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Wow, What a Ballpark in Pittsburgh - But, Woe, What a Ballclub

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  • Wow, What a Ballpark in Pittsburgh - But, Woe, What a Ballclub

    By ALAN ROBINSON
    PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh's steel-and-glass skyline is so close, it appears to hover over the right fielder's shoulder. There are three major rivers located about the length of a Jason Bay home run from the ballpark's boundaries.

    The Roberto Clemente bridge offers a meaningful backdrop in left field, not far from the imposing statue of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell. Large passenger boats toot out "hello" in steam-filled blasts as they meander by, their occupants rushing to the railings to wave to fans watching baseball.

    "It's gorgeous," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, an offseason resident of Pittsburgh who admittedly is biased on the subject of PNC Park. "With the rivers and the boats, it's just tremendous. I think it's the best ballpark in America."

    The All-Star game has visited many stadiums during its 78-game history, but Pittsburgh's 5-year-old limestone-faced riverside park may be as picturesque as any. It's difficult to find anything negative to say about a venue that is the smallest in the majors (smaller now by a few hundred seats than Boston's Fenway Park) and incorporates the best of the back-to-the-old-days baseball parks.

    Except, of course, for the ballclub that plays inside it.

    The Pirates are the perfect example of a team that does everything right when building a ballpark, and everything wrong when building a team.

    Consider this: The Pirates, stuck in the longest losing rut in the franchise's lengthy and oft-successful 120-season history, are playing host to an All-Star game for the second time in a dozen years. Yet they haven't had a winning season since 1992, made a playoff appearance or staged many significant games during that time, except for the All-Star games.

    Consider this, too: When Barry Bonds took off for the Giants, shortly after Francisco Cabrera, Sid Bream and the 1992 Atlanta Braves kept the Pirates out of the World Series, Bonds had all of 176 home runs. Any talk of him challenging Hank Aaron's record would have been dismissed as laughable.

    About the only thing the Pirates have done right since 1992 is build PNC Park.

    Two ownership groups, three general managers, four managers and almost countless veteran retreads and failed prospects have failed to get the Pirates above .500. Every scheme they've tried - going with the kids, bringing in reasonably priced free agents, building around pitching, building around hitting - has failed.

    With the Pirates losing nearly two of every three games this season, they are well on pace for a 14th consecutive losing season - two off the Phillies' major league record of 16 in a row in 1933-48.

    Moments after yet another recent Pirates loss, reliever Roberto Hernandez gave a succinct answer when asked to sum up the team's problems: "We stunk."

    The answer could apply to almost any season in the last 14.

    The Pirates aren't the worst team in major pro sports since 1992: The NBA Los Angeles Clippers' .358 winning percentage is much worse than the Pirates' .439, and so is the NFL Arizona Cardinals' .362.

    However, the Clippers are coming off a trip to the NBA's Western Conference semifinals and have made three playoff appearances since the 1992-93 season. The Cardinals have had one winning season, one .500 season and made one playoff appearance during that period, and the Pirates have had none of the above.

    And while the crosstown NHL Penguins are coming off four consecutive last-place seasons, they've been to the postseason nine times since the Pirates last qualified - and Mario Lemieux has retired twice.

    With their solid young pitching (Zach Duke, Mike Gonzalez, Ian Snell) and a mostly youthful lineup led by All-Stars Bay and Freddy Sanchez, the Pirates are confounding others in the game with their inability to win this season.

    Of course, money is an issue - the Pirates lack the deep-pocket owners some big-market clubs possess. Yet there is every indication the club is making money, since their payroll of approximately $48 million nearly is covered by TV revenue and revenue-sharing money alone. The club's primary owners, small-town newspaper publisher G. Ogden Nutting and his family of Wheeling, W.Va., are plopping down nearly $90 million to buy a ski resort east of Pittsburgh.

    There's a fitting analogy: A ballclub that's gone downhill for years owned by a ski resort operator.

    But, if only for one night, Pittsburgh can show off what's good about baseball in the city, even if many of its stars haven't played for decades: Clemente, Stargell, Honus Wagner, Pie Traynor. It's not as if the fans have lost interest or given up hope: They flooded the ballot box with so many All-Star votes that Bay was the leading vote-getter among NL outfielders.

    Leyland will be among those watching Tuesday night. His Tigers have had the majors' best record for much of the season, yet he passed up the chance to be an AL coach to sit in the grandstands with some buddies.

    His advice, even for those who have long since wearied of the Pirates' losing, is simple. Enjoy the moment, the All-Star players, the evening and, most of all, the setting.

    "It's one of the best-kept secrets," Leyland said. "It's a beautiful place."

    http://sports.myway.com/news/07082006/v2856.html
    Unlike most other team sports, in which teams usually have an equivalent number of players on the field at any given time, in baseball the hitting team is at a numerical disadvantage, with a maximum of 5 players and 2 base coaches on the field at any time, compared to the fielding team's 9 players. For this reason, leaving the dugout to join a fight is generally considered acceptable in that it results in numerical equivalence on the field, and a fairer fight.

  • #2
    it's a sad story. but a couple of well structured contracts to the right 4 or 5 guys and the next two years could get quite interesting. however, i'm beyond convinced that Littlefield isn't the right guy for it. seems good at scouting minor league talent though.
    RIP Dimebag, Mitch, John, & Grey Cat

    AUXILIUM MEUM A DOMINO

    Angel of Death
    Monarch to the kingdom of the dead
    Infamous butcher,
    Angel of Death

    Comment


    • #3
      Is that Mark Cuban fellow going to buy the Pirates and make a winner out of them?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Seattle1
        Is that Mark Cuban fellow going to buy the Pirates and make a winner out of them?
        he could try. but i seriously doubt the other owners would approve a sale of any team of any portion to Cuban.
        RIP Dimebag, Mitch, John, & Grey Cat

        AUXILIUM MEUM A DOMINO

        Angel of Death
        Monarch to the kingdom of the dead
        Infamous butcher,
        Angel of Death

        Comment


        • #5
          Cuban in Pitt?!?!

          Originally posted by Seattle1
          Is that Mark Cuban fellow going to buy the Pirates and make a winner out of them?
          LOL- That would be funny
          Does it have any real chance of happening tho? :noidea

          Comment


          • #6
            the likelyhood is roughly the same as winning the lotto and getting hit by lighting in the same day but i guess even thats not exactly impossible. It can happen but its gonna take the fans of pittsburgh to put some pressure on the current ownership to sell at least a portion of it (preferably the Nuttings portion). Im sure Cuban would be amongst the first to offer at it.
            "Just a reminder fans about "Die Hard Night" coming up at the stadium: free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Pirates won a pennant"

            Comment


            • #7
              Now do they have ivy lining the outfield walls like the old Forbes Field?

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't know how many of you are familiar with The Onion, but here is a "story" they did about the ballpark that I thought fits pretty well with this thread:

                http://www.theonion.com/content/node/50814

                FYI - By their own admission, The Onion is not intended for children under 18.
                All I want is a team that makes less outs on offense and more outs on defense... Is that too much to ask?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Best ballpark in the major leagues. And we're hoping someday to get a major league team to play there.
                  "We had 'em all the way!"

                  Comment

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