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Clay Holmes Jersey

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Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Clay Holmes said he doesn’t blame Eugenio Suarez for getting mad.

Suarez is having another fine season for the Cincinnati Reds, already up to 14 home runs and 39 RBIs after totaling 34 and 104 last year.

The last thing he needs is an injury when he’s hit by an errant pitch. But Holmes’ first pitch of the eighth inning Wednesday hit him in the left hand.

“Nobody enjoys getting hit,” Holmes said, “but at the same time there were no bad intentions behind it from me.”

After getting hit, Suarez walked to the mound, not necessarily to fight. Rather, he was on a fact-finding mission.

“He asked me if it was intentional,” said Holmes, the son of an Alabama preacher. “I told him it wasn’t. Kind of cleared that up.

“It’s not something I want to be known as. I was not trying to hit him. Not trying, for sure, to hurt anybody, ever. It was the first pitch of the inning. It slipped, got away from me. Unfortunately, it hit him.”

Yet the incident stirred more hurt feelings between the Pirates and Reds, coming a month after the teams’ benches and bullpens emptied when the Pirates’ Chris Archer threw behind Derek Dietrich.

After Suarez, who was uninjured, calmly walked to first base, apparently satisfied there no malice in the Holmes’ heart, Reds manager David Bell angrily confronted home plate umpire Cory Blaser and got himself ejected.

Later, Bell said of the Pirates, “We knew they’ll do it intentionally. I was doing what I could to protect our players. Clearly, we’re not going to get protected, so we have to do whatever we can. We have to take matters into our own hands.”

Reds pitcher Jared Hughes, who played for the Pirates from 2011-16, told The Athletic he agrees with Bell’s accusation that the Pirates intentionally throw at batters.

“Yeah, I think so for sure,” Hughes said. “Is it something that I saw when I was there? Yeah.”

Predictably, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle declined to get drawn into the controversy.

“I haven’t kept up with all of it,” he said before the game Thursday against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. “The interesting part of the game is always how people watch and they view it, because we can watch the same game and have different opinions and different thoughts.

“It’s third-person for me,” he said when asked about Hughes’ remarks. “I don’t read. It’s personal opinion. More often than not, we get very reactionary when things happen, and feelings and facts can be confused.

“But those men have their opinions, and they desire to express them. My opinion, I’m keeping to myself.”

For the record, Pirates pitchers hit 22 batters in the first 54 games this season (16th in MLB). The Reds are next with 21. Holmes has hit three in 13 innings, which leads all Pirates relievers.

Pirates pitcher Steven Brault said the situation could have ended badly, but players remained calm on the field.

“The one thing I do believe, this is still a game and people getting hurt (because of a purposeful act) over playing a game is ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t like it that much, but I understand protecting your teammates and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

“They figured it out, which is why we didn’t fight. I thought it was very mature of (Raisel) Iglesias (the subsequent Reds pitcher) to come in and just throw his inning and not hit anybody and end it there. I appreciated that.”

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The Pirates announced RHP Geoff Hartlieb underwent right foot surgery Wednesday. He is projected to make a full recovery and be ready for spring training.

Hartlieb told me before the regular season finale on Sep. 29 that he had been dealing with pain in his foot for “awhile,” but did not disclose when it started. He said then that he would meet with a doctor the next day.

Being that his right foot is the one he pushes off the rubber with, he said the injury affected his delivery.

The injury was first brought to attention after the game on Sep. 28, when then-manager Clint Hurdle announced Hartlieb was unavailable to pitch that day and the finale. It seemed to come as a surprise to Hurdle. When asked about the health status of some of his pitchers before that game, he said Hartlieb was fine. He was not mentioned in any of the September injury reports by director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk.

Hartlieb’s final outing of the year came on Sep. 20 in Milwaukee, where he allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings pitched. Hurdle said on Sep. 28 that he had not seen game action due to the number of other pitchers available and not finding the right spot for him.

Hartlieb, a 25-year-old former 29th round pick, made his major league debut on May 18. He struck out 38 batters over 35 innings for the Pirates and recorded an ERA of 9.00. He had more success in Triple-A Indianapolis, finishing with a 2.50 ERA and a 30.7 K% in 26 games pitched.

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Yesterday, Nick wrote an article talking about how the Twins deserve credit for acquiring Jake Odorizzi and working with him to find his best self in 2019. Today, I wanted to continue the “Finding the Next Gerrit Cole” theme by literally trying to find someone who could possibly provide the type of impact that Cole had on the Astros. Maybe there is one potential trade candidate out there who fits that mold.

