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When the Pirates find a new GM, he or she will need to determine how to address some of the impending position battles involving their top prospects.

The 2019 season was quite a journey, and the kids were on display. Young talent like Bryan Reynolds, and Kevin Newman grabbed the headline mantle directly from Josh Bell as he cooled off toward the end of June and geared up for his first All Star game appearance.

I often pictured a proud Clint Hurdle pushing the woes of his pitching staff and growing injured list out of his mind, while smiling and mumbling the famous words of his movie counterpart in Major League, “There’s a couple of potential All Stars in there.”

2020 promises to provide more of the youth injection, so let’s take a moment and see if we can broach the subject of where they fit. Of course, injury is sometimes the mother of opportunity as young Mr. Reynolds discovered last season, but for the sake of this look, we’ll assume the healthiest roster in the league.

Ke’Bryan Hayes – 3B

The Runddown: Hayes is a defensive wiz at the hot corner, as my colleague noted on multiple occasions. A late 1 round pick (32 overall) in 2015, Hayes has shown positive strides with the bat but hasn’t shown the power many hoped would develop. He was hampered by injury last season for Indianapolis, but still hit .266 with 10 HR in only 432 at bats. A welcome sight for the Pirates top prospect.

Players to Leapfrog: Colin Moran, Jose Osuna

My Thoughts: The Pirates were one of the very worst teams in baseball defensively last season. This on a team that featured a Gold glove finalist 2B (Frazier), a former Gold Glove winner (Marte), and a steady LF (Reynolds). If you watched more than a dozen games, you would have seen that Moran’s defense at third was a weakness.

So, the question for Hayes is, can his defense and offensive potential outweigh the emergence of Moran who became a consistent contributor on offense in the heart of the order? Osuna has at least proven he is a very solid bench option and defensively superior to Moran as a 3B and 1B. His position flexibility will make him hard to replace. I believe we will see Hayes starting the season with AAA. Hayes is too good to last long down there and will find a way to the MLB club in 2020. The defense is just too impressive and much needed.

Cole Tucker – Middle Infield

The Runddown: Early in the season Cole Tucker was called into duty as the Pirates were bitten by injury at the Short Stop position. He was electric from the start, he smiled and flashed the speed and energy we saw during spring training. Defensively, Tucker took charge of SS and provided stability, but his bat went cold after a very nice start, ultimately leading to his demotion as the roster found their way out of the medical tent. His call up in September provided little opportunity for playing time as Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman were arguably the best hitters in the lineup down the stretch – both competed for tops in the league in batting average.

Players to Leapfrog: Newman, Frasier, Eric Gonzalez, Kevin Kramer

My Thoughts: Middle infield is a position of strength for the Bucs. I see no way Newman and Frazier don’t go into 2020 as penned in starters. However, every team needs a solid middle infielder to provide insurance on the bench and that could very well be Tucker’s spot. He has some hurdles, and not his ex-coach, namely Eric Gonzalez and Kevin Kramer. Gonzalez showed some of what the Pirates hoped he would be as the season wound down. He is entering his first season of arbitration. That’s a whole lot of control to cede for any club, let alone the traditionally frugal Pirates. Kevin Kramer worked in the outfield last season but even that could be a crowded spot with Gregory Polanco expected to return. Tucker will have to earn it in Spring Training, but it may be a numbers game.

Will Craig – 1B

The Runddown: Will has steadily moved up the ranks in the minors. Last season he belted 23 home runs for the Indians, while providing Gold Glove-quality defense. His power has emerged, and the pop is real.

Players to Leapfrog: Josh Bell, Jose Osuna

My Thoughts: Craig will have some real challenges making the club out of camp. His defense and bat look ready for the show but, being stuck behind Josh Bell who rarely takes a night off unless forcibly removed, he won’t find many at-bats off the bench. At 24 the Pirates really need to find another position for him or run the risk of wasting this intriguing prospect.

In previous seasons you could set your watch by what Neal Huntington would and wouldn’t do, but those days are over. We no longer look at these prospects as potential replacements for salary dumped stars, but as potential pieces in a rebuild. When the Pirates find their new GM and manager, they won’t be coming in to the completely bare cupboard. Perhaps some of these position battles will enable the club to make some moves to improve the pitching staff. Or maybe we’ll have a couple younger Pirates make a run at Rookie of the Year.

