Saturday, January 28, 2006


Some quick random observations about Piratefest as a whole:

  • There were more people with Steelers stuff on than there were with Pirates stuff. In fact, might've been 2:1
  • I love seeing random people with authentic Warren Morris and John Smiley jerseys on.
  • There was a stand selling Terrible Towels.
  • Pirates fans are inexplicably, incredibly excited about this team this year. It probably has something to do with the guy on the cover of the pocket schedules, Mr. Pittsburgh himself, Sean Casey.
  • Speaking of Sean Casey, he looks a hell of a lot like John Wehner. It's actually almost terrifying how much they look alike.
We got there in time for the last 2/3rds of the Q&A with the Pirates players (Duke, Bay, JWilson, Freddy, Gonzo, Chris Duffy, Eldred, Kip, and Vogelsong), Tracy, and Colbourn. It was mostly "What other position would you play if you could" or "Boxers or briefs" type fare. There were some highlights though.
  • It was absolutely packed. The question lines were huge (they just let people walk up to two different mikes and ask questions). All of the seats in the little theater area were filled, plus a huge crowd around it. Pittsburgh really seems to like these guys.
  • Brad Eldred was asked twice about Sean Casey being traded for and what that means for him next year. Seeing as how this wasn't Indianapolis Indiansfest, I'm not entirely sure why they even brought the poor guy along to subject him to this.
  • One out of every three questioners mentioned the Steelers.
  • Jack Wilson probably has ADD. For the most part the players managed to pay attention, except Jack who seemed to constantly get distracted by the balloon structures behind where the crowd was sitting.
  • Kip Wells is sad Josh Fogg is gone.
  • Despite the fact that he lost 18 games last year and I make fun of him a lot, Kip Wells actually has a fantastic sense of humor. I'm still holding out hope for him.
  • With about 20 minutes left, a young looking guy with jeans and a button down shirt on walked along the left hand side of the crowd and up onto the stage. Not one person in the crowd stopped him or recognized the fact that he was ZACH FREAKING DUKE. Only at Piratefest.
  • When each player was asked about their nicknames, Freddy Sanchez said that Jack Wilson liked to call him "club" since he was born with a club foot and Jack won't let him forget about it. This caused much hilarity among the guys on stage. Apparently birth defects= comedy gold on the locker room. Actually, I was surprised by how well all the players on stage seemed to get along. They were constantly whispering to each other between questions and laughing. Maybe it's their youth, but the way they interacted with each other seemed like what you'd expect from a high school team rather than a big league team. I know a lot of people don't believe in chemistry, but it was actually pretty encouraging to see.
  • There is absolutely nothing interesting about Chris Duffy. He's fast. Somehow someone made that into a question.
  • Not one person thought to ask Ryan Vogelsong what it was like to be a fringe major leaguer and how he slipped past security and got on stage.
  • Jim Colborn is very smart and quite funny. I'm guessing he's the brains behind the operation because...
When the players were done, it was time for "Ask Pirates Management." Much of the crowd cleared out. Most of the seats by the stage were full, but there were very few people standing aroudn to talk to Tracy, McClatchy, and Littlefield, and the question lines never had more than 2 or 3 people in them at a time (there were enough questions for a full hour, though that may be because it's incredibly difficult to get Jim Tracy to shut up, more on that below). Greg Brown introduced Dave Littlefield as "having one of the best offseasons of any GM anywhere in recent memory"and you could actually hear the crowd chuckle. Greg Brown wasn't kidding, nor did anyone ask him if his job made him want to kill himself sometimes (I considered it, though I wanted to get more out of my 10 bucks and decided it was probably too soon to get kicked out).
  • Before the Steelers/Bengals game I watched the CBS pregame show. When Shannon Sharpe made his pick he rambled on for like 5 minutes. When he finished I realized he had no idea who he picked to win the game until the little Bengals logo appeared underneath his name. Add a little bit of a better grasp of the English language, and that's Jim Tracy. Every single question that was directed to him was met with a long, rambling answer that involved him talking about how great he was. By the time he finished, not one answer resembled the original question in any way, shape, or form. The man is a complete moron and I would be terrified to even cross the street with him, let alone have him manage my baseball team.
  • Parts of what McClatchy said actually impressed me. When asked if he was "thinking about taking on more investors to the team" (an indirect way of asking about Cuban) he said that there have been owners that buy teams, plug tons of money into them, and get bored with the team and when that happens you find yourself in a situation like the one the Marlins were in back in 1998, one they haven't fully recovered from and will probably result in them moving. He finished up by saying that both the Pirates and baseball would be better off by working to fix the problems with the system than to look for a quick fix ownership. Sure, it's very idealistic, but that's an A+ answer right there. When he was repeatedly asked about where the payroll was headed in future years, he said that the team was in better shape financially than they ever had been and as long as the fans kept coming to the games, the payroll would keep going up (though he couldn't name numbers beacuse that gets him in trouble). I don't like much of what McClatchy does, but he was actually very impressive today.
  • Dave Littlefield was not so impressive. My friend wanted to grab a seat in the front row after the people from the players Q&A cleared out and I joked that DL's ego might kill us if we sat that close. When an 8 year old with balls the size of the sun got up to the mic and point blank asked Dave Littlefield what the hell the deal was with signing Jeromy Burnitz for the price we did at the age of 37 (seriously, I wasn't even going to do that, mostly because I knew the answer, but still, that's incredibly ballsy) Littlefield chuckled and patronizingly said "Wow, you've really been reading up, haven't you?" then rambled on some non-answer about CWilson and Gerut's health and outfield depth and blah, blah, blah. When I asked him about Neil Walker's injury and the club's plans for him in the future (hey, the 8 year old took my question, plus it was something I was curious about that I figured I could actually get a straight answer on), he kept pointing to the bottom of his hand like I was some kind of moron and saying that it hurt Neil there and he needed surgery (note to self, people do not take you seriously in the real world when you have a 5 week old, patchy, hobo, playoff beard). He then admitted that any switch Walker would undergo would eventually come down to him (I was surprised to see him taking accountability for something like that, though he kept referring to himself in the third person as "the general manager", which was very bizarre) and he didn't see any need to hurry something like that (which I disagree with, but whatever, it's not like I actually agree with anything Littlefield says).
So to summarize, Tracy was much (much, much, much, much, much, much) worse in person than I expected, McClatchy was much better, and Littlefield was exactly what I expected.

After the management Q&A we wandered around for a little bit, just seeing what kind of crap they were giving away, what old jerseys they were selling in the "Buried Treasure" stand (my favorite of all the little alcoves at Piratefest, they sell great stuff like Pete Schourek, Tommy Sandt, and John Smiley jerseys, just plain awesome). There were a ton of people there (as usual) and the general vibe was very positive, though I think a lot of that stems from the Steelers more than anythin (judging by the more people in Steelers gear than Pirates gear, as I mentioned).