Twins fans (at least those who read Twins Daily) have known about Jon Gray and his pitching talents since before the Colorado Rockies made him the third overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. The Twins Geek wrote up a Draft Profile on the flame-thrower from Oklahoma. That year, Gray was taken after the Astros took Mark Appel and the Cubs selected Kris Bryant. One pick after the Rockies drafted Gray, the Twins used the fourth overall pick on Kohl Stewart. Gerrit Cole, of course, was the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of UCLA.

Cole is listed at 6-foot-4.
Gray is listed at 6-foot-4.

Cole is listed at 225 pounds.
Gray is listed at 227 pounds.

Of course, height and weight are important in scouting, but in this analysis, it means nothing. There are dozens of MLB (and minor league) pitchers that are 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds or so. I thought it would be interesting to compare more to see how similar the two might be.

To do so, I looked at Gerrit Cole in 2017. He was 26 years old and had two more years of arbitration remaining. In 2019, Jon Gray was 27 years old, and as we look forward, he has two more years before he can become a free agent.

So let’s take a look at how Gerrit Cole performed for the Pirates in 2017 and compare it to how Jon Gray pitched for the Rockies in 2019. And hey, just for fun, let’s throw Cole’s 2019 numbers in there too.

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 8.44.21 AM
What does it show us? Obviously we know that Win-Loss record doesn’t tell us anything. Gray’s ERA was better, but Cole held a slight advantage in xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). Cole had the better WHIP. It might surprise people to see that Gray actually struck out more batters, though it’s statistically close enough, especially when strikeouts continue to increase across the league. Cole had better control.

The biggest difference is that Cole topped 200 innings in 2017 while Gray pitched just 150 innings in 2019. Gray went on the injured list in mid-August with a fractured left foot. He had surgery and should be ready in advance of spring training. He had a similar foot/ankle injury in 2017 that cost him two-and-a-half months.

Gray gets more ground balls, though I can’t help but wonder if that’s due to how he chooses to pitch in Colorado. The two had very similar strikeout rates.

Again, comparing those numbers to what Cole became in 2019 is more just fun than anything else, something to dream on.

Some will say that Gray isn’t as good as Cole was in 2017. I think that the numbers above show that they are more similar statistically than we may have even thought.

But I think it’s more important to look at how they pitch to see whether or not they are similar. Is their stuff comparable? Here are some numbers, again comparing Gray in 2019 with Cole in 2017. And, of course, I needed to add Cole in 2019 to the chart for fun, but also for a point.

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 8.43.06 AM
(SETH CORRECTION: Jon Gray threw 33.5% sliders, not 13.5%. Sorry if that created confusion.)

I happen to think this chart is really interesting. Again, comparing Gray in 2019 with Cole in 2017, there are a lot of similarities.

They both had an average fastball of 96 mph. They both throw 88 mph sliders. Gray’s curveball came in just a little slower, and so did his changeup. Cole threw more fastballs. Gray threw a lot of sliders and didn’t throw many changeups. Cole gave up less contact and got a higher percentage of swing-and-misses on strikes. It all speaks to his stuff being right on par with Garrit Cole’s in 2017.

The big question
In my mind, the big question is – and should be with any pitcher the Twins consider with trades or free agency: Do the Twins pitching coaches, coordinators and evaluators think that Jon Gray can take it a step up from his 2019 numbers the same way that Cole’s performance jumped from 2017 to 2019?

Cole added 1 mph on his fastball and on his slider. He did so while throwing a fewer fastballs and changeups and a few more sliders and curveballs.

Can Jon Gray add a tick or two to his velocity? Can his pitch mix be altered in such a way to reduce his contact rate and improve his swing-and-miss stuff?

Ultimately that’s what the Twins brass needs to consider.

What might it take?
If they do consider Gray to be a guy that could take a step forward in performance and possibly be an elite starting pitcher, well, then they need to figure out what they are willing to give up to acquire him from the Rockies.

So again, let’s look at Gerrit Cole for a comparison.