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Misfortune has followed the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Erik Gonzalez to the Dominican Republic.

The utility infielder fractured his left foot this past weekend while playing winter ball. It is his second bone break in the past seven months after he fractured his clavicle April 19 in a collision with Pirates center fielder Starling Marte in a game at PNC Park against the San Francisco Giants.

A surgical procedure was performed Wednesday by Dr. James Sferra at Allegheny General Hospital to fixate and stabilize the fracture. Gonzalez is projected to resume full baseball activities in 10-12 weeks, the Pirates announced.

The first injury cost Gonzalez 3½ months of the 2019 season. He rejoined the team Aug. 3. He was limited to 53 games and 142 at-bats while hitting .254 with one home run and six RBIs.

With Santo Domingo of the Dominican Winter League, he was hitting .250 in 11 games.

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Following a power surge the past two seasons, former first round pick Will Craig is now knocking on the door of the MLB level
The 2018 season was a breakout season for Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Will Craig. The former first round picked hit 20 home runs while slugging .448 to go with a .200 ISO at Double-A Altoona. As a result, he made his Triple-A debut in 2019.

Craig went on to spend the entire 2019 season with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. While his power numbers took a bit of a hit with Indy, Craig continued to be a power threat. Now, he is knocking on the door of the MLB level.

Catching market starting to thin out for the Brewers

With the Indians, Craig slashed .249/.326/.435 in 2019. His ISO was .186, he posted a .329 wOBA, he smashed a career high 23 home runs, and his extra base hit rate was 9.3%. However, his wRC+ was below league average at 92 and his 26.3% strikeout rate was a concern and a career high.

The Pirates selected Craig in the first round of the 2016 draft out of Wake Forrest. Craig began his professional career as a third baseman, before most playing first base the past three seasons. However, in 2019, he also started to learn to play left and right field in an effort to improve his value and positional flexibility.

While he was playing new positions, Craig grew leaps and bounds defensively at first base in 2019. He went from what looked like a future DH to being a plus a defender. Craig flashed soft hands, a strong arm and a great glove at first base this past season.

To be honest, it was a bit of surprise that Craig did not earn a September call up this past season. Especially with Josh Bell battling injuries that caused him to miss the last two weeks of the season.

NEXT: Potential Breakout Prospects For 2020
When the 2020 season begins Craig will likely be back at the Triple-A level. That said, it would not be a complete shocker to see him open the 2020 season with the Pirates as a bench bat. Regardless, Craig, barring injury or something else unforeseen, will make his MLB debut at some point during the 2020 season.

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PITTSBURGH — The Pirates’ next general manager is going to have to figure out the club’s immediate future and long-term plan behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli is gone. Elias Díaz, once a well-regarded prospect, followed up an encouraging 2018 campaign with a stunningly poor season. There isn’t a catcher among the club’s Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

It’s entirely possible that Pittsburgh’s next starting catcher isn’t currently on the roster. But part of the solution might have emerged amid the disappointment of this past season.

Jacob Stallings spent the past four years as the Pirates’ third or fourth option at catcher, which means he’s familiar with the road between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis. But this season, Cervelli’s concussion and Díaz’s struggles opened the door for Stallings to receive more regular playing time.

Stallings’ offensive performance was fine, especially compared to the Pirates’ other catchers. But the 29-year-old earned the club’s trust with his diligent preparation and his performance behind the plate. By the end of the year, most of Pittsburgh’s starting pitchers had asked to work with Stallings.

• Predicting the Pirates’ 2020 Opening Day roster

Where that leaves Stallings going forward is anybody’s guess. Maybe a new GM will view him as a short-term starting option for a team focused on the future or perhaps as a spiritual successor to Chris Stewart: a quality, defensive-minded backup on a potential contender.

Before looking forward, though, let’s review Stallings’ season.

What went right?
His defensive work, primarily. It’s tough to quantify everything about catchers’ defense, but Stallings graded out well in the areas we can measure and those in which we depend upon the word of his teammates.

Stallings has long been praised by pitchers for his preparation and game-calling, and that showed this year. By late May, Chris Archer worked exclusively with Stallings. Joe Musgrove soon followed suit. Most of Trevor Williams’ and Mitch Keller’s starts down the stretch came with Stallings behind the plate.

