The Pittsburgh Pirates streak of consecutive losing seasons is long enough that it can legally drink a beer dahn at a bar in Pittsburgh’s Saathh Saaad. But 51 games into the regular season, the Bucs are 11 games over .500, good for third in the NL Central and their .608 winning percentage is third-best in the National League.
It got me thinking about some of the players in the past who were thought to be the future or player to bring the Pirates from the ashes and into MLB lore. I’ve compiled a list of some of the not-so-notable hitters that roamed Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park over the last 20 years which is strong evidence of why the Pirates have been so bad for so long.
C – Keith Osik
Games Played: 456, HR: 13, Batting Average: .231; RBI: 35. Last game played: 2005 with the Nationals.
Keith Osik is best known in Pittsburgh as the Robin to Jason Kendall’s Batman. Throughout his 10-year career in the majors, Osik actually played every position on the diamond except shortstop and centerfield. He was even brought in to pitch twice in his career, giving up nine runs and posting a 40.50 ERA. In reality, he didn’t do much worse than say… Chris Peters or Jimmy Anderson did during their tenure. Osik — who’s now the head coach at Farmingdale State — made a respectable $3,776,500* during his career.
Honorable mentions: Ronny Paulino, JR House, Humberto Cota
1B – Craig Wilson
Games Played: 698, HR: 99, Batting Average: .262; RBI: 292. Last game played: 2007 with the Braves.
Hack! Craig Wilson never saw a fastball he didn’t like! Wilson came out of nowhere, hitting 29 home runs in 2004 in his first stint as a starter. I was a big fan of Wilson and always wanted to see him get a shot in the lineup, but once he became an everyday player he was exposed. He never had as much success as he had as a pinch hitter.
Honorable mentions: Mark Johnson, Brian Hunter, Rich Aude
2B – Pat Meares
Games Played: 982, HR: 58, Batting Average: .258; RBI: 382. Last game played: 2001 with the Pirates.
If Pat Meares isn’t the definition of the terrible decisions former GM Cam Bonifay made, then I don’t know what is. Meares signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract in 1999 — a significant pay-cut stemming from an injury he sustained while a member of the Twins. So what did the Pirates do? Only signed him to a 4-year extension worth $15 million that’d take place in 2000 in good faith. Meares dazzled during his 21-game, on-field career in Pittsburgh!
Honorable mentions: Warren Morris, Pokey Reese, Tony Womack
SS – Kevin Polcovich
Games Played: 165, HR: 4, Batting Average: .234; RBI: 35. Last game played: 2008 with the Pirates.
Who needs Derek Jeter when the Bucs had Kevin Polcovich. The guy who reportedly bagged groceries for some extra cash during spring training, Polcovich was the anchor of an infield that made a run for the division title in 1997. Ultimately, the Pirates came up short for a postseason big thanks to the Killer Bees and the Astros. The Auburn standout lasted just two years in the big leagues, making $350K in his major league career.
Honorable mentions: Shawon Dunston, Lou Collier, Jay Bell
3B – Ed Sprague
Games Played: 1203, HR: 152, Batting Average: .247 RBI: 558. Last game played: 2001 with the Mariners.
Ed Sprague was an All Star and a World Series hero, unfortunately only one of those came in the black and gold. As a member of the Blue Jays, Sprague hit the game-winning home run in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 1992 Summer Classic against the Atlanta Braves. In 1999 he signed a free agent deal with the Pirates and by default was the team’s All Star representative. During his career year, Sprague hit 22 home runs, drove in 81 RBI and batted .267 — his best statistical season of his career. Now the father of four and his synchronized swimming gold medalist wife life live off the nearly $10 million he made in 11 seasons.
Honorable mentions: Doug Strange, Joe Randa, Charlie Hayes
LF – Al Martin
Games Played: 1232, HR: 132, Batting Average: .267 RBI: 485. Last game played: 2003 with the Devil Rays.
Who didn’t want to sit in the left field bleachers at Three Rivers Stadium and sit behind the “Al’s Army” banner? I know I did! Martin was in trouble from the get-go because he was the guy who had to fill Barry Bonds’ outfield spot. I got nothing but love for a guy who claimed he played football at USC (USC had no record of him attending) and had two wives that lived just miles from one another. I salute you, Al!
Honorable mentions: Mark Smith, Wil Cordero, Brian Giles
CF – Adam Hyzdu
Games Played: 221, HR: 19, Batting Average: .229 RBI: 61. Last game played: 2006 with the Rangers.
People don’t go to Altoona for the amusement park. Let’s be honest, people flock there to see Hyzdu’s retired No. 16 jersey from his playing days with the Curve. Hyzdu was once a National League Player of the Week in 2002 after hitting three home runs and driving in 11 RBI. Pretty solid numbers until you look above this graph and see that he didn’t do much after that week. This was a bitter sweet selection because I actually hit 72 home runs in a year with Hyzdu on Triple Play 2001 for Playstation.
Honorable mentions: Jermaine Allensworth, Midre Cummings, Adrian Brown
RF – Turner Ward
Games Played: 626, HR: 39, Batting Average: .251 RBI: 219. Last game played: 2001 with the Phillies.
Too much has been written about Derek Bell so by default, I’m going with Turner Ward — the guy who wouldn’t sign my baseball card because his kid was in the picture. Ward was best known for running through the outfield wall at Three Rivers Stadium to track down a fly ball. Now, Ward is managing the Mobile BayBears — of the Diamondbacks organization — and led them to 2011 Southern League championship.
Honorable mentions: Bruce Aven, Rob Mackowiak, Raul Mondesi
* Players’ salaries courtesy of www.baseball-reference.com
Don’t forget to follow Brian at @BoomerGraham
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