The Houston Astros acquired Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for four players:

RHP Michael Feliz – He was 24 years old and spent two-plus seasons with the Astros before the trade. He had a 5.13 ERA over that time period before the deal.
OF Jason Martin – He was a 22-year-old at the time of the deal. He split 2017 between High-A and AA and hit 35 doubles and 18 home runs that season.
1B/3B Colin Moran – He was 25 and had been a high draft pick. He was a Top 100 prospect in previous years but no longer at the time of the deal.
RHP Joe Musgrave – He was a 24-year-old, a first-round pick in 2011. He spent time as a part-time starter with the Astros in 2016 and 2017.
So what might a similar deal look like for the Twins? Obviously this is a hypothetical, but I think it would take something similar to below. I think that the package should be similar, but still a little less than what was required to acquire Cole.

RHP Fernando Romero – Romero is currently 24 years old and has spent parts of 2018 and 2019 in the big leagues. While his numbers in 2019, his first year as a bullpen arm, weren’t great, his potential is still high.
IF Travis Blankenhorn – He was just added to the 40-man roster, but like Martin, he split 2019 between High-A and AA and hit 19 home runs despite missing a bit more than a month with a broken finger.
OF/1B – Brent Rooker – Can you imagine what Brent Rooker could do to baseballs in the Mile High City? Rooker had been in the top 100 prospects last year but injuries cost him time in 2019. But his power is legit.
RHP Griffin Jax – Now, when I put this together, I wasn’t sure if Jax would be added to the 40-man roster. The Denver-area native wasn’t added to the 40-man roster, so he’s less likely to be tradable until after the Rule 5 draft. But there are any number of similar pitchers in the organization that the Rockies might have an interest in as well. If I were to keep the theme of Denver-area people, Bailey Ober might be a candidate. Or, might it take a pitcher with some big-league service time like a Devin Smeltzer or even Lewis Thorpe to be a sufficient final piece?
Let’s be honest. There’s no way to know what the Rockies would ask for. Maybe instead of four similar prospects, they may ask for one big prospect with one lesser prospect, or maybe the fourth player in this deal could be two other players.

The Twins – and every team in baseball – want to find the next Gerrit Cole.
Rockies ace Jon Gray has a lot of similarities to Gerrit Cole pre-trade, both statistically and in terms of stuff.
The Twins – and every team in baseball – will need to attempt to evaluate if they have ways that could make Gray take the next step toward becoming an elite starter.
Determine how much your team is willing to trade in exchange for Jon Gray (and then go-ahead and try to convince the Rockies that it is enough).
Hope! Hey, just because there are similarities between pitchers (age, size, stats and stuff) does not necessarily mean that they will have the same success. There is a lot of luck involved. But Derek Falvey has a reputation for developing pitchers. Wes Johnson got a lot of credit for some of the Twins’ pitching successes and improvements in 2019.
If nothing else, it’s fun to think about. Finding the next Gerrit Cole is half the battle. Helping him develop into that pitcher is another thing. Maybe there are red flags, concerns about Jon Gray specifically. Maybe there are other issues that the Twins need to factor and consider. We can’t know it all, but as fans, we’ve been waiting for a true ace since Johan Santana.

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While there are a lot of question marks facing the Pirates organization in 2020, one thing is certain: It’s going to look different.

For the first time since September 2007, there will be a new general manager overseeing all things baseball operations wise. Neal Huntington, who became the GM back then and helped rebuild the farm system to the point where it aided the Pirates in making three straight playoff appearances, was let go in late October.

State of the System
Division Team
For an extended period of time, that farm system was one of the best in baseball, making MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 rankings five times in a row from preseason 2015 through preseason 2017 (Two rankings are released each season.). A combination of graduations and trades thinned it out somewhat, but Pittsburgh did come in No. 15 in the 2019 midseason system rankings.

There is some elite-level talent at the top, with the top three prospects all firmly in the Top 100, but it thins out more quickly than it has in the past. It will be up to whoever takes the helm to help the Pirates restock so the farm system can again be an asset in helping the Pirates compete in the NL Central.


1) Mitch Keller, RHP (No. 26 on Top 100)
2) Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (No. 36)
3) Oneil Cruz, SS (No. 57)
4) Travis Swaggerty, OF
5) Cal Mitchell, OF
Complete Top 30 list »

Mayo on Oneil Cruz
Sep 20th, 2019 · 1:10
Mayo on Oneil Cruz

Mason Martin, 1B (No. 16): The 2017 17th-rounder displayed some pretty hefty power in 2019, hitting 35 homers and driving in 129 runs in 131 games with Class A and Class A Advanced combined. He had a .558 slugging percentage.

