few necessary trades.

  • Dom DiDominic
    March 29, 2014 7:23 am

    Tim, Thanks for having a place to put up interesting articles that you come across. Great way to spread interesting reads.
    Oh, the Betancourt reference is priceless.

  • Chelsea Baker, Knuckle Ball pitcher for Durant HS, Plant City FL was 2 – 0, 0.78 ERA last I checked. Evidently taught by the late Joe Niekro when she was just starting Little League. She is just 5’2″, but was offered a contract by a Japanese Baseball Team last year. In addition to the Knuckler, she supposedly has a 70 mph fastball.

  • clementeninjamonk
    March 29, 2014 3:42 am

    Tim- Have you ever considered doing an “Ask Tim” forum wherein a specific timeslot is selected weekly or whatever, and you could do a realtime Q&A with readers in the same vein that most online newsrags sports reporters do nowadays? It seems to me that you are quickly becoming the go-to source for reliable, behind-the-scenes info on all things buccos, and everyone knows it…locally and on a national level. I have no idea what the logistics are, or the online capabilities required for something like this, but I’d sure be interested to pick your brain once in awhile about various PBC related queries. thanks homie, for this site and all the hard work you and the staff obviously put into it.

    • I’ve considered it. But the reality is that Q&A and live chats are getting obsolete. I get questions daily in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook, and through e-mail. If I did a weekly chat, I’d just be telling those people “ask me about this in a few days in the chat”. And people aren’t going to just wait around for the answer. They’re going to ask someone else, to get the answer immediately.