Adam Berry

@adamdberry
Joe Musgrove, on working with Jacob Stallings tonight: “Stalls was spot-on with everything. It makes my job a lot easier when I trust my catcher to call the game. It’s almost like he’s the brains and I’m the muscle. You just tell me where to throw it, and I’ll throw it there.”

158
11:26 AM – Jul 21, 2019
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Catcher ERA is a flawed statistic in some regards, but it can paint part of the picture here. Consider how Pirates pitchers performed when throwing to Stallings (4.47 ERA), how similar that was to their work with the veteran Cervelli (4.42) and how different it was with Díaz behind the plate (5.95).

There are more advanced metrics to consider, too.

Stallings ranked eighth among all Major League catchers in adjusted Fielding Runs Above Average, according to Baseball Prospectus, and 11th in Framing Runs. The latter was a focal point for Stallings this season, as he committed himself to the skill of framing pitches with former bench coach Tom Prince and bullpen catcher Jordan Comadena.

Musgrove fans 9 in 7 1/3 frames
Aug 17th, 2019 · 1:06
Musgrove fans 9 in 7 1/3 frames
Stallings did all the necessary drill work, catching weighted balls and properly positioning his body behind the plate and his glove around the strike zone. He watched video of elite pitch-framers and noticed how well they were able to keep their gloves in the zone, rather than letting the ball move them, so he strengthened his body in the weight room.

“It’s been a continual growth process. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better as the year’s gone on,” Stallings said in late September. “It’s been more this year than ever in the past.”

What went wrong?
This is not a knock on Stallings, but the answer is probably his games played total (71) and the fact that he had more plate appearances (210) than Cervelli.

Stallings started 53 games for the Pirates this year, which is not how you draw it up for your third catcher leaving Spring Training. Díaz started 75 games behind the plate despite having a brutal year overall, and Cervelli made 32 starts before he was sidelined and later picked up by the Braves.

Offensively, Stallings was more or less who he’s always been. The 29-year-old batted .262 with a .325 on-base percentage and a .382 slugging percentage. The good news is he tapped into a little more power to hit six home runs, as many as he’s ever hit in a professional season. He credited hitting coach Rick Eckstein for that improvement.

Stallings’ line-drive smash
Aug 13rd, 2019 · 0:42
Stallings’ line-drive smash
“Working with him, learning about my body and my swing,” Stallings said. “Pulling the ball in the air with backspin was something I struggled with. I used to always just topspin the ball because I wasn’t putting myself in a good position to hit. I really dove into that. It’s something that I will always struggle with because I’m so big and lanky with a lot of moving parts, but body position to hit has been the biggest change for me this year.

• Five questions facing the Pirates this offseason

“I feel like I have a good swing. I just don’t put myself in position to hit all the time. So we worked a lot on that, and it’s something we always have to work on. Putting myself in a more consistent position to hit has helped a lot.”

Best moment
How about June 27, when Stallings had three hits and a homer and caught a shutout against the eventual American League champion Astros in a 10-0 Pirates win at Minute Maid Park?

Recap: PIT 10, HOU 0
Jun 28th, 2019 · 3:16
Recap: PIT 10, HOU 0
Or how about the Pirates’ September series in San Francisco? Stallings hit two of his six homers in a historically pitcher-friendly ballpark while catching a pair of victories.

Stallings’ solo home run
Sep 10th, 2019 · 0:46
Stallings’ solo home run
2020 outlook
Stallings is under club control, so he should be back in some role. But will the next management group take another shot on the upside Díaz showed in 2018?

There are plenty of free agents available, and the Pirates picked up recent contributors like Cervelli and Stewart through smart trades. How would that decision or another acquisition affect Stallings? Stay tuned.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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One way or another, Josh Bell will be the key to returning the Pirates to respectability.

The Pirates will enter 2020 with new leadership. They will bring with them a new plan in hopes of returning the Pirates to prominence. I believe Josh Bell holds the key to that plan, and it may involve the new general manager trading the new Pirates’ star.

Newly announced team president Travis Williams doesn’t have a baseball background. However, he DOES have experience with winning organizations.

As COO of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mr. Williams was an integral part of that franchise’s success. He knows what it takes to build a winner, he understands a winning culture, and he brings that wealth of knowledge and a fresh perspective to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hiring a general manager will be his first priority and that person will, undoubtedly, have a track record of success with a small market operation.