Cody Bolton, RHP (No. 13): Bolton had an outstanding 12 starts at Class A Advanced Bradenton before moving up to Double-A Altoona and having slightly different results. In Class A Advanced, he had a 1.61 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP, 69 strikeouts and just one home run allowed. More »


green up arrow Jared Oliva, OF (No. 11): Oliva had a solid, if unspectacular second full season of pro ball, with a .277/.352/.398 line to go along with 36 steals in Double-A in 2019. Then he led the Arizona Fall League in doubles, extra-base hits and steals to really raise his prospect profile.

red down arrow J.T. Brubaker, RHP (No. 26): Brubaker pitched well enough in 2018 to land a spot on the 40-man roster and looked poised to contribute to the big league staff at some point in 2019. But he made just six starts all year due to a forearm strain and elbow inflammation and didn’t pitch after June 23. He could come back healthy in 2020, but he’ll be 26 and the clock is ticking.

Oliva’s RBI double
Oct 6th, 2019 · 0:22
Oliva’s RBI double

Draft: Quinn Priester, RHP, 1st round (No. 6); Sammy Siani, OF, CBA (No. 7); Matt Gorski, OF, 2nd round (No. 21); Jared Triolo, 3B, CBB (No. 27). Complete Draft list »

International: Christopher Cruz, RHP (No. 20 on International Top 30)

The Pirates were aggressive last July when the 2019-20 international free agent signing period began, handing out a total of 16 six-figure bonuses. Seven were pitchers with Cruz, one of the top arms on the market, leading the way with an $850,000 bonus. The Pirates have been going back-and-forth between taking a high school arm (2019, 2017) and a college bat (2018, 2016) in the first round of the past four drafts. Don’t be surprised if Priester takes off and becomes a Top 100 caliber prospect soon.


Mitch Keller, RHP: Keller finished just two innings shy of graduating off of prospect lists during his uneven big league debut in 2019, but he finished off the year on a strong note and while his prospect star faded a tiny bit, he showed he can be an effective big league starter when he trusts his stuff.

Keller fans Goodrum to begin 5th
Jun 19th, 2019 · 0:26
Keller fans Goodrum to begin 5th
Best tools

Hit: Travis Swaggerty
Power: Mason Martin
Run: Ji-Hwan Bae
Arm: Oneil Cruz
Field: Ke’Bryan Hayes
Best athlete: Oneil Cruz

Fastball: Blake Cederlind
Curveball: Michael Burrows
Slider: Cody Bolton
Changeup: Luis Escobar
Control: Aaron Shortridge

How they were built

Draft: 23
International: 5
Trade: 2

Eight of the Pirates’ top 10 come from the Draft and the overall list is extremely Draft-heavy. But they might look back at a trade as providing a potential elite-level player as a key moment in player acquisition. Back in July 2017, the Pirates sent Tony Watson to the Dodgers and got a gangly teenager who was playing in the United States for the first time. Oneil Cruz is still gangly, but he’s becoming one of the most intriguing prospects in the game.

Top 30 breakdown by position

1B: 2
2B: 3
3B: 1
SS: 2
OF: 8
RHP: 14

If you’re looking for a future battery with a left-hander, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The Pirates don’t have a single backstop or southpaw in their Top 30. They do have lots of right-handers, though. The 14 on the top 30 places them third among all 30 organizations, behind only the Astros and Yankees (15 each).

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Josh Bell’s 472-foot home run at PNC Park on Wednesday created plenty of chatter around town, but it pales in comparison to two struck by legendary Pirates Hall of Famer Willie Stargell.

It also wasn’t Bell’s longest this season — he hit a 474-foot shot April 7 — and only tied teammate Jung Ho Kung for the third-longest by the Pirates since 2015, according to Statcast.

Bell’s two tape-measure blasts this season rank fourth and fifth all-time at PNC Park.

Here is a list of the five longest documented home runs in Pirates history. Some of the distances are estimated. Statcast didn’t start tracking distances until 2015.

1. Willie Stargell, May 20, 1978, Olympic Stadium, Montreal, 535 feet

Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson said Stargell had “power enough to hit home runs in any park, including Yellowstone.”

Stargell hit 475 home runs in a 21-year career, including two of the inside-the-park variety at cavernous Forbes Field.

He arrived at Stade Olympique only two home runs shy of tying Duke Snider on the all-time list. Serendipitously, Snider was part of the Expos’ broadcast team that day. Stargell hit two off Expos pitcher Wayne Twitchell, but the second one — with John Milner on base — was the most memorable.

