Tagged: Pirates

Roberto Clemente: The Pride of Puerto Rico

Roberto Clemente is revered in Puerto Rico. He is the unquestioned king of Puerto Rican baseball. The legendary baseball player has a nearly mythical status on the island. 

The trail blazing Right Fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates was the first Puerto Rican inducted into the Hall of Fame. Clemente is not just the greatest player from the island, he is among the greatest to ever play the game. Clemente’s career numbers leave little doubt about his place in Puerto Rican baseball history. He played 2,433 Games, had 10,212 Plate Appearances, 9,454 At Bats, collected 3,000 Hits, 440 Doubles, 166 Triples, 240 Home Runs, 1,305 RBI , scored 1,416 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, 621 Walks, 1,230 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .359 OBP, .475 SLG, .834 OPS, 130 OPS+, and 94.76 WAR. An obvious Hall of Famer. 

Roberto Clemente was a true humanitarian who gave his time and money to help people in need. (Roberto Clemente Museum)

How does Clemente rank among Puerto Rican players? He played the third most Games, had the fourth most Plate Appearances and third most At Bats. He is the only Puerto Rican member of the 3,000 Hit club, with 156 more Hits than fellow Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. Clemente ranks sixth in Doubles. He easily outdistanced himself as the Triples leader with 166, 72 more than Jose Cruz. He ranks 12th in Home Runs, seventh in RBI, and third in Runs scored. Clemente Stole the 20th most Bases, drew the 10th most Walks, and Struck Out the 11th most times. His career .317 BA is the highest among qualified Puerto Ricans and one of only two with a .300 career BA. Clemente is seventh in OBP, 10th in SLG, and ninth in OPS. His 94.76 career WAR is the highest for any Puerto Rican player and 24.67 ahead of Carlos Beltran. Clemente’s 15 All Star games are the most by any Puerto Rican player. His play on the field made him the pride of Puerto Rico, but his actions off the diamond made Clemente a legend. 

Roberto Clemente was a true humanitarian. He supported people financially, gave his time, put on baseball camps, and fought racial and ethnic prejudice. Throughout his career Clemente was referred to as Bob instead of Roberto. He hated the anglicizing of his name, he was proud of his Puerto Rican heritage. Despite this, and other slights, Clemente never responded with anything other than kindness. After his tragic death the Hall of Fame waived the usual five year wait period and inducted Clemente through a special election in 1973. In 1971 MLB began presenting the Commissioner’s Award for “The player that best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”. The award was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973. Clemente was a dedicated humanitarian and the award helps continue his legacy of selfless service to others. There is no better legacy. 

Retire #21.


The 30 in 30 Schedule

The baseball schedule is a grind. Day after day, game after game. 162 games is no easy feat. Neither is 30 games in 30 days. We have our schedule for seeing all 30 teams in 30 days. It is not for the faint of heart. 

After much time and research, here is the schedule we will follow for our 30 in 30 baseball road trip. 

July 16July 17
St. Louis
July 18July 19July 20July 21July 22July 23July 24
Philadelphia PhilliesWashington NationalsAtlanta
Tampa Bay RaysMiami
Kansas City Royals
July 25July 26July 27July 28July 29July 30July 31
Cleveland SpidersBaltimore OriolesBoston
Red Sox
Blue Jays
August 1August 2August 3August 4August 5August 6August 7
New York
New York YankeesDetroit
Milwaukee BrewersChicago White SoxColorado
Los Angeles Dodgers
August 8August 9August 10August 11August 12August 13August 14
Oakland AthleticsSan Diego
Los Angeles AngelsSeattle
San Francisco GiantsArizona DiamondbacksTexas

In 30 days we will drive 15,611 miles and roughly 237 hours. We have 11 drives over 500 miles. This includes three drives over 500 miles, three over 700 miles, and five over 1,000 miles. We will be driving a rental car, no sense destroying our own cars. There will be long days where we do not want to drive. However, it will be worth it in the end. 

This is one of the truly great baseball road trips. The most common reaction from people has been shock at the enormity of the trip and the amount of driving. Kevin and I both understand and are thankful Bernie will be joining us later in the trip to be our third driver. Hopefully knowing the end is in sight energizes us. 

There are two types of challenging drives. Difficulty because of game start time and distance. The two drives that are difficult because of start times are early in the journey. Our third game is the Phillies with a 1:05 PM start time. It is 576 miles and almost 9 hours from Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The easy solution would be to drive some after the Reds game. However, I live in Cincinnati so it makes more sense to sleep in my own bed before leaving. This means we will hit the road around 3 AM. Rise and drive. The second challenging start time is in Tampa. We will be coming from Atlanta, 493 miles and almost 8 hours away. The Rays game starts at 12:10 PM. Again the easy solution is to start driving the night before, but finances play a role. I am from Atlanta so we will stay with my family, plus hang out with Jesse and John. You cannot pass up free lodging. Kevin and I will have another 3 AM departure. Great for beating traffic, but no one wants to wake up that early. 

We are hoping for nothing but blue skies, green grass, and baseball. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The second category of difficult drives is the distance between teams. Try as we might, some teams are isolated or at dead ends. The Marlins and Rays present a problem. The Braves are the only close team so we knew there would be a long drive to or from Florida. We will have a mostly free day in Miami, and free lodging thanks to our friend Jason, so we should be rested for the drive to Houston. The Astros are 1,186 miles and 17 hours away. Unfortunately Miami has a night game, so another short night before setting off around 2 AM. The change from Eastern to Central Time helps, but a 17 hour drive is tough. Miami to Houston is our longest drive of the trip. 

