Category Archives: Pirates

Two years of Russell Martin memories

For two decades, Pirates fans watched as scrap-heap guys like Warren Morris, Pat Meares, Bobby Hill, Jimmy Anderson, Pokey Reese, John Van Benschoten and Mr. Operation Shutdown (Derek Bell) were passed off as legitimate major leagues, while talents like Aramis Ramirez and Jose Bautista were either traded in salary dumps or given up on too early.

Few fans knew misery like Pirates fans from 1992 until 2013.

What happened in 2013?

Russell Martin arrived.

And everything changed just like that.

Pitcher A.J. Burnett came to Pittsburgh a year before Martin, and Burnett brought a toughness and attitude that not only proved valuable in the clubhouse, it captivated Yinzer Nation. But when Martin came after a stint with the New York Yankees, the Pirates went from a team that was missing something to a team that knew how to win.

Martin deserves as much credit for that as anyone else in the Pirates organization – Neal Huntingdon, Clint Hurdle, Andrew McCutchen, Burnett, etc. Martin’s a winner. Always has been, and his winning ways quickly became contagious.

Martin gave the Pirates something they lacked since Jason Kendell pre-gruesome injury – a backstop who can hit and, most importantly, keep baserunners honest. Martin started throwing out runners. The clutch hits kept coming.

Twenty years of losing, gone. A playoff team was born.

Then, in the Pirates wild card game against Cincinnati (scene to the best single-game home crowd in North American sports history), Martin provided a lasting moment.

That’s magic. Twenty years of misery. Poof. Gone. That’s what Russell Martin did.

There were other special moments, too.

Like this:

And, this one, made more special because it came against those arrogant Brewers, you know the team with the drug cheat Ryan Braun.

Martin did more for Pirates baseball in two years than Dave Littlefield did undoing Pirates baseball during his way-too-long tenure with the club. He provided magic moments, steady defense, leadership, chill-inducing clutch hits and class.

And Martin will be greatly missed.

He signed an insane 5-year, $82-million contract with Toronto Monday. That price tag is more than the Pirates can afford. Can’t blame Martin for heading home to Canada. Can;t blame the Pirates for not resigning him. That type of contract could cause more harm than good for an organization that still needs to spend money wisely.

But we’ll always have 2013 and 2014.

Thanks Russ.

What I learned last week

Every September, the family drives to the Outer Banks. Not the over-populated areas of Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Nags Head, etc., but the off-road beaches north of Corolla. The area is called Swan Beach. Four-wheel drive is needed to traverse the 3.5 miles from the end of pavement to Idle Time, which is owned by the in-laws.

So, every year during high school football season, I work a Friday night shift, which always lasts longer this time of year. From there, it’s a 45-mile drive home, wake up the wife and child and get loaded into a sports-utility vehicle for the 9-hour drive from Western Pennsylvania to our destination. (It should be noted that after crossing the sound into the Outer Banks, we turn left toward Southern Shores and drive and drive and drive. Takes about an hour of retracking.)

It’s a brutal drive, even if I only last until 4 to 4:30 a.m. most years. It’s also a stark reminder that tired driving should be avoided.

I employ every trick in the book I can imagine to continue the trek.  I give myself 15-minute goals. Maybe a 30-minute goal. I’ll slap myself in the face. I sit up in the seat and perch over the steering wheel. It’s a test of endurance as taxing as the runs I put myself through on a near-daily basis.

In 2013, I made it one exit past Winchester, Va., on Interstate 81. This year, I made it all the way to Route 17, near Warrenton, Va. From there, my wife takes over driving duties until we stop for breakfast.

Next year, the family needs to plan better. No more tired driving.

  • The Outer Banks is a wonderful place, particularly during the early portions of the offseason, but the place sucks when it comes to pumpkin beer selection. The annual September trip to Swan Beach has sadly yielded little despite stops at multiple beer sources.
  • Pitt football taught us long ago not to get too involved, to avoid having hope. Yet, those of us who follow the program can’t help ourselves. That hope bubbled over the surface as the Panthers steamrolled to a 3-0 start, which included a thrashing of a Boston College team that beat USC. So, Pitt reminded us in an all-so-Pitt fashion with Saturday’s loss to Iowa. Pitt gained nearly 450 yards, held a 10-point lead and found a way to lose. Let’s remember people, Pitt is Pitt is Pitt.
  • Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount can smoke all the weed they want. It doesn’t change the fact the pair are the Steelers’ most dynamic running back duo in 20 years.
  • Playing a September for the ages, the Pirates (twice considered dead this season after an 18-26 start and a summer swoon where they dropped to two games above .500) have a tenuous hold on the top wild-card spot in the National League. What the Pirates are accomplishing this season ranks as more impressive than the magical 2013 campaign. Consider all the injuries (McCutchen, Cole, Walker), Pedro’s follies, the bullpen’s woes and the need to rely on Josh Harrison and Russell Martin. Amazing stuff. Clint Hurdle should be the NL Manager of the Year.
  • Some Penn State fans just don’t get it. After the NCAA lifted sanctions, which included reinstating bowl-eligibilty and lifting scholarship restrictions, it isn’t enough for some Nittany Lions followers. Oh no, it’s now time to restore all of Joe Paterno’s wins, put the statue back, have the man canonized for Sainthood and make sure everyone realizes Penn State football is better than anything else in the civilized world. So, congratulations to all the Penn State football fans who participated in the “Joe-Out” last Saturday at Beaver Stadium. You’re blatant disregard for what transpired in leading to the NCAA sanctions and Paterno’s firing added further proof to the belief that it’s all about football in Happy Valley.

J Hay still da man

Doesn’t take much to set off Yinzer Nation, a fickle fan base of there ever was one.

And Yinzer Nation was set off near full fury Sunday night when Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates posted a picture to his Twitter account.

Josh Harrison, THE main reason the battling Buccos remain in the National League Central Division and wild-card races, posted pics of himself wearing a Johnny Manziel jersey and making Manziel’s signature money sign.

But the Browns open their season Sunday at Pittsburgh.

The horror! That damned Manziel is a backup quarterback for the Browns. And Harrison, you play for a Pittsburgh team, how dare you wear anything but a Big Ben, Hines Ward or Sidney Crosby jersey.

The way the Yinzer exploded on social media, you’d think Donnie Iris opened a set at the Rex with “Cleveland Rocks.”

What a load of crap!

Harrison, who ranks second in the NL in batting and is putting together the type of season that Disney movies are made of, can do what what he damn well pleases.

And Pittsburgh fans wonder why so many athletes leave the first chance they get?