“He made perfect contact,” Twitchell later said in an article on “This ball made it to the upper deck in a heartbeat. It was like trying to watch a tracer bullet — you could hear it when it hit. I was kind of in shock.”

“One of the most awesome things I have ever seen in my life,” Expos pitcher Rudy May said.

The baseball kept carrying and appeared like it might hit the far side of the dome. But it landed in the upper deck in right field.

The Expos painted the seat where Stargell’s blast landed in Pirates yellow. It was relocated to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario, after the Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Nationals.

Stargell, apparently, liked hitting long home runs in Montreal.

Prior to playing their games in Olympic Stadium, the Expos played in Jarry Park, which had a public pool outside the right-field scoreboard. The team presented Stargell with a life preserver to commemorate “all the swimmers he chased out of the pool.”

2. Stargell, Aug. 5, 1969, Dodger Stadium, 506 feet

Hall of Fame Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton didn’t surrender this home run, but he saw it.

Later, he commented in a article, “I never saw anything like it. (Stargell) doesn’t just hit pitchers. He takes away their dignity.”

The solo blast off Alan Foster was the first to clear every part of Dodger Stadium and land in the parking lot.

“I never saw anything like it,” Sutton said.

3. Pedro Alvarez, PNC Park, Oct. 4, 2015, 479 feet

Alvarez’s home run was struck on the last game of the season against Cincinnati Reds pitcher Josh Smith, leaving his bat at 115.4 mph. It helped the Pirates to a 4-0 victory, No. 98 on the season and the most in 24 years.

The home run was second-longest in PNC Park history and the longest by a Pirate. The PNC Park record (484 feet) was set by the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa in 2002.

Alvarez’s homer was a solo shot that didn’t reach the Allegheny River, but he had four others that did. One of those was struck in 2015 against the Minnesota Twins’ Rick Nolasco. It landed 461 feet from home plate in a boat docked between the fourth light tower and foul pole.

4. Josh Bell, PNC Park, April 7, 2019, 474 feet

The game against the Reds was better known for the benches-clearing fracas that erupted when Chris Archer threw behind Derek Dietrich, a retaliatory measure for Dietrich admiring a home run he hit previously.

Bell’s blast against Anthony DeSclafani left his bat at 113.3 mph in the fourth inning and is the fourth-longest at PNC Park.

5(t). Jung Ho Kang, Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Sept. 8, 2015, 472 feet

Kang’s home run against the Reds’ Collin Balestar was his 14th of the season, and it led to a 7-3 victory.

5(t). Bell, PNC Park, May 8, 2019, 472 feet

Bell’s home run against the Texas Rangers’ Shelby Miller was his team-leading ninth of the season and it was only the fourth all-time that landed in the Allegheny River on the fly.

But the dramatic blast that tied the score, 2-2, in the fourth inning, got lost amid the bullpen woes that are currently plaguing the Pirates. The Pirates lost, 9-6.

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Chris Archer has struggled since his arrival in Pittsburgh, but how the story ends is largely in his hands.

Chris Archer flew into Pittsburgh and arrived at PNC park on August 1, 2018. The fans were mostly excited. I say “mostly” as a way of giving cover to the rising number of fans that love to promise they were ahead of the game in hating the trade. He walked into the clubhouse and was swarmed by players who were excited to have the Pirates management show belief in them by providing help they needed to reach the post season. Then came the media, and Archer masterfully spoke about his role with the young pitching staff and being part of the lore of the storied franchise. It was off to a great start.

He sat on the railing as he took in his first ballgame with his new teammates and signed autographs for over an hour pre-game. He spoke with Greg Brown and Steve Blass during one half of an inning from the dugout and, again, said all the right things. The city was popping for the guy and he was set to take the mound and start showing everyone the pitcher they just acquired.

He was set to face the St. Louis Cardinals and he struggled early but muscled through. In the second inning he had allowed runners to reach second and third with one out when he walked Matt Carpenter to load the bases. Nobody would have judged the trade a failure if this game went badly, but it felt somehow powerfully important when he proceeded to strike out Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong back to back to escape the inning. PNC erupted. Archer fist pumped and leapt off the mound. The other Pirates starters mimicked Archer from the dugout steps. Archer went on to give up five runs, four earned in only five innings.

Nobody wanted to overthink his first outing but, as we would all soon discover, that line: five runs, four earned, in five innings, would be what we could come to expect from the former all-star.