The West Coast could make or break the trip. Our limited window and the schedule gave us limited options. The trip west begins after seeing the White Sox. We will drive 1,004 miles and 14 and a half hours to Denver. The time zones again help. After the Rockies game we have to keep moving, our next game is in Los Angeles. Dodger Stadium is 1,022 miles and almost 15 hours away. Back to back 1,000 mile days will be brutal, but our baseball guardian angel, Bernie, joins us at the perfect time. After a few days driving up and down California we face a drive from Anaheim to Seattle. The Mariners are 1,163 miles and 18 hours north. While it is a few miles shorter than Miami to Houston, California traffic can be a nightmare. The key is simply getting out of Los Angeles.  The final long drive is to our final game. We head 1,047 miles and 15 hours east from Phoenix to Arlington for the Rangers game. The time zones will work against us. The final leg will either have us completely spent or we will be hyped as we complete the most ridiculous trip of our lives. The only thing that will matter is watching our 30th game in 30 days. 

There will be plenty of difficult drives along the way, but we know these are the ones that will test our commitment to completing 30 in 30. Having an off day in Miami and New York should reenergize us. The short drives between Milwaukee and Chicago as well as San Diego and Los Angeles will give one of us a day off. This is our schedule to see 30 games in 30 days. Hopefully we hit minimal traffic and avoid rain delays and rain outs. 


Run If You Dare

Position players are largely judged by their abilities at the plate. However playing defense is critical to team success. Outfielders are judged on their Range, how much ground they cover to convert balls in play into outs, and arm strength. The ability to throw out runners can prevent them from taking the extra base. Reputation alone can impact how opposing teams run the bases. 

Roberto Clemente’s arm stopped base runners. His ability to rifle the ball in from the outfield continues to amaze, nearly 50 years since his final game. Clemente won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, 1961-1972, for his play in Right Field. The Gold Glove award is subjective, but Clemente’s defensive skills earned him the award. 

In his Hall of Fame career, Clemente played Right Field in 2,305 Games, 19,920.1 Innings, had 4,845 Chances, made 4,459 Putouts, 255 Assists, 131 Errors, turned 40 Double Plays, posted a .973 FLD%, 2.13 RF/9, 2.05 RF/G, and 204 Rtot. While his FLD% was -0.004 below league average, he was 0.19 higher in RF/9, and 0.10 higher in RF/G. Clemente’s Range made up for any fielding deficiency. His arm helped the Pirates win as he Held 48% of runners, 7.1% better than league average. His 4.3% Kill rate, runners thrown out, was 1.1% higher than league average. During his career, Clemente prevented 52.3% of runners from taking the extra base or threw them out versus the league average of 44.1%. Opposing base runners Held or were thrown out an additional 203 times by Clemente. Pittsburgh pitchers loved the Great One.

Roberto Clemente may have been better with the glove than the bat. (www.ClementeMuseum.com)

Every player has a peak. The defensive peak for Clemente is difficult to pinpoint as he never declined. In his 12 Gold Glove seasons, Clemente played Right in 1,614 Games, 14,034.2 Innings, had 3,286 Chances, made 3,031 Putouts, 168 Assists, 87 Errors, turned 28 Double Plays, posted a .974 FLD%, 2.06 RF/9, 1.99 RF/G, and 133 Rtot. He was slightly below average in FLD%, -.003, and above average in RF/9, 0.11. and RF/G, 0.04, with 133 Rtot. His arm was dangerous. In 1,735 Chances with runners, Clemente Held them 833 times, 48.01%, and Killed them 71 times, 4.09%. Opposing base runners were unable to advance 52.1% of the time. The numbers are similar to the rest of his career. Clemente’s Gold Glove years highlight his consistent elite defense. An average Gold Glove season was 135 Games played, 1,169.2 Innings, had 274 Chances, made 253 Putouts, 14 Assists, 7 Errors, turned 12 Double Plays, .974 FLD%, 2.06 RF/9, 1.99 RF/G, 11 Rtot, 145 Base Runner Chances, 69 Holds, and 6 Kills. 

A strong arm builds a reputation. The more runners cut down the less likely more will try for the extra base. Fear of Clemente saved the Pirates runs every season  he patrolled Right Field. Clemente was a Hall of Fame player with the bat, but may have been even better with the glove. 

Retire 21.


United States of Baseball- Kentucky

It has been over a century since Kentucky had a Major League team. The Louisville Colonels/ Eclipse were absorbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1899. Despite the lack of a Major League team, the Bluegrass State has produced 125 Major League players. The greatest Kentucky born pitcher is Jim Bunning. His 60.37 career WAR ranks him 34th among state and territory pitching leaders. Pee Wee Reese is the greatest position player. His 68.23 career WAR ranks 19th among state and territory leaders. Bunning and Reese give the Bluegrass State 128.60 WAR, 25th highest among all states and territories. 

Jim Bunning grew up across the Ohio River from the Cincinnati Reds. The Southgate native pitched for 17 seasons with 4 teams: Detroit Tigers (1955-1963), Philadelphia Phillies (1964-1967, 1970-1971), Pittsburgh Pirates (1968-1969), and Los Angeles Dodgers (1969). The Righty appeared in 591 career Games, made 519 Starts, threw 151 Complete Games, including 40 Shutouts, pitched 3,760.1 Innings, allowed 3,433 Hits, 1,527 Runs, 1,366 Earned Runs, 372 Home Runs, 1,000 Walks, 2,855 Strikeouts, posted a 224-184 record, 3.27 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, and 115 ERA+. 

Career numbers never tell the full story of a player. Bunning was a nine time All Star. The former Xavier University basketball player threw a No Hitter on July 20, 1957. He then threw an Immaculate Inning on August 8, 1959. Five years later on June 21, 1964, he was perfect. Bunning’s Perfect Game was the fifth in Major League history, the first since 1922, and the first in the National League since 1880. He also played a critical role in recruiting Marvin Miller as the first leader of the Player’s Union. After retiring, Bunning managed in the Phillies Minor League system before entering politics. He was elected to the Kentucky State Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate. In 1996, Bunning was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee. His final baseball honor came in 2001 when the Phillies retired his #14. 