This club has a number of young, talented players on the roster so a total rebuild will be an unlikely scenario. With a roster that includes Kevin Newman, Brian Reynolds, Cole Tucker, and Mitch Keller, and with a farm system that includes corner infielders KeBryan Hayes and Will Craig, there are pieces that fit in the short term.

Josh Bell, after his breakout season in 2019, is the key to unlocking the future for this franchise, however.

Bell’s numbers in his age 27 season were All-Star caliber:. 277 average, 37 home runs, and 116 runs batted in. Any team would consider Bell a key piece with those numbers.

So, the logical thing to do would be to offer Bell a long-term deal such as the deals offered to Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco.

Not so fast.

Bell’s agent is none other than Scott Boras, who has little to no interest in having a client sign for well under market value. Unless the Pirates offer Bell a deal in, say, the $20-22 million a season range, he isn’t signing anything.

The next logical move, despite likely fan reaction, is to trade Bell THIS off-season for a haul of pitching prospects.

Bell, not Marte, is the Pirates’ best trade chip and the new general manager will be well aware of this.

The timing could not be better, either.

After a promising start to his major league career in 2016 and 2017, Bell struggled in 2018. He lacked the power projected of him. His average hovered in the low to mid. 200s. He was, by all accounts, a disappointment.

Rick Eckstein was brought in by the previous regime as hitting coach last season and did wonders for Bell. His stance was simplified. His timing improved. The results speak for themselves.

Bell will be entering his age 28 season in 2020, which is considered his prime. He is coming off a career year and is under team control through 2022. His trade value could not be higher.

With Jameson Taillon out for next season, the pitching staff needs an influx of talent. Musgrove, Williams (Trevor, not Travis), Archer, and Keller are decent. However, the jury remains out on most of them. Williams has shown himself to be a solid third or fourth guy in a rotation. Same for Joe Musgrove. Perhaps a new pitching coach can harness something out of Chris Archer and perhaps hasten the development of Keller. I used ‘perhaps’ twice in that sentence. I think you get the point.

The bullpen was in shambles as well. As I see it, the Pirates have three dependable arms: Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, and Richard Rodriguez.

Perhaps.

Bottom line is this: the Pirates cannot afford to head into 2020 with anything resembling the staff of 2019.

Josh Bell provides the club with an opportunity to cash in on his stellar 2019 season by flipping him for a bounty of pitching.

The Pirates actually have options at first base that, while unlikely to compare to Bell’s 2019 season, will provide solid production. Colin Moran could move to first in a platoon with Jose Osuna. Moran is below average defensively at third base so moving him across the diamond would limit his deficiencies in the field. Osuna is solid defensively at third or first and provides plenty of power from the right side of the plate. A platoon here makes sense because neither player should be overexposed regularly. Is it unreasonable to expect 30 home runs and close to 100 RBI from these two?

Also, Will Craig is worth mentioning as well. He’s close to being ready for the show and would immediately provide a defensive upgrade at the position, with his Gold Glove in tow to attest for his prowess at the position.

Josh Bell holds the key to the Pirates’ future in 2020 and beyond. The old cliche “strike while the iron is hot” comes to mind. The fans may not be happy, but they may be more understanding with a new regime calling the shots than they had with Neal Huntington.

The new general manager will get a honeymoon of sorts his first year or two. He needs to take advantage of the situation and trade Josh Bell.

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With already completing a trade to in this year’s MLB FanSided offseason simulation, it was time to head to the free agent market to find a way to improve the team.
For the last few years, the MLB Division at FanSided has put together an offseason simulation with the sites playing General Manager. I am in charge of the Pittsburgh Pirates offseason simulation this year. Each team has been able to submit trades to one another as well as trying to bid on free agents.

Yesterday, I discussed my trade with the Philadelphia Phillies (Phillies TBOH). The trade had the Pittsburgh Pirates sending outfielder Starling Marte and reliever Keone Kela to the Phillies. Coming back to the Bucs in the deal was a package of four prospects, including three who are close to MLB ready. The list included top pitching prospect Adonis Medina, outfielder Adam Haseley, catcher Deivy Grullon, and infield prospect Kendall Simmons.

