By Marks and Lil MarksThe Pirates traded prospect Adrian Burnside and a PTBNL to the Detroit Tigers for first baseman Randall Simon before the 2003 season. Little did the Pirates front office know what kind of reaction Simon would have by moving from the sausage-less American League to a world where he could lash out at any inning break given the opportunity. Sausagegate was about to take center stage. As we were looking back on this scandal that happened just seven years ago, we found on espn.com that it was also surrounded with conspiracy. Simon was a known vegetarian and not only did he have it out for the Italian sausage, but ESPN suggests he was acting on behalf of PETA. Earlier that year PETA asked that the Brewers add a vegetarian option to their race by introducing Veggie Dog, the “Soysage.” This request was shot down by the Brewers, leaving a bitter taste in PETA’s mouth. Considering PETA’s history of violent protests, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of their involvement.
2003 Pittsburgh PiratesOliver Perez: After Ollie’s inconsistent 2008 season where he led the league in walks and posted a 10-7 record with a 4.22 ERA, the Mets signed him to a 3 year deal worth $36 million. He had a 3-4 record with a 6.82 ERA last year, appearing in only 14 games. This season he is following that up with a stellar 0-3 record and 6.28 ERA. Ollie is currently on 15 day DL with an ongoing injury, patellar tendinitis in his right leg.
“Now just count to ten and refrain from kicking the laundry cart.”
Mike Gonzalez: After converting 24 out of 24 saves in 2006, Mike had his season cut short with an elbow injury. Gonzalez was traded to the Braves before the 2007 season in exchange for the big left handed bat Pirates fans had been waiting for, Adam LaRoche. I think I could write an entire blog post about how much I hate Adam LaRoche, but I will move on. Gonzalez missed most of the 2007 and 2008 seasons recovering from Tommy John’s surgery, but performed well with the Braves in 2009, appearing in a career high 80 games. He then signed with the Baltimore Orioles for 2 years, $12 million. After pitching three games Gonzalez went to the DL and has not returned since then.
John Grabow: Grabow proved himself to be a reliable reliever that could be used effectively in many different situations, so obviously his days in Pittsburgh were numbered. Grabow was traded to the Cubs in 2009 along with Tom Gorzelanny for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison. Grabow quickly became a fan favorite in Chicago. If you attend Wrigley Field in the near future you will hear a theme song that is played after every win called “Go Cubs Go.” Listen closely next time as some fans change these boring lyrics to “Go Cubs Go, John Grabow…” After the 2009 season, Grabow signed a two year, $7.5 million contract with Chicago.
Fun Fact: Grabow was recognized with the Barney Pelty Award as the Jewish pitcher of the year in 2008 and 2009.
Nelson Figueroa: After being bounced around between AAA and the big leagues from 2000-2004, Figueroa began his international career in 2007. After finishing a season in the Mexican League, he went to Taiwan in 2007 as a late season acquisition and helped the Uni-President Lions make the playoffs with four wins in his four regular season starts. Figueroa started game one of the first round of the playoffs and put together another good performance, which sparked his team to sweep the favored Cobras and advance to the Taiwan Championship Series. His brilliant pitching continued as Figueroa achieved the unthinkable by winning games one, four, and seven. Figueroa was named Taiwan Championship Series MVP and is the only pitcher in Taiwan history to win three games in the Championship Series. Nelson returned to MLB in 2008 with the New York Mets. He pitched well, but again bounced between AAA and the big leagues throughout the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Figueroa signed with the Phillies in 2010 and