Jim Bunning began his career in Detroit before becoming a Hall of Famer with the Phillies. (Bettmann/ Getty Images)

The best season of Jim Bunning’s career was with the 1967 Phillies. He made 40 Starts, threw 16 Complete Games, including 6 Shutouts, pitched 302.1 Innings, allowed 241 Hits, 94 Runs, 77 Earned Runs, 18 Home Runs, 73 Walks, 253 Strikeouts, posted a 17-15 record, 2.29 ERA, 1.039 WHIP, and 149 ERA+. He led the National League in Starts, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, Hit By Pitch, and Batters Faced. Philadelphia finished two games above .500, but Bunning still finished second for the Cy Young and 22nd for the MVP. Great seasons can happen for players on less than great teams.

Pee Wee Reese never wanted to go to Brooklyn. The Dodgers legend thought he was heading to Boston. When Joe Cronin kept playing despite his age, the Red Sox traded the minor leaguer to the Dodgers. Harold Henry Reese gained his nickname from his love of playing marbles. The Ekron native played Shortstop for 16 seasons with the Brooklyn/ Los Angeles Dodgers. He missed three full seasons serving in the Navy Seabees during World War II. Despite the lost time, Reese still played in 2,166 career Games, collected 2,170 Hits, 330 Doubles, 80 Triples, 126 Home Runs, 885 RBI, scored 1,338 Runs, 232 Stolen Bases, 1,210 Walks, 890 Strikeouts, .269 BA, .366 OBP, .377 SLG, .743 OPS, and 99 OPS+. Reese was a solid Shortstop. He played 17,707.1 Innings, had 10,319 Chances, made 4,040 Putouts, 5,891 Assists, 388 Errors, turned 1,246 Double Plays, with a .962 FLD%, 5.05 RF/9, 4.93 RF/G, and 22 Rtot. His skills made Reese a 10 time All Star, named Dodger captain in 1949, his #1 retired by the Dodgers, and elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. 

Pee Wee Reese’s greatest moment had little to do with baseball. (www.peeweereese.com)

Reese played in seven World Series, all against the Yankees. Brooklyn won only once, 1955, in their sixth attempt. In 44 World Series Games, Reese collected 46 Hits, 3 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 16 RBI, scored 20 Runs, 5 Stolen Bases, 18 Walks, 17 Strikeouts, .272 BA, .346 OBP, .349 SLG, and .695 OPS. 

Pee Wee Reese’s best season was 1954. He played in 141 Games, collected 171 Hits, 35 Doubles, 8 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 69 RBI, scored 98 Runs, 8 Stolen Bases, 90 Walks, 62 Strikeouts, .309 BA, .404 OBP, .455 SLG, .859 OPS, and 121 OPS+. He was named an All Star and finished ninth for the MVP. Reese set career highs in Doubles, Batting Average, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. It was his only season hitting over .300. 

Perhaps the greatest moment of Reese’s career was a simple act. It is debated where it occurred, Cincinnati or Boston. What is not debated is Reese putting his arm on Jackie Robinson’s shoulder in a public show of support. Reese could not shield Robinson from the horrific abuse he took from opposing players and fans, but showing his support for his teammate let everyone know where he stood. Reese’s support helped Robinson succeed. 

The Bluegrass State has a proud baseball legacy. Kentucky is home to several Minor and Independent League teams. Four native Kentuckians are enshrined in Cooperstown: Jim Bunning, Happy Chandler (Commissioner), Earle Combs, and Pee Wee Reese. More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to the Gulf Coast. The Pelican State is next, Louisiana.


United States of Baseball- Iowa

“Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.”

Field of Dreams is one of the best baseball movies ever made. It shines a light on Iowa and its contribution to the game. The Hawkeye State has sent 222 players to the Major Leagues. There are several terrific pitchers from Iowa, but Red Faber is the best. His 67.67 career WAR ranks 21st among state and territory leaders. Cap Anson is the greatest position player from the Hawkeye State. His 94.28 career WAR is the 13th highest among state and territory leaders. Faber and Anson give Iowa 161.95 WAR, 17th highest among all states and territories. 

Red Faber was on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Opening Day roster in 1911, but was sent to the minors before pitching in a game. In Minneapolis, of the American Association, the Cascade native hurt his arm in a distance throwing contest. If not for learning to throw the spitball, his career would have been over. Urban Clarence Faber was later one of 17 pitchers grandfathered in when the spitball was made illegal before the 1920 season. He would be the last spitballer to play his entire career in the American League. 

Sometimes in life you are at the right place at the right time. A group of All Stars embarked on an Around The World Tour in 1914. They hoped to spread the game and create more business for Al Spalding’s sporting goods company. When Christy Mathewson backed out over concerns of seasickness, Faber replaced him. It was the break of a lifetime. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was impressed by the young right hander and bought his contract for the 1914 season. Faber would spend his entire 20 season career with the White Sox (1914-1933). He pitched in 669 Games, made 483 Starts, threw 273 Complete Games, including 29 Shutouts, pitched 4,086.2 Innings, allowed 4,106 Hits, 1,813 Runs, 1,430 Earned Runs, 111 Home Runs, 1,213 Walks, 1,471 Strikeouts, posting a 254-213 record, 3.15 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, and 119 ERA+. He pitched three career One Hitters, but never a No Hitter. Faber pitched in four games and won three for the White Sox in the 1917 World Series. He did not pitch for the Black Sox in the tarnished 1919 World Series as he recovered from the flu and multiple injuries. He twice led the American League in ERA (1921-1922). Faber was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veterans Committee. 

Red Faber reached Cooperstown by impressing Charles Comiskey, learning the spitball, and avoiding the Black Sox. (Charles Conlon/SN Archives)

Faber’s best season was in 1921. He pitched in 43 Games, made 39 Starts, threw 32 Complete Games, including 4 Shutouts, pitched 330.2 Innings, allowed 293 Hits 107 Runs, 91 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 87 Walks, 124 Strikeouts, posted a 25-15 record, 2.48 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, and 170 ERA+. He led the Junior Circuit in Complete Games, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. Faber’s 25 Wins accounted for 40% of Chicago’s wins in the aftermath of the Black Sox Scandal. 