While the trade made with the Phillies was supposed to help bring in talent that will help in a shorter time frame, the team still needs plenty of help. When looking at the free-agent market, I thought it was important to not just add some starting pitching depth, but some quality starting pitching depth. On top of that, it was important to find a quality left-hander for the rotation, something the team has been missing in the last few years.

So as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates I extended a reasonable, two-year contract offer to free-agent pitcher Wade Miley. Miley was getting a lot of one year offers and so the second year was a big part of getting a deal done. Financially speaking, the deal was worth $17.5 million or, $8.75 million per season. A two-year deal seemed like a perfect fit on the Pittsburgh Pirates end of things. This gives them a quality lefty to help compete and win games with a growing team. Also, he would be back for 2021 when the team projects to really compete.

Starting Pitcher Career Numbers: 85-82, 4.23 ERA, 7.15 K/9, 49% Ground Ball Percentage

Wwith it being a two-year deal, it is a relatively safe deal to make. He would be easy to flip in a trade if he was not performing well enough, or if he was really performing well and a team was looking to get a starter with contractual control. Really, the contract made a lot of sense from all angles in terms of team success or value of a solid, left-handed starter.

Miley pitched for the Houston Astros last season and was with the Brewers in 2018. Over the last two years, Miley has had somewhat of a career resurgence. In 2018 he was really impressive in his 16 starts with the Brewers posting a 2.57 ERA. He followed it up with a 3.98 ERA with Houston this past season. While he regressed some, he still put up a strong season and if he repeated those results he would be worth $8.75 million per season.

With Miley slotting into the rotation, it gives some extra flexibility to potentially deal one of the starters. With the change over in management, it might be the time to just move on from Chris Archer. He is owed $9 million this upcoming year and has an option for 2021. Miley has been much better than Archer the last two seasons and would essentially replace him at a cheaper rate. To say the least, there has been a decent bit of interest for Archer by other FanSided GM’s so it seems likely that a deal will be struck.

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to another installment in the Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag series. We have six answers for you this week. As always, keep sending questions in our weekly mailbag call or by e-mail at pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Davidg1570 asks: With the Pirates rebuilding, what do you think about Chris Archer? He still strikes out a ton of batters and could maybe rebound in the AL East.

Once upon a time, I dreamed of seeing Chris Archer in pinstripes. Now? The hardest of hard passes. Despite his quality strikeout numbers, Archer struggled mightily in 2019. He walked a ton of batters (4.14 BB/9) and gave up a bunch of dingers (1.88 HR/9).

The right-hander still has quality velocity on his fastball and a good spin rate on his breaking ball, two qualities the Yankees love. The results don’t match the process, though. He gives off big time Michael Pineda vibes.

Baseball Savant
Archer tore it up from 2013-2015, but he’s been league average or worse ever since. I can’t imagine the Yankees having interest in him at his $9 million salary. They can find better arms elsewhere.

Cary asks: How about Scooter Gennett as a free agent target, if fully healthy. He’s a 29-year-old spark plug with a left-handed pull ratio that would seem to be perfect for Yankee Stadium. He’s played some third base, and he’s also played the outfield in his career. Seems like a versatile and clutch type player who could potentially slide in at second base and play some in the outfield and at third.

It seems like a lot of fans have identified Scooter Gennett as this year’s DJ LeMahieu. I hate to throw cold water on the idea, but Gennett really struggled in 2019. A bad groin injury cost him most of the season, but in the 42 games he appeared, he was basically unplayable. We’re talking a 44 wRC+ with a 29.5% strikeout rate bad. The San Francisco Giants released him on August 27—they didn’t even wait for rosters to expand and stash him on the bench!

Gennett did have two strong seasons in 2017 and 2018, hitting .303/.351/.508 with a 124 wRC+ between them. That’s not too far to look back and think maybe a healthy season would get him back on track. He was so bad in 2019, though, that I don’t think it’s safe to consider him the next LeMahieu. Maybe 2018 Neil Walker is a better comp.

Chilts asks: Will Mike Ford be part of the Yankees’ future, or traded?

Earlier this week, I thought the odds were pretty good that the Yankees would cash in on Ford as a trade chip. I also expected them to keep Greg Bird around, but he got designated for assignment on Wednesday night. If Bird doesn’t find his way back into the organization, then I suppose Ford position is somewhat safer.