The Pirates recently picked up the first of two options to retain the services of Chris Archer for 2020. This decision was just about as close to a no-brainer as you can get in baseball. Here is a player that even with a 3-9 record and a 5.19 ERA, still has plus stuff and finished an ugly, and injury-plagued 2019 with a .08 WAR. The bottom line is, Archer is signed to a team friendly deal, and while he hasn’t provided the quality the Pirates hoped, he still has value to the Bucs both on the field and, potentially, on the trade market. Never underestimate the ability of other organizations to think they can fix a guy. Especially when they show signs of figuring things out after dropping a disastrous pitch from the repertoire: the two-seam fastball.

You see, much of the issue with Chris Archer is after all we’ve seen, we might just be getting to know what he really is. During the Huntington/Stark management era, the two-seam fastball (AKA sinker) was imposed on pitchers. Meant to effectively manage mediocre talent into effectiveness by preaching the concept of pitch to contact, the Pirates fell victim to believing their own BS for lack of a better way of putting it. The idea wasn’t entirely flawed but believing every square peg should fit into that exact same round hole was. Gerrit Cole famously preached about being unleashed in Houston to pitch his way and use his overpowering fastball to seek strikeouts, and he’s about to be able to show $260 million reasons he was right. On the other hand, the Pirates have resurrected almost as many careers as they have stunted during that era. The concept turned around the careers of Ivan Nova and J. A. Happ.

Nobody knows who will be making the calls next season, but I can say with certainty if someone says the words ‘pitch to contact’ during the interview, they probably aren’t getting a call back.

Chris Archer has a history of leading a staff and has shown the ability to get strikeouts as he posted 143 in only 119.2 IP. The potential for him to take off with a new philosophy guiding him is high and if he delivers the entire landscape of next season might be too.

The new management team will have no reason to keep Archer around should he start to show 2020 will be the same. They, unlike the previous administration, won’t have to prove the trade was a good one. There will be no need to try and wait for a perfect storm of trade value and team performance.

That pitching philosophy being eliminated could help many of the pitchers, or it could cause some to take a step back. Those who have thrived under that direction like Trevor Williams and Steven Brault, who actually went one game this season tossing 96 pitches (all but two were fastballs). A pitching philosophy of identifying and accentuating the skills of each pitcher on an individual bases, mixed with some fine-tuned analytics could be the rising tide that lifts all boats.

For Archer, the onus is on him. The excuses are gone. Now its time for Archer to move past saying all the right things and begin to execute. This time though, he should be allowed the opportunity to live and die with a skillset he trusts.

It was a big trade to be sure, and a complete off-character move for the Neal Huntington regime, but those days are over. It’s time to write a proper ending to the story for Mr. Archer. If he doesn’t turn in some good work early, it probably won’t end in Pittsburgh.

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There is probably no popular song more widely associated with one team in baseball history than “We Are Family” and the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. This marks the 40th anniversary of the last World Series championship celebrated in Pittsburgh.

On this episode of “30 With Murti,” WFAN’s Sweeny Murti talks to the rubber-armed closer of that Pirates team, Kent Tekulve. He tells us about the leadership of Willie Stargell, the man known as “Pops,” and how he brought the team together.

Tekulve also tells us how and why a team of such diverse people found a theme of “Family,” identified itself with the working class population of the 1970s steel city of Pittsburgh and took it all the way to a World Series championship when they beat the Orioles in a seven-game series for the second time in the decade.

Also listen for the moving story of how the Pirates rallied from a 3-1 series deficit behind their manager, Chuck Tanner, who led his team hours after the passing of his mother.

“We Are Family” and the Pittsburgh Pirates are tied together forever. This is their story.

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WHITLEY COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ/WKYT) — It was a crash that killed the son and daughter-in-law of former major league pitcher, and Kenova, W.Va. native, Don ”Donnie” Robinson.

Now, an investigation by our sister station WKYT reveals details about the criminal history of the driver that caused the crash.

A total of five people were killed in the Christmas Eve crash in Knox County.

Kentucky State Police say Brent Robinson, 30, and Julia Robinson, 29, both of Bradenton, Fl., were in a car driven by Julia’s parents, Gary and Patricia Caldwell, when the driver of another vehicle lost control, crossed the center line, went airborne after hitting a median and then slammed into their car.

The Caldwell’s were also killed along with the driver of the car that hit them, David Vanderpool of Williamsburg, Ky.