Cap Anson was baseball’s first superstar and the face of racism in baseball. Adrian Constantine Anson alone did not prevent African-Americans from playing Major League Baseball, but his stature and fierce racism helped solidify baseball’s color line. The Marshalltown native played First Base and Managed for most of his career. In 27 seasons, Anson played for three teams: Rockford Forest Citys (1871), Philadelphia Athletics (1872-1875), and Chicago White Stockings/ Colts (1876-1897). He managed three teams in 21 seasons: Philadelphia Athletics (1875), Chicago White Stockings/ Colts (1879, 1880-1897), and New York Giants (1898). He was a fierce competitor, winning five National League pennants and posting a 1,295-947 record, .578 Win%, as a manager. Anson was the second manager with 1,000 wins, after Harry Wright, and the first player to collect 3,000 Hits. 

The ferocity that made him such a great player also made Anson plenty of enemies. He was an outspoken opponent of the Players League, and sought to undermine it. Anson later believed former members of the Players League conspired to deny him multiple pennants after the Players League’s collapse. He never let go of a grudge. 

Cap Anson was baseball’s first superstar. A talented player and manager, he is forever linked to baseball color line. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Cap Anson was the last barehanded first baseman, finally wearing a glove in 1892. He helped lead the 1914 Around the World Baseball tour with his good friend Al Spalding. In his legendary career, Anson played in 2,524 Games, collected 3,435 Hits. 582 Doubles, 142 Triples, 97 Home Runs, 2,075 RBI, scored 1,999 Runs, 277 Stolen Bases, 984 Walks, 330 Strikeouts, .334 BA, .394 OBP, .447 SLG, .841 OPS, and 142 OPS+. When he retired, Anson was the all time leader in Games Played, At Bats, Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, RBI, and Managerial Wins. Over 120 years after he last played for the Cubs, he remains the franchise leader in Hits, Runs scored, Doubles, and RBI. Anson won four Batting Titles (1879, 1881, 1887, and 1888). He remains 9th all time in Runs scored, 7th in Hits, 22nd in Doubles, 5th in RBI, and 4th in Singles. Defensively at First, Anson is 7th in Games Played, 2nd in Putouts, and 1st in Errors. Anson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939.

In his long career, Anson had plenty of great seasons, but his 1886 season with the White Stockings was his best. In 125 Games, he collected 187 Hits, 35 Doubles, 11 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 147 RBI, scored 117 Runs, 29 Stolen Bases, 55 Walks, 19 Strikeouts, .371 BA, .433 OBP, .544 SLG, .977 OPS, and 180 OPS+. He led the National League in RBI. Anson’s greatness on the field is difficult to confine to a single season, but 1886 provides a useful comparison to the modern game.

Iowa continues to play an important role in the growth of baseball. The Hawkeye State has seven native sons in the Hall of Fame: Cap Anson, Dave Bancroft, Fred Clarke, Red Faber, Bob Feller, Dazzy Vance, and J.L. Wilkinson (Executive). More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball moves to the Great Plains and the Sunflower State. Kansas is next. 


Hiding Out In Montreal

The legend goes the Brooklyn Dodgers knew Roberto Clemente was a special player. The plan was to hide him in Montreal and play him sparingly so other teams would not see the talents of the prized Brooklyn prospect. Sending him to a French speaking Canadian city as the fourth outfielder should have kept Clemente with the Dodgers until there was room in the Brooklyn outfield. The Dodgers already had Duke Snider in Center, Carl Furillo in Right, and Sandy Amoros in Left, with Jackie Robinson as their fourth outfielder. There was no room in the Ebbets Field outfield for Clemente. 

1954 would be Roberto Clemente’s only season in the Minors. He reached the Majors in 1955 and played his way to Cooperstown. The 19 year old Puerto Rican was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers at the urging of Al Campanis. Clemente’s $10,000 signing bonus was over the $5,000 bonus limit. At the time, if such a player was not on the Major League roster for the next two seasons, another team could draft them in the Rule 5 Draft. Each Minor League team could only lose one player. The Dodgers hoped by playing Clemente sparingly other teams would not draft him. However, Pittsburgh was interested so Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley sought to persuade former Dodgers General Manager, then Pirates General Manager, Branch Rickey to select a different player from the Montreal Royals. The Pirates had the first selection in the draft. The Dodgers had known sending Clemente to the Triple A Montreal Royals was risky all along. 

Roberto Clemente spent a single season in Montreal, playing for the Royals as the Dodgers unsuccessfully attempted to hide him from other teams. (www.ourgame.mlblogs.com)

The International League was one of the top Minor Leagues. The eight team league sent four teams to the postseason each year. Montreal played their way to a 88-66 record. The Royals finished second, nine games behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. First year Triple A manager Max Macon guided the Dodgers top farm team through the postseason. The top seed faced the fourth seed, while the second faced the third in the first round. The Royals eliminated the Rochester Red Wings, while the Syracuse Chiefs shocked the Toronto Maple Leafs in Semi Finals, both winning four games to two. In the Championship Round, the Chiefs edged the Royals four games to three.

Montreal’s outfield during its run to the Championship Round consisting of Jack Cassini, Gino Cimoli, and Dick Whitman. Roberto Clemente was the fourth outfielder. He appeared in 87 Games, with 155 Plate Appearances, 148 At Bats, collecting 38 Hits, 5 Doubles, 3 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 12 RBI, scoring 27 Runs, 1 Stolen Base, 6 Walks, 17 Strikeouts, .257 BA, .286 OBP, .372 SLG, and .657 OPS. Defensively he played 77 Games, had 83 Chances, made 81 Putouts, 1 Assist, 1 Error, with a .988 FLD%, and 1.06 RF/G. Even in part time play, Clemente’s talents were evident.