The 27-year-old hit .259/.350/.559 with 12 home runs (134 wRC+) across 50 games. That’s essentially 2015 Bird production. Ford’s 91.9 mph average exit velocity also suggests that production wasn’t exactly a fluke; he can sting the ball, and good things generally happen to batters who do that.

It’s a tough call on whether he’s more likely to stay or gets moved. I’ll say he sticks around, though, mainly because most teams aren’t exactly clamoring for a first baseman.

lowrider225: With numerous other events besides baseball being held at Yankee Stadium during the course of a calendar year, such as pro soccer, the Pinstripe Bowl, concerts, and what have you, do the Yankees reap any rewards from those events? If so, what amount or percentage do they get?

The Yankees have a number of revenue streams outside of baseball games themselves. For example, Yankee Global Enterprises—the LLC behind the Yankees—has a 20% ownership stake in New York City Football Club. According to Inside the Empire, they earn revenue on all events held at Yankee Stadium. There’s also Legends Hospitality, the concessions provider at the Stadium. The actual earnings remain unknown, but it definitely exists. Funny enough, it may all get written off as losses to defer taxes.

Yanks4ever asks: How serious a punishment do you see Astros management getting for this scandal? When the Atlanta Braves flouted the international draft pick laws, they lost a year’s worth of picks and an executive got banned. Is that possible here?

How mad do you think the Commissioner’s Office is with the Astros right now? The Brandon Taubman incident dominated the headlines in the World Series, and now they’re caught up in a major cheating scandal. They have to be in some serious hot water.

Major League Baseball has a tendency to handle these issues quietly—take the Red Sox Apple Watch mini-scandal from a few years ago. This, though? The genie’s out of the bottle here. It’s too public for them to reasonably address on the low.

The Braves’ punishment in 2017 makes for a good comparison. They lost 13 players whom they had previously signed, forfeited future draft picks, were removed from future international signing pools, and GM John Coppolella received a lifetime ban.

At least one current executive echoes this. ““If Jeff Luhnow knew about this, he should be banned for life,” the anonymous general manager told Andy Martino. In the past, MLB has gone to great lengths to preserve the integrity of the game. This feels like one of those occasions.

Thomas asks: Don’t you think it’s about time that the Yankees get rid of their no beard policy? Besides being antiquated, it could be hurting them in free agency.

Yeah, the Yankees probably have too strict a grooming policy. I certainly agree on the antiquated part; baseball’s a game, not a desk job. For a good read on the subject, I recommend PSA Scribe Emeritus Kunj Shah’s story, It’s time for the Yankees to update their facial hair policy.

Real talk: this likely has no serious bearing on free-agent decisions. It falls under the same category of a player who reportedly wants to pitch close to home, or one who desires to play for his favorite team growing up. I know, I know David Price once said he wouldn’t pitch for the Yankees because he’d have to shave. But that flippant remark isn’t the best evidence for it. In the end, it comes down to money. In most circumstances, a player will sigh with whoever offers the the largest contract.

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After having a historically good month of May, Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Josh Bell has been named the National League Player of the Month.
There was never any doubt, was there? In the month of May, Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell was historically good. It was not just one of the best months in franchise history, but also in National League history.

Following his month long ambush on MLB pitching staffs, Bell has been named the National League Player of the Month. While this is the first time in Bell’s career he was won a player of the month award, it is safe to say it will not be the last. Hell, it may not be the last this season.

Bell slashed .390/.442/.797 during the month of May. His .501 wOBA, 218 wRC+, and .407 ISO all led the league during the month. His slugging percentage, ISO, and wRC+ all led the league, as did his 46 hits, 12 doubles, 24 extra base hits, and 31 RBI. His 12 home runs were tied for the lead league, while his wOBA were second in the league and his OBP was third.

During the month Bell collected 94 total bases which broke Ralph Kiner‘s franchise record for total bases in a single month. He also joined Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson as the only players in NL history to collect at least 12 doubles and 12 home runs in the same month.

Throughout the month of May Bell’s limitless potential as a hitter was on full display. His play in the month also turned him into both a legitimate NL MVP contender, as well as the front runner to start at first base for the NL in the All-Star Game next month. This is shaping up to be a magical, unforgettable season for Bell.

