Here’s a terrific AP article about the opening of Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field 100 years ago today.
Forbes Field had some of the deepest outfield fences in major league history, which made it a tremendously difficult place to hit homeruns, but a great place to hit for line drive hitters with alley power, like Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner and Arky Vaughn, who between them won seven batting titles and led the NL in triples six times.
Because of the huge outfield expanse, no no-hitter was ever pitched there in the 61 seasons it was the Pirates’ home (1909-1969), and it’s also no surprise that Owen Wilson, who set the single season record with 36 triples in 1912, was a Pirate that year.
In more recent Pirates’ news, they trade Eric Hinske to the Yankees today for two 23-year old prospects, pitcher Casey Erickson and OF Eric Fryer. Neither has played above A+ baseball and both with 10th round draft picks.
I like Erickson better of the two, because he has 169 K’s and only 43 BB’s in 182 minor league innings pitched. Fryer had a fine year in the Class A Sally League last year, but at age 22 that’s not particularly impressive.
It’s still a good trade for the Pirates, however. A 31 year old role player like Hinske (he turns 32 on August 5) is a luxury a going-nowhere team like the 2009 Pirates don’t need. Better to move him along and improve their minor league talent base.
The Pirates have been busy. mlbtraderumors.com reports that the Pirates and the Nationals have agreed in principal to a trade of Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett going to the Nats and Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan going to the Bucs. These are two teams with not a lot to suggest they have any idea what they’re doing, but I like the Pirates’ end of this deal much more than the Nats.
Lastings Milledge is having a terrible, injury plagued season, but he’s only 24 this year, he had a fine year for the Nats last year, and he was the 12th player selected in the 2003 Draft. When the Nats signed Adam Dunn this off-season, the best argument of the people who criticized the signing was that signing Dunn was a mistake if it meant that the Nats failed to continue developing Milledge and Elijah Dukes.
It turns out the critics were right. In less than half a season’s time, the Nats have turned Milledge, who appeared to be a budding star, into Nyjer Morgan, a 28 year old back-up outfielder with a career major league OPS of .727. Morgan runs well and will help the Nats right now with defense, but there’s no way in the world he’s worth a Lastings Milledge to a team that will almost certainly finish 2009 with the worst record in baseball.
I don’t see a lot of difference between Hanrahan and Burnett. Burnett is pitching better this year, was once a first round draft pick (19th overall in 2000), and at age 26 is a year younger than Hanrahan. However, Hanrahan has better stuff. Burnett has 95 K’s and 77 BB’s in 160.2 major league innings, while Hanrahan has 171 K’s and 94 BB’s in 168 major league innings. Even assuming that Burnett is a ground ball pitcher, and the fact that Hanrahan has been terrible this year, I’d rather have Hanrahan going forward.
It’s good to see the Pirates apparently doing something right for a change. I read an article by Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday in which Pirates GM Neal Huntington said that signing Ian Snell to an $8.6M mult-year deal before the 2008 season was probably a mistake. Yes, Snell has been sent down to the minors (where he struck 17 batters in seven innings in his first start at AAA), but given his age two years ago (25) and Snell’s strong seasons in 2006 and 2007, it was a good move to make at the time, and the kind of move the Pirates should make in similar circumstances in the future.
Also, the $8.6M Snell was guaranteed over several years is really peanuts for a starting pitcher nowadays. He’s still got a year and a half and $5.8M left on his contract, and if he can get himself straightened out at AAA, he might yet earn his salary as a Pirate. It just seems like bad policy to be blasting your players before you can be absolutely sure that the signing was a mistake. I mean, it’s not like the Pirates are paying Barry Zito money to Snell for a similar level of performance.
Perhaps the Giants can swing a trade for Snell in exchange for Randy Winn. Both players have big salaries, and the Pirates were a god-send back in 2007 when they took all of Matt Morris’ remaining contract and gave the Giants a major league player (albeit a mediocre one) in Rajai Davis.