After the 1954 season, the Dodgers worst nightmare came true. The Pirates drafted Clemente. Pittsburgh had to keep him on their Major League roster for the first 90 days of the 1955 season. If the Pirates sent Clemente to the Minors they would have to offer him back to the Dodgers first. Clemente stayed more than 90 days in Pittsburgh. The Pirates never regretted their choice with the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft, while the Dodgers were left without the future Hall of Famer in Dodger Blue. 

Retire #21.


Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 7.0

Baseball is back. The 162 game Regular Season grind is back. So too is the unpredictability of the season. No single player can dominate so completely that they carry their team to a World Series title. Baseball is different, the best player does not always come to bat with the game on the line. The Angels would love to send Mike Trout to the plate in every big moment, but that is not how baseball works. The game is back to normal and if we know anything our predictions will foretell what will not happen this season. Your guess is as good as ours for the 2021 season.

American League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
YankeesGod’s Waiting RoomYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysSpankiesDudein JaysRaysPoutineRays
Snow BirdsSorrysDevil RaysFlorida BirdsRaysBlue Jays
Red SoxBaltimoreSad BirdsRed SuxRacistsRed Sox
Dead BirdSoxFenwaysBmoreOh DearOrioles

The American League East is the Yankees to lose. Gerrit Cole makes any team better, but New York signed him to be the workhorse in October. If the training staff can keep the pinstripes healthy the rest of the division is in trouble. The Tampa Bay Rays seemed to get worse by trading away Blake Snell. However, it is hard to count the Rays out as they seem to find underrated players who exceed expectations and put Tampa in the thick of the Postseason race. The biggest question for Tampa is will they have a World Series hangover. The Toronto Blue Jays could be snow birds for the entire season. There has been no official word on when the team can return to Canada. They will play their home games in Dunedin, Florida for the foreseeable future. Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will provide plenty of excitement wherever they play. The Red Sox traded away Andrew Benintendi and lost Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Brewers in free agency to complete the teardown of one of the most exciting outfields in recent memory. Boston fans are still excited about the financial flexibility the Mookie Betts trade gave them. Baltimore is a great baseball town. The Orioles are in the middle of a painful rebuild. They will not contend this season, but Baltimore is on the rise…finally.

American League Central

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox
TwinkiesSouth SidersTwinkletittesTwinklesWhite SoxTwins
MonarchsTeam to be named laterQuarter PoundersClevelandRoyalsRoyals
SpidersTigersCleveland Footbal teamRoyalsSpidersSpiders
Motor City KittiesMonarchsDetroit Why Am I HeresTigersTigersTigers

The South Side of Chicago will have plenty of fireworks. The reigning American League MVP in Jose Abreu. The always exciting Tim Anderson. A pitching staff that can compete with any team in baseball. Can Tony La Russa harness Chicago’s potential or will a clash between old school and new school derail the White Sox. The Minnesota Twins continue to be a great Regular Season team. Their signing of Andrelton Simmons might be the most underrated free agent move of the offseason. Can they figure out a winning formula in October? Kansas City has quietly built a solid team on a budget. Signing and trading for Mike Minor, Andrew Benintendi, and Carlos Santana with Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez already on the roster will create plenty of wins for the Royals. Is it enough to compete with the White Sox and Twins for the division? Cleveland could be a very good team, but in a tough division good is not good enough. They still have Jose Ramirez and Shane Bieber, but the team needs more if they want to contend. The Detroit Tigers continue rebuilding. Miguel Cabrera’s continued ascent up the record books will draw fans. Wins will be difficult to come by, but the Tigers have a bright future ahead, but Detroit should not expect a trip to the Postseason in 2021.

Tim Anderson is never boring on the diamond. (www.si.com)

American League West

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
MoneyballWhite ElephantsLA’s other teamA’sBeane BallersAthletics
TroutHouston Astr-hosMoneyballTrash CansAngelsAngels
Trash CansAngelsCheatersAngelsCheatersAstros
Ranger DangerNolan Ryan Hot DogsSea hagsStarbucksMarinersMariners
MarinersGriffey Used to Play HereAgent ZerosChuck NorrisRangersRangers

Could this be the year the Astros lose their grip on the division? George Springer is gone and Justin Verlander is out with Tommy John surgery. Houston is still a competitive team, but the division is catching up. Bang the trash can slowly. Oakland has a dynamic duo in Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. The young and hungry A’s are built to compete and the team is posed to deliver. Mike Trout deserves better. The best player in baseball for almost a decade has been stuck in Los Angeles as the Angels keep turning potential into disappointment. Shohei Ohtani is healthy and Albert Pujols can still hit. The Angels owe it to Mike Trout to finally deliver him to the Postseason, but he cannot do it alone. This was not the offseason Seattle wanted. The ire of an entire sport focused on the stupidity spewed by their now former President and CEO about the team’s young talent has not set the team up for success. The Mariners have not played in October since 2001. Seattle has drafted and signed prospects that appear set to be the future stars for the Mariners. The Robinson Cano signing told Seattle it cannot rely on a single player with a monster contract. Lesson learned, they are a few seasons away from winning. It will be a long hot summer in Texas. The Rangers have some good pieces, but not enough to matter. At least their new stadium has a roof so the players and fans do not cook in the Texas heat. 