Congrats to Josh on a historically good month of May! And congrats on turning into some NL Player of the Month hardware!

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When the Nats take on the Houston Astros in Game 7 tonight, it will be just the third winner-take-all World Series game in Washington history. The Nats hope to make it two out of three.

In 1924, the Washington Senators won the city’s only World Series championship, when Walter Johnson came out of the bullpen in the ninth inning to win a 12-inning game against the New York Giants, after losing his two World Series starts.

Unfortunately the magic wore off the next year, in a mirror image for Johnson.

In the 1925 World Series, he won his first two first two starts against the Pirates but lost the seventh game in Pittsburgh, getting rocked for 15 hits and nine runs (five earned).

By now, most Nats fans are probably familiar with the celebrated ‘24 World Series finale, the high-water mark of Washington baseball. Game 7 of the ‘25 World Series, by contrast, is mostly forgotten today, but it was one of the most important and devastating games in DC baseball history.

Johnson – like the Nats’ starter tonight, Max Scherzer – was an ace pitcher north of 35 coming off an injury.

Scherzer, who turned 35 this season, missed his planned Game 5 World Series start because of neck spasms, but says he’s good to go tonight.

Johnson, 37, had strained his leg in his previous start, when he unsuccessfully tried to stretch a single into a double.

Like the Houston Astros, the Pirates were packed with a formidable lineup. They led the National League with a .307 batting average, and also paced the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs. Pittsburgh featured three future Hall of Famers – outfielder Kiki Cuyler, who led the team with a .357 batting average; third baseman Pie Traynor, who hit .320; and outfielder Max Carey, who hit .343 and led the league with forty-six stolen bases.

Washington took three of the first four games, but the Pirates won the next two to force a seventh game in Pittsburgh. After rain postponed the game, the two teams squared off on a cold, rainy afternoon, and a wet and muddy field.

A New York Times story described it as:

“… the wettest, weirdest, and wildest game that fifty years of baseball has ever seen … Water, mud, fog, mist, sawdust, fumbles, wild throws, wild pitches, one near fistfight, impossible rallies – these were mixed up to make the best and the worst game of baseball ever played in this century. Players wallowing ankle-deep in mud, pitchers slipping as they delivered the ball to the plate, athletes skidding and sloshing, falling full length, dropping soaked baseballs – there you have part of the picture that was unveiled on Forbes Field this dripping afternoon. It was a great day for water polo… But it was the last possible afternoon that you would pick out for a game of baseball on which hung the championship of the country.”

Nearly a century later, in another strange Fall Classic, the Nats and Astros will face off in “maybe the weirdest World Series imaginable,” as Ken Rosenthal wrote in The Athletic this morning.

Game 7 in 1925 turned out to be a microcosm of the series, with the Senators blowing a large early lead. Washington jumped ahead 4-0 in a wacky first inning that featured just two Senators hits. The Pirates did the rest with three walks, two errors, and a wild pitch, in a performance that set the stage for the slippery, sloppy showdown.

Pitching in ankle-deep mud and with a sore leg, Johnson couldn’t match his previous performance, when he had shut out the Pirates in Game 4. By the seventh inning, Washington clung to a 6-4 lead. The Senators sent their workhorse out for the bottom of the frame, but his defense let him down – as did his pitching.

The rally started when shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh, one of the heroes of the ’24 World Series and the winner of the 1925 American League MVP, committed a two-base error – the seventh of the World Series for the normally reliable fielder. The Pirates then tied the game on a double by Carey and a triple by Traynor, with both runs unearned.

Peckinpaugh, who had hit only four home runs in the regular season, briefly made amends for the miscue by slamming a homer into the left-field seats in the top of the eighth, giving Washington a 7–6 lead. But incredibly, he made yet another error in the bottom of the inning, and the Pirates scored three runs – two of them unearned – to take a 9-7 lead.

Pittsburgh reliever Red Oldman pitched a spotless top of the ninth, striking out Washington stars Sam Rice and Goose Goslin, to preserve the victory.

Like the Nats this year, the Senators had blown a two-game series lead, becoming the first team in history to lose the series after leading three games to one.

”Pittsburgh skies wept in sympathy for the lost hopes of Walter Johnson and Washington,” the Washington Post wrote.