While not much is known about the moments before the deadly crash, a look at Vanderpool’s history suggests the crash could have been avoided.

“He was on parole at the time of this accident which would have ended sometime in 2015,” said Whitley County Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Trimble, who says his jurisdiction had plenty of run-ins with Vanderpool.

The 31-year-old has faced roughly 35 charges in seven years. Most of them are theft related, but a few stand out like in 2006 he was charged with driving on a suspended license. In March of 2012, he was arrested for a felony theft charge where he was found guilty and sentenced to five years. He served only nine months.

“At the time he was sentenced, he had served about 180-some days. All people get credit for the time they have served, and under the current regulations a person is eligible to be paroled on a five year sentence after they have served nine months,” explained Trimble.

WKYT also reports that on December 5, Vanderpool was arrested again, but this time it was in Lincoln County for driving on a suspended license. The next day he pleaded guilty, despite being on parole he was sentenced to just 30 days.

The station reports that he skipped past the sentencing after Lincoln County District Judge Janet Booth gave him a two year conditional discharge, or simply probation. A condition that Trimble says would’ve been unsupervised.

“Probably at that time no one was aware of it, and I’m sure that if they were they may have looked at it differently. I don’t think it was their fault,” said Trimble.

The State Transportation Cabinet says Vanderpool’s license was again suspended in November of 2011 at the request of the Whitley County Court System.

“There is nothing that prevents a person without a license or a with suspended license from getting a set of keys, going to a car and taking off,” said Trimble.

WKYT requested a comment from Judge Booth’s office, but their calls were not returned.

Visitation for the Robinson’s and the Caldwell’s was held Thursday night

The four were headed home to celebrate Christmas after the Robinson’s flew to Kentucky from Florida.

KNOX COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) — The son and daughter-in-law of former major league pitcher, and Kenova, W.Va. native, Don ”Donnie” Robinson, have been killed in a car crash in Knox County, Ky.
The accident happened on U.S. 25-E near Flat Lick on Christmas Eve.

Kentucky State Police say Brent Robinson, 30, and Julia Robinson, 29, both of Bradenton, Fl., were in a car driven by Julia’s parents, Gary and Patricia Caldwell, when the driver of another vehicle lost control, crossed the center line, went airborne after hitting a median and then slammed into their car.

The Caldwell’s were also killed along with the driver of the car that crossed the center line, David Vanderpool of Williamsburg, Ky.

KSP investigators say alcohol may have been a factor in the crash.

The family was on their way to the Caldwell’s Harlan County home when the crash happened.

According to a Tampa television station, Brent and Julia had been at Don Robinson’s Bradenton, Fl. home for Christmas dinner on Sunday night and flown back to Kentucky on Monday.

“I keep thinking in my mind that 10 years from now, he’s not going to be here,” Don Robinson told the station. “He’s not going to be here so I can talk to him.”

Don also told the station that his son and Julia were inseparable, and how she would accompany Brent on business trips and how the two would go to games together, especially the Rays and the Giants.

“He loved his wife; he loved her more than anything. He wouldn’t do anything without her,” said Don.

Don Robinson says Julia and Brent will be buried in Florida.

Investigators said the Robinsons were not wearing seat belts.

Don Robinson pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, California Angels and Philadelphia Phillies during his 15-year major league career.

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There once was a Pittsburgh Pirates player who was a two-sport athlete that played both baseball and basketball. He is officially retiring from sports.
Many years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a player by the name of Dick Groat. Groat was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania in 1930. He went on to star as a two-sport athlete who went on to be one of Pittsburgh most beloved sports icons. Groat first went to Duke University from the years 1949-1952.

At Duke, Groat starred on both their basketball team and their baseball team. While he will always be known better for his baseball career, Groat also had a really nice college basketball career. For Duke basketball, Groat became a two-time All-American coming in the 1951 and 1952 seasons. His best season came in 1952 when he set the NCAA record for points scored and took home the National Player of the Year award. After his time was up on the hardwood, Duke retired Dick Groat’s number 10.

Groat went on to be the third overall pick in the 1952 NBA Draft by the Fort Wayne Pistons. He ended up playing just three seasons of basketball, averaging about 12 points per game. However, he eventually stepped away from basketball because his professional baseball career was taking off.