National League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravosAtlanta BallclubBravesBravosBravos
NatsFishFlorida FishMetsMarlinsMarlins
MarlinsAmazins2019 ChampsNatsNationalsNats
PhanaticsPholliesSad HarpersPhilliesPhilliesPhillies

The National League East is the toughest division in baseball. Atlanta was 1 game away from the World Series last year. Instead of hoping for better results the Braves got better by signing Charlie Morton and will get Mike Soroka back from his torn Achilles. Their offense is led by reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman and future MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. The Amazin’s are a force to reckon with, especially after adding Francisco Lindor, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. The question is can the Mets win enough. The Marlins have finally built a team internally. Miami bought two World Series championships but those were short term successes followed by fire sales and long rebuilds. The young Marlins will be fun to watch and are building towards October. The Nationals may have the best rotation in baseball. The keys for Washington are keeping everyone healthy and can the offense, besides Juan Soto, keep up with the pitching. Philadelphia has Bryce Harper, but one player cannot put an entire team on his back. The Phillies will be good, but in a deep division they could be the best last place team in baseball. 

National League Central

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Red BirdsCincy…..why not?ArenadosMiller TimeCardinalsCardinals
Red LegsCardsDrink pretty goodCardinalsBrewersBrewers
Brew CrewBrewcroodsShitcagoRedsCubsReds
Teddy BearsBuccarooniesCincincincin…..CubbiesRedsCubs
Burn the ShipsNorthsidersNice stadiumsBonds’ ex-gfJack SparrowsPirates

Yadier Molina is an ageless wonder. 17 seasons behind the plate for the Cardinals and he is still among the best catchers in baseball. St. Louis is set at the corners with Paul Goldschmidt and the nearly acquired Nolan Arenado. The Central crown runs through St. Louis. Milwaukee got better by signing Kolten Wong away from their divisional rival Cardinals. The Brewers are one of the more underrated teams in baseball and have a real chance at the Postseason in an already tight division. Cincinnati made it back to the Postseason in the shortened 2020 season. The Reds have the pitching and offense to return this season. The division may be too difficult to win, but the Wild Card is within reach. This could be the final season of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez at Wrigley. Looming free agency makes it nearly impossible for Chicago to retain all three players long term. The Cubs will be good, but change is coming. The Pirates are barely a Major League team. It was a little surprising MLB did not cull them with the other Minor League teams this winter. They have a projected team payroll of $46 million, with nearly a quarter of it tied to Gregory Polanco. Ke’Bryan Hayes provides hope for the future but the Postseason is out of the question.

Traded to St. Louis with $50 million, Nolan Arenado will finally play for a winning team. (Getty Images)

National League West

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DodgersYou want a hot apple pie with that?BettsDodgersPadresDodgers
DaddyThe over hyped LA teamPadresPadresScullysPadres
SnakesSILVER BULLET!!!!!!!!GentsGiantsRattlersGiants
Jolly GreensScam Fram BricsoQuarterbacksDbacksGiantsDiamonbacks
Rockie Mt HighI’m a snakeIt Smoke Pretty GoodRockiesRock BottomsRockies

The reigning and defending World Series champions will return to October, but can they fend off the Padres. The championship team is back and will continue racking up wins. Clayton Kershaw is no longer the only pitcher Los Angeles can depend on in the Postseason, the Dodgers should make a deep run to defend their crown. San Diego is built for success now and in the future. Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, and Chris Paddack are tough to beat every time they take the field. The race for the West will be fun to watch. The gap between the top and bottom of the division is huge. Few teams were as high as the Giants a decade ago, but that is the past now. The rebuild continues in the back end of Buster Posey’s career. How long will he continue playing is unknown, but he is already a San Francisco legend. Arizona is not a bad team, but can they compete with the titans on the coast? The Diamondbacks have plenty of good players, including an underrated Ketel Marte, but they lack a superstar to compete in October. The Rockies managed to enrage their entire fanbase with a single move, trading away Nolan Arenado. Every team makes tough roster decisions, but Colorado decided it was best to rid themselves of the best Third Baseman in baseball and keep a General Manager that has not shown any ability to put a winning team on the field. Yes Trevor Story is still on the team, but his impending free agency will see him shipped out before the season is over. Once Story is gone what is left to build around? Get ready for a long and brutal rebuild Colorado fans.  


The Poseseason is a roll of the dice. A team can come in hot and suddenly turn cold and be gone. A team struggling can suddenly find their footing and go on a tear. The beauty of October baseball is that it is more unpredictable than the Regular Season.

American League Wild Card

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AL Wild CardRaysYankeesJaysRaysWhite SoxTwins
TwinsSouthsidersRaysTwinklesBlue JaysRays

National League Wild Card

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PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

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RaysWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesAthleticsYankees
Black SoxSouthsidersSoxRaysWhite SoxRays
MoneyballGod’s Waiting RoomJaysChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox

National League Divisional Series

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BravesCincy…..why not?PadresBravesCardinalsBraves
CardinalsYou want a hot apple pie with that?CardsMiller TimePadresCardinals

American League Championship Series

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Black SoxWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxWhite SoxWhite Sox

National League Championship Series

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PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

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Black SoxBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves

Congratulations to the 2021 World Series Champions, the Atlanta Braves. We will find out just how wrong our predictions were in October. None of us have high hopes that we were right. Happy Opening Day!

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies will lead the Braves to the World Series. (New York Times)

DJ, JJ, JB, BL, and KB

Roberto Clemente- A Career on the Diamond

Few players possess the skill and grace on a baseball field like Roberto Clemente. His cannon for an arm in Right Field combined with his ability to hit the ball place him among baseball’s elite. There are players with better stats, although not many. However the numbers Clemente produced during his 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates are impressive. 

Clemente struck fear in the hearts of opposing teams every time he stepped in the batter’s box. They knew their only hope was to limit the damage. In 2,433 career Games, Clemente came to the plate 10,212 times, collected 3,000 Hits, including 440 Doubles, 166 Triples, 240 Home Runs, 1,305 RBI, scored 1,416 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, drew 621 Walks, 167 Intentional Walks, 1,230 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .359 OBP, .475 SLG, .834 OPS, 130 OPS+, and 4,492 Total Bases. He produced a 71.5 oWAR. Baseball is a difficult game, and Clemente with a bat only made it harder for pitchers.  