After the series, American League president Ban Johnson criticized the Senators’ young player-manager, Bucky Harris, for using the aging Johnson in three games (which of course worked out well the previous year): “You sacrificed a World’s Championship for our league through your display of mawkish sentiment.”

The fiery Harris responded: “You run the American League, and I’ll manage the Washington baseball team.”

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Grant Jackson certainly is synonymous with Fostoria as the only native of the city to play baseball in the major leagues.

He’s become synonymous with Pittsburgh, too, where he experienced his greatest triumph as a pitcher and has lived for the last 40-plus years.

“My kids like it and I like it, so we’ve stayed,” he said in a telephone interview this week.

And with another baseball season having begun, fans will again occasionally see Jackson at PNC Park watching the Pirates, for whom he pitched from 1977-81 and during part of the 1982 season before wrapping up his 18-year career.

Though he mostly heads to the local VFW hall or stays home to watch the Pirates on TV, he typically makes his way to a few home games in a season. Going back to his playing days, he’s always made it a point to be friendly with fans, but sometimes it becomes too much when he’s simply trying to enjoy a day at the ballpark.

“If they become autograph sessions, I’ve got to go to the press box,” he said.

At the same time, such things away from the park are profitable for the 76-year-old in the form of card shows and speaking engagements. They’re nice supplements to the pension he garners as a former player, and he’s in a good location for such opportunities.

“There’s money being in the city of champions,” he said, referring to titles won by the Pirates in baseball (five), the Steelers in football (six) and the Penguins in hockey (five).

Jackson acknowledged that he enjoys some popularity in the Steel City.

“I’m loved in Fostoria, too, but love doesn’t pay the bills,” he said with a laugh.

Jackson grew up as a farmboy in the Fostoria area and starred in football, basketball, and track and field at Fostoria High School, from which he graduated in 1960. FHS did not have a baseball program at the time, but the left-handed Jackson became well-known for his pitching feats in American Legion ball.

Among those he impressed was Tony Lucadello, a Philadelphia Phillies scout who lived in Fostoria. Jackson signed with Philadelphia in 1961. Lucadello went on to sign many other stars, including future Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins and Mike Schmidt.

Like Jenkins, Jackson debuted with the Phillies in 1965. (Jenkins would be traded to the Chicago Cubs in the offseason.)

Jackson began his career as a starting pitcher, and he made the National League All-Star team in 1969 before finishing the season with a 14-18 record and a 3.34 earned run average.

He eventually became an effective relief man who enjoyed a 1976 season in which he went 7-1 with four saves and a 2.54 ERA while pitching in a combined 34 games for the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.

Jackson pitched in the World Series for the Orioles in 1971 and the Yankees in 1976 as those teams fell to the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, respectively.

In 1979, he was in his third year with the Pirates as they overcame a rough start to the season and made their way to the World Series to again face Baltimore.

Those Pirates became famous for more than their baseball prowess, as they rallied to the Sister Sledge song “We are Family” and future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell handed out “Stargell Stars” for players to wear on their caps in recognition of standout performances.

“Pops was the leader,” Jackson said, using the team’s nickname for the 39-year-old standout, who was named Most Valuable Player for both the season and the World Series in 1979. “If you had any problem between the lines, he would help you.”

The Pirates fell behind the Orioles 3-1 in the 1979 World Series before bouncing back to force a Game 7 in Baltimore. Jackson recorded a strikeout and two walks in 2.2 innings and ended up as the winning pitcher, as Stargell’s two-run homer in the sixth inning gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead on their way to a 4-1 triumph.

Jackson called that championship the top moment of his career.

“I’ve been asked that 1,000 times,” Jackson said of what it was like to play on that ’79 Pirates squad. “And I always say the same thing: It was tremendous.”

Jackson finished his career with an 86-75 record with 79 saves and a 3.46 ERA after pitching in 692 games. In addition to the Phillies, Orioles and Yankees, Jackson spent time with the Montreal Expos and Kansas City Royals.

He later had stints as the pitching coach for the Pirates and Reds.

Though a professional baseball season is a grind that includes travel, games and more hours at various ballparks than the average fan would imagine, Jackson said his enjoyment was such that “I never had a job.”

The pace is more easygoing for him now.

“I cut the grass, pick up leaves, shovel the driveway — just take it easy,” he said.