The Pittsburgh native got the opportunity to also play baseball. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1952 and went on to play 14 seasons in the MLB. He was primarily a shortstop, but also played some third base in his career. Groat’s first nine years in Major League Baseball were spent with his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, and he made quite the career with them. He spent his last three years with the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies before retiring.,

All in all, Groat had a strong career slash line of .286/.330/.366 with 2138 hits. Groat’s numbers could have been even more impressive, but he missed the 1953 and 1954 season due to military service. His best year with the Pittsburgh Pirates was one of the best years for the franchise.

During the 1960 season, Groat was paired with Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski, creating one of the best double-play tandems of all time. Of course, 1960 is most noted for the Pittsburgh Pirates beating the New York Yankees in the World Series. However, Groat also brought home the National League Most Valuable Player. Groat hit .325/.371/.394 with 32 extra base hits, including 26 doubles, four triples, and two home runs. The shortstop was a three-time all-star with the Bucs and a five-time one in his career.

The reason that Dick Groat is being talked about right now is that the former Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop and Pittsburgh native is stepping away from sports for the first time since he served in the military. Groat has become a Pittsburgh icon not only for his time spent on the field, but also his career off of it. For the last 40 years, Groat has called the University of Pittsburgh’s college basketball games. He announced a few days ago that he would not be returning for year 41 next year.

Dick Groat is considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. He was a two-sport star who was a top NBA draft pick, a baseball MVP, and a World Series champion. He spent a good chunk of his life dedicating his time to Pittsburgh, being a role model in the community and becoming one of the great basketball commentators. Dick Groat has spent nearly 70 of his 88 years of living in sports, his retirement is well deserved.

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NEW YORK — It’s been quite a stretch for postseason hero Howie Kendrick. A week after helping to lift the Nats to the franchise’s first World Series title — and D.C.’s first since 1924 — Kendrick was honored with the Heart & Hustle Award at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s 20th Annual Legends for Youth dinner.

“Being chosen as a Heart & Hustle winner out of all the finalists, there were a lot of great guys this year, but I’m truly humbled they chose me,” Kendrick said in a recorded speech. “It’s truly an honor to be like [past winners]. They set the table. They laid the foundation, and I get an opportunity to represent something I’ve modeled my career after.”

We are proud to announce our 2019 overall Heart and Hustle Award winner, Howie Kendrick!

— MLBPAA (@MLBPAA) November 8, 2019
The Heart & Hustle Award is voted on by Alumni and active Major League players, and it is presented annually to an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game. One player from each team was chosen, then fans, alumni and active players voted on an overall winner from that pool.

Not only did Kendrick hit the decisive homer in Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 30, but he also became the first player in MLB history to hit multiple home runs in the seventh inning or later in winner-take-all games in a postseason. His grand slam in the top of the 10th inning in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers on Oct. 9 sparked the Nationals to the franchise’s first postseason series victory.

The two historic and unforgettable highlights added to what had already been an outstanding 2019 season for the 36-year-old Kendrick, who hit a career-best .344 with 17 homers and 62 RBIs. He has 1,722 career hits over a distinguished 14-year career.

Kendrick’s clutch postseason
Oct 31st, 2019 · 1:21
Kendrick’s clutch postseason
Kendrick wasn’t the only person honored at the packed dinner. Hall of Famer Tony La Russa was recognized with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. A three-time World Series winner as a manager, La Russa’s 2,728 career wins trail just Connie Mack and John McGraw for most in MLB history. La Russa has dedicated countless hours to his Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), where animals without a home can be kept and matched with potential owners, including military vets. The ARF has saved more than 42,000 cats and dogs.

“You are only as good as what you do to give back,” La Russa said. “My wife and I take that seriously.” In addition to La Russa, Hall of Famers Joe Torre (who introduced La Russa), Harold Baines, Andre Dawson and Lee Smith were among the baseball legends who attended the event.

The man himself.

Congratulations to Tony La Russa for receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award tonight at our #LFYDinner ✨

— MLBPAA (@MLBPAA) November 8, 2019
Two-time World Series champion and two-time All-Star Johnny Damon received the Association’s Brooks Robinson Community Service Award. Damon has been active with various charities both during his playing career and in retirement, and he said he always made a point — even leading teammates — to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center when on the road in Baltimore.

“I always feel like you can give more to help out the people who can’t help themselves and to help out charities that are near and dear to my heart,” Damon said. “Sometimes you can’t recognize guys when they first come to Walter Reed, and then you see them five, 10 years later and you have a conversation with them, and they’re like, ‘I remember.’ And I think that’s the coolest thing ever.”