There are plenty of players who play half the game. They excel at the plate, but are a liability in the field. Clemente is not among them. In 2,373 Games, primarily in Right Field, he played 20,514.1 Innings, had 5,108 Chances, made 4,697 Putouts, 269 Assists, 142 Errors, 42 Double Plays, with .972 FLD%,  2.18 RF/9, and 205 Rtot. His FLD% was below the .976 league average, however his Range was above the 2.12 league average. While he did commit a few more errors, Clemente reached more balls than other Right Fielders, turning hits into outs. His skill in the outfield resulted in a career 12.2 dWAR. Clemente was an asset, not a liability in the field.

It is difficult to summarize an entire career in a few stats. There is so much more to Clemente’s career than numbers. Watching him throw out runners from the outfield and launch baseballs with his bat was awe inspiring. He won plenty of awards for his elite play. Clemente, like every player, went through hot streaks. He won the National League Player of the Month award three times (May 1960- .336 BA, May 1967- .400 BA, and July 1969- .418 BA). He was a 15 time All Star (1960-1967, 1969-1972), playing in both All Star games in both 1960 and 1961. Clemente helped the Pirates win the 1971 World Series, hitting .414 in the Series. He was named World Series MVP and won the National League Babe Ruth award for the best Postseason performance. He won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1961 to 1972. He won four Batting Titles: 1961, 1964, 1965, and 1967. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight times, winning in 1966. After his tragic death, the Hall of Fame waived the five year waiting period and inducted him in 1973 in a Special Election. Clemente was a giant among his contemporaries. Few players reach the same rarified air. 

Roberto Clemente was an all time great on the diamond. A skilled batter with a cannon for an arm. (www.pbslearningmedia.org)

Baseball has changed in the nearly 50 years since Clemente last graced the diamond. He was great in his era, but does he stack up against players from every era? Simply put, yes. Clemente still ranks 30th in career Singles, 27th in Triples, and 91st in Extra Base Hits. He drew the 37th most Intentional Walks. He collected the 51st most Total Bases and has the 83rd most Times on Base. Collectively this gives Clemente the 58th highest oWAR. The offensive explosion in recent decades has not ousted Clemente from near the top of the offensive record book. He also remains near the top on defense. He turned the 58th most Double Plays by an Outfielder, made the 38th most Putouts, and 17th most Outfield Assists. Clemente is one of the greatest defensive Right Fielders ever. He turned the 10th most Double Plays by a Right Fielder and is second in both Putouts and Assists. Combining Clemente’s elite bat and glove gives him the 25th highest career WAR

It is impossible to properly explain how great Roberto Clemente was as a player. His stats stand up to the test of time. He remains among the greatest players ever a half century after his death. He is a Hall of Famer and deserved to have his #21 retired by the Pirates. MLB should highlight his accomplishments whenever possible, yet for all of his greatness on the field he was a better man off of it. It is time to retire #21 across baseball.


United States of Baseball- District of Columbia

The District of Columbia is home to the federal government of the United States. However, the people who live there have long been under represented. It is not a state, they have only had a representative in the House of Representatives since 1972 and do not have a Senator. Governance of the city remains mostly under the control of Congress. Despite their lack of representation in our national government, the District of Columbia has left its mark on baseball. 102 Major League players hail from the nation’s capital. The greatest pitcher born in the District of Columbia is Doc White. His 47.11 career WAR  is the 32nd highest among state and territory leaders. Maury Wills is the greatest position player. His 39.75 WAR ranks him 42nd. White and Wills give the District of Columbia a combined 86.86 WAR, 40th highest. 

Guy Harris White earned the nickname Doc after graduating from the Georgetown University school of dentistry. The lefty came to the attention of baseball scouts in 1899 when he struck out the first nine Holy Cross batters in a game. White signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1901. He was among the rare players to move from the amateurs to the Majors, skipping the Minor Leagues. After just two seasons with the Phillies, White jumped to the Chicago White Stockings of the new American League. He remained with Chicago for 11 seasons, retiring in 1913. 

In 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (1901-1902) and Chicago White Stockings (1903-1913), Doc White put together an impressive career. He pitched in 427 Games, making 363 Starts, throwing 262 Complete Games, including 45 Shutouts, pitching 3,041 Innings, allowing 2,738 Hits, 1,118 Runs, 808 Earned Runs, 33 Home Runs, 670 Walks, 1,384 Strikeouts, posting a 189-156 record, 2.39 ERA, 1.121 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. While White was not a Hall of Fame pitcher, he did help build the new American League into a serious rival of the National League. 

Doc White of the Chicago White Sox, throwing at South Side Park, Chicago, Illinois in 1909. (Photo by Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)

White’s best season on the mound was 1906. He pitched in 28 Games for Chicago, making 24 Starts, throwing 20 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, pitching 219.1 Innings, allowing 160 Hits, 47 Runs, 37 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 38 Walks, 95 Strikeouts, posting a 18-6 record, 1.52 ERA, 0.903 WHIP, and 167 ERA+. He led the American League in ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. White helped the White Sox win the 1906 World Series. The Hitless Wonders needed him to pitch three times to claim the championship against the crosstown Cubs. In 3 Games White made 2 Starts, throwing 1 Complete Game, pitching 15 Innings, allowing 12 Hits, 7 Runs, 3 Earned Runs, 7 Walks, 4 Strikeouts, posting a 1-1 record, 1.80 ERA, and 1.267 WHIP. He pitched Game 2, losing 7-1, pitching 3 Innings, allowing 4 Runs, but 0 Earned Runs. In Game 5 he came on in relief of Ed Walsh for the final 3 Innings to nail down a 8-6 victory. White returned to the mound in Game 6, throwing a Complete Game, allowing 3 Earned Runs to beat Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and clinch the World Series. 

So many great players fade with time, but White’s legacy lived on thanks to Don Drysdale. In 1968 the Dodger pitcher surpassed White’s record of 5 consecutive Shutouts. White congratulated Drysdale on his accomplishment via telegram. Baseball’s long history ensures the legends of the game are not lost to history.

