By: Marks and Lil Marks
Note: We are going to be breaking this up into five segments (one for each year of McClendon’s tenure) because there is more content then we expected. Part III will be available next week (we promise).
This season had many memorable moments, all for the wrong reasons. The 2002 season began with Operation Shutdown. Apparently Derek Bell felt the Pirates were mistaken to be concerned that he hit .173 and missed 116 games due to injury in 2001. Mark Madden perfectly summed up this disastrous signing, “Derek Bell becomes the ultimate Pirate: Lives on a boat and steals money.” If that incident wasn’t bad enough, ticket prices were raised after the Pirates lost 100 games in their inaugural season at PNC Park. Needless to say, there has not been another increase in ticket prices for Pittsburgh in the last eight years.
As if these incidents were not enough, one of the most embarrassing moments in Pirates history came in the MLB draft of 2002. Now we realize that you can’t just look at the All-Stars who were drafted in the first round and wish they were chosen by the Pirates. But this No. 1 overall draft selection was an embarrassment because Bryan Bullington, like many other Pirates’ draft picks, was selected based on his signability and many scouting directors projected him to be a “third or fourth starter” at best. Drafting Moskos received more negative attention in the Pittsburgh media (how many last place teams really need a closer when they can’t get the lead to begin with), but we still think the Bryan Bullington selection was worse.
The season ended with Lloyd McClendon handing out champagne that the players popped to celebrate not losing 90 games (an interesting achievement since they played 161 games that year). Lloyd intended to celebrate an improvement towards a winning tradition, but in the end his teams just didn’t have the talent to get to the next level.
2002 Pittsburgh Pirates
After missing the entire 2001 season due to Tommy John’s surgery, Kris was never the same. Benson was traded to the Mets in 2004 and later signed with the Orioles in 2006. His injury troubles continued when he tore his rotator cuff and was forced to miss the entire 2007 season. Benson struggled through brief stints with Philadelphia’s AAA team in 2008, the Rangers in 2009, and the Diamondbacks in 2010. Kris is currently on a rehab assignment with Arizona’s AAA squad where he has a 15.88 ERA since coming off the DL.
Brian Boehringer: After leaving the Pirates he moved around the minor leagues from 2005 – 2007, never reaching the majors again. Some jokester on Wikipedia (our only resource for this project) recalled Boehringer’s argument with Jack Wilson, “He currently serves as a personal infielding instructor for former Pirates shortstop and current Seattle Mariner Jack Wilson, with whom he has been good friends since a spat they had in May 2002.” After a quick Google search, we found that the culprit was a member of onlybucs.net under the name, “Sanchez12.” We are currently looking into prosecuting this person for libel and Wikipedia vandalism.
Tony Alvarez: He is one of the most disappointing Pirates prospects in recent memory. He was a highly rated prospect and looked like a solid player, unlike some of the awkward prospects the Pirates have had like Chad Hermanson. Man was he awkward. Anyways, Tony played 38 games and had 16 hits in his career. That being said, we believe his best accomplishment was when he married Miss Venezuela, Mariangel Ruiz Torrealba, in 2005.
Josh Fogg: While playing for the Colorado Rockies he was given the nickname “Dragon Slayer” after he defeated aces from other teams such as Brandon Webb, Curt Schilling and Roy Oswalt. After two decent seasons for the Rockies in 2006 and 2007, Fogg signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds in 2008 then returned to the Rockies to pitch in the bullpen in 2009. Fogg signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets in 2010, but was unable to make the team. A week later the Phillies signed Fogg to a minor league deal which currently has him pitching for their AA team where he has a 13.50 ERA after two starts (lasting a total of 5 1/3 innings).
Salomon Torres: He was signed by the Pirates from the Dominican Leagues after rough seasons with the Giants, Mariners and Expos. Torres split time between starting and relief work eventually being moved to the bullpen full time. In 2003 Torres hit Sammy Sosa in the head with a fastball that shattered his helmet, which is one of his most memorable achievements. After Gonzo was traded, Torres was the number one candidate for the closer role, but it went to Matt Capps after Torres blew four save opportunities in a row. He was then traded to the Brewers and retired in 2008 in the middle of a solid season (80 IN, 51 K, 3.41 ERA). Wikipedia notes that Torres is a devout Jehovah’s Witness, which came up during a grievance with the Pirates over them not renting out his hitting facility in the Dominican Republic as per his contract. Torres later withdrew the grievance stating “It is up to God to handle the situation, and I will let Him do that for me. After a long talk with myself, I've decided this is the right path to take."
Mike Benjamin: This is how you separate the diehard Pirates fan from the person that thankfully had a more interesting team to watch. We can’t find a good picture because Mike Benjamin is so unimportant that his name barely shows up on Google, but he had some wicked sideburns. All we could dig up on Sideburns is that he led his son’s team to the Little League World Series in 2003. There might be a coaching position open in Pittsburgh next year…just sayin.
Duaner Sánchez: Sanchez was traded to the Pirates in June of 2002 for pitcher Mike Fetters. He spent most of his time in AAA making 15 appearances with one win and a 12.75 ERA, later being claimed by LAD off of waivers. In 2004, he found some success pitching 80 innings of relief with a 3.38 ERA. Later in his career he was a temporary closer for LA and a set up man in New York for Billy Wagner in 2006. In July 2006, Sanchez was injured in a taxicab accident in Miami, Florida on Interstate 95; the accident was caused by a drunk driver. Sanchez suffered a separated shoulder, and was flown to New York City to undergo season-ending surgery. Sanchez has continued to have health problems since the accident and was released by the Mets, signed by the Padres to a minor league deal, then released two months later. He is now playing for the Sussex Skyhawks of the Can-Am League.
Pokey Reese: Reese left the Pirates in 2004, signing a contract with Boston for less money.That year he helped the Sox defensively as the rest of the infield struggled. Pokey signed with Seattle in 2005, but was on the DL the entire time and never played a game. In 2006, Reese signed a one year deal with Florida, but the contact was terminated on March 5th when he left the club March 1st and had no direct contact with the team for over 72 hours. What was Pokey Reese doing for those four days? The world may never know… or care. In 2008 Reese signed a minor league contact with Washington and played for Triple-A Columbus where in two games he strained both hamstrings and was placed on the DL for several weeks. After four months of rehab, Pokey returned to Washington’s minor league system and retired at the end of the season.
Kip Wells: He is probably remembered best for three things in Pittsburgh…his goofy answers to the Q&A sessions that appear on the video board, his monstrous 550 foot home run to dead center field at PNC Park and his league leading 18 losses in 2005. Wells started the 2006 season with surgery to remove a blood clot that forced him to miss two and a half months. He was dealt at the deadline to the Texas Rangers for Jesse Chavez, who was traded after the 2009 season for Aki Iwamura. So what impact will the Kip Wells trade have next for the Pirates? Oh yeah, the Pirates are the only organization that wants a second baseman with a knee brace.
Wells joined the Cardinals in 2007, hoping to enjoy success under pitching coach Dave Duncan. Unfortunately, not even this magician could help Wells, who finished with a 7-17 record and an ERA of 5.70. His blood clot issues continued in 2008 where he started out with Colorado before being cut and picked up by Kansas City. Wells signed with the Washington Nationals in 2009 as a reliever and was again ineffective and suffered yet another arm injury, which caused the Nationals to release him. After recovering from his injury, Wells was signed by the Cincinnati Reds where he was used in long relief situations and as a fill-in starter. Wells was signed to a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010 but did not make the team out of spring training.