2015 Pirates Preview — The Pedro Alvarez Question

There is perhaps no question mark as big as what will happen to Pirates third basemen turned first baseman Pedro Alvarez. The former number two overall pick all but lost the ability to throw the ball to first base last season complicating his career trajectory.  Alvarez has power, there is no doubt about it, but like many power hitters he also strikes out at an alarming pace.

Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

While he may never become the superstar that was envisioned when he was drafted out of Vanderbilt it seemed for a while that Alvarez was on track to become a serviceable major league starter with the ability to hit 30 plus home runs a season. However he struggled to hit above .200 or a large part of last season and the addition of his sudden inability to field his position created a scenario in which he simply couldn’t be in the lineup. They eventually moved him to first to eliminate the throwing problem and the hitting picked up, but not enough.

During the winter meetings the Pirates seemed to have offered him to everybody for anything and while a few rumors emerged it seemed that no one was willing to give anything of value up for a year of Alvarez and that is the exact problem the Pirates face. Alvarez will demand big money next year and if some team is willing to give it to him then best of luck. The Pirates will almost immediately be priced out of the situation because they will not be willing to invest any more into Alvarez and his quirks.

Alvarez has also been fairly public about his desire to return to his home of New York City, meaning this first crack at free agency will be his first chance to go home and he will likely take it if the Mets or Yankees are willing to have him.

But let’s get real for a second…. Who is going to want Alvarez?

He seems to have Mark Reynolds written all over him.  Potential source of power, likely source of stress and heartbreak. It never came together for Alvarez for whatever reason, yet given his pedigree he will be given multiple chances. If the Pirates are smart, and I truly believe they are, they will let him go as soon as it is logical.

Best case scenario: Alvarez has a good start to the season and they package him with another player to make a midseason trade.

Worst case scenario: Alvarez fails at first, becomes a barely acceptable major leaguer and the Pirates lose him at the end of the season and get nothing in return for a player they invested the number two overall pick in.

Most likely scenario: Alvarez has a mediocre start and is traded for next to nothing. He goes on to have a disappointing career in the majors, yet sticks around for the next decade simply due to the fact he was once the second overall pick.

Mario Lemieux — The Best Ever

The title is the truth. Mario Lemieux was the best ever.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Charlotte Eagles

Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Charlotte Eagles action from July 17th, 2014

2014 National League Wild Card Game — Pirates vs. Giants

I watched a majority of this game at Shananigan’s in Windsor Terrace, drinking beers with three other dudes there to watch the game and hoping, just hoping that Bumgarner would cool off if only for an inning. This was one of those games that I will always remember because it is one of the few events in Pittsburgh sports history where I felt helpless, because I could see our team was helpless. They were being shut down by Madison Bumgarner and the Pirates had nothing they could do about it.

As the Pirates run at the championship continues 2014 is likely the last season where fans can just be happy to be in the playoffs. From here on out it’s championship time. If this administration is going to win a World Series it probably has to be in the next year or two. This game is kind of a mile marker on a highway of success that shows the exact point when expectations changed.

San Diego Sockers vs. Pittsburgh Spirit

MISL action from February of 1985

2013 — Pitt Panthers vs. DePaul Blue Demons

regular season game from 2013

1991 NLCS Game 7 — Braves vs. Pirates

The Braves scored three runs in the first inning, partly on a Brian Hunter two-run home run, and never looked back. Twenty-game winner John Smiley made the start, fared poorly, was yanked after two-thirds of an inning and lost to John Smoltz, who shut out the Pirates. Although Bob Walk was masterful in middle relief, it was too little, too late, even though he pulled his groin trying to help his cause attempting to stretch a single into a double in the bottom of the seventh. The Braves won 4–0 and nabbed the pennant. After Atlanta had gone 26 2⁄3 innings without scoring, the Pirates themselves went the final 22 1⁄3 innings without scoring. That streak would reach 30 innings before José Lind snapped it with a home run in the eighth inning of Game 1 in the 1992 NLCS.

Avery won the Series MVP award. Pitching 16.1 innings, the Braves starter did not allow a run, giving up nine hits and walking four while striking out seventeen. Avery said, “It’s been the best time of my life.”

1991 NLCS Game 2 Braves vs. Pirates

In Game 2, both teams were kept in check by the outstanding pitching performances of Zane Smith for Pittsburgh and Steve Avery for Atlanta. However, Avery and the Braves would come out on top 1–0, after Mark Lemke picked up a double and the only RBI of the game in the sixth inning. David Justice scored from second when Lemke’s seemingly routine grounder got past Pirate third baseman Steve Buechele, allowing Justice to score. Alejandro Peña got the save and the combined shutout was complete. The series was now tied 1–1.

The win snapped a 10-game postseason losing streak for the Braves franchise that began with Game 5 of the 1958 World Series, when the team was still in Milwaukee.


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