Go, go, go, Maury, go. Dodger fans went wild anytime Maury Wills reached base. Everyone knew he was going to steal. Wills was called up to the Majors thanks to Don Zimmer breaking his toe. Arriving in Los Angeles at 26 years old, the speedster still enjoyed a long career. He played 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1959-1966, 1969-1972), Pittsburgh Pirates (1967-1968), and Montreal Expos (1969). The Switch Hitting Shortstop made the most of his opportunities.

Wills was never shy about running. In 1,942 career Games he collected 2,134 Hits, 177 Doubles, 71 Triples, 20 Home Runs, 458 RBI, 1,067 Runs scored, 586 Stolen Bases, 552 Walks, 684 Strikeouts, .281 BA, .330 OBP, .331 SLG, .661 OPS, and 88 OPS+. Wills was elected to seven All Star games, won two Gold Gloves, and won three World Series. In the Fall Classic, he played in 21 Games, collected 19 Hits, 3 Doubles, 4 RBI, 6 Runs scored, 6 Stolen Bases, 5 Walks, 12 Strikeouts, .244 BA, .289 OBP, .282 SLG, and .571 OPS. Wills did not play his best in the World Series, but he played a critical part in the Dodgers winning each National League pennant. 

Maury Wills steals yet another base. (www.truebluela.com)

Unquestionably, 1962 was the best season of Wills’ career. He played in a record 165 Games thanks to a three game playoff series with the Giants to decide the National League pennant. Wills collected 208 Hits, 13 Doubles, 10 Triples, 6 Home Runs, 48 RBI, 130 Runs scored, 104 Stolen Bases, 13 Caught Stealing, 51 Walks, 57 Strikeouts, .299 BA, .347 OBP, .373 SLG, .720 OPS, and 99 OPS+. He led the National League in Games, Plate Appearances, At Bats, Triples, Stolen Bases, and Caught Stealing. Wills broke Ty Cobb’s single season record of 96 Stolen Bases. Commissioner Ford Frick said the record would only count if Wills achieved 97 Stolen Bases in 156 Games, the season length during Cobb’s career. Wills did break the record within the Commissioner’s guidelines and then added on a few more for good measure. Wills was named to both All Star games in 1962, winning the very first All Star MVP award in the first game. After the season, Wills won another MVP award, the National League MVP. 

Wills bounced around in the latter half of his career, but remains one of the great players in baseball history. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for all 15 years of eligibility, never reaching the necessary 75% of votes for induction, topping out at 40.6%. Not every player is a Hall of Famer, but it does not mean they do not leave a lasting legacy. 

If one of the Hall of Fame committees inducts Wills, he would become the first Hall of Famer born in the District of Columbia. Leaving the home of the American government, the United States of Baseball heads south to one of baseball’s great talent hotbeds. We are off to the Sunshine State, Florida is next. 


Big Data Baseball

Losing is no fun. One losing season is tough, two is a drag, but two decades is enough to make anyone quit. The Pittsburgh Pirates were bad. An entire generation of baseball fans in western Pennsylvania grew up without October baseball, waiting for next year. Sure they rooted for the Pirates, but the team’s fate was usually sealed by the All Star break. Next year finally came in 2013, as the Pirates finally returned to the Postseason for the first time since 1992

Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak by Travis Sawchik details the Pirates return to October. Ahead of the 2013 season, Manager Clint Hurdle and General Manager Neal Huntington knew patience was wearing thin. The two previous seasons Pittsburgh had great starts only to fall apart. The collapses kept them out of the Postseason and extended their streak of losing seasons. Both men knew the team could not spend their way out of baseball purgatory, they would have to find a way to win on the cheap. The cheapest and most effective way to win is through drafting well and signing free agents cheaply. Pittsburgh needed to sign free agents that could return to their former glory and help the Pirates do the same. 

The Pirates also knew preventing runs would help them win. They utilized shifts more than other teams to save runs, reducing the burdens placed on their offense. Infielders especially were positioned in places they were unaccustomed to, but trusting the data meant more batted balls were converted into outs. Pittsburgh also found value in pitch framing. Stealing a few strikes a game can alter At Bats, which can consequently alter the game. Change enough At Bats in your favor and the Pirates increased their odds of winning. The data also pointed to using the 2-seam fastball instead of the more traditional 4-seam. The sinking motion of the 2-seam meant more ground balls to the shifted Pirates defense. 

None of these tweaks mattered if the players and coaches did not buy in. Pittsburgh found signed under valued free agents in Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano thanks to the work of their analytics team. Both veterans bought into the changes Hurdle and Huntington were making to resurrect their careers and the Pirates. The new school approach to baseball sometimes rubs against traditional baseball, but Hurdle did his best to meld the two schools together. 

Big Data Baseball takes readers on a deep dive into the Pirates return to October. (Flatiron Books)

Big Data Baseball is insightful and takes readers inside the Pirates’ efforts to end their misfortunes. It does not sugar coat the difficulties the team faced internally and within the Major League system. The Pirates are at the bottom of the baseball food chain, they must gain advantages in the margins to win. Travis Sawchik pulls back the curtain to reveal the struggles with changing how a baseball team operates in a hyper competitive business. His explanations for the advanced metrics and why they matter broaden the readers’ understanding of the new data driven baseball. Love or hate how teams operate today, the reality is teams are constantly looking to win without breaking the bank. 

The city of Pittsburgh took a while to believe in these Pirates. After two decades of futility and back to back collapses, the city was skeptical. Once it was clear this team had turned the corner, western Pennsylvania returned in force to cheer on the Pirates. An entire generation tried to make up for lost time with their first experience with October baseball. The pent up emotions came flooding out in and around PNC Park. Big Data Baseball recounts the rebirth of baseball in Pittsburgh after two decades lost in the wilderness. We give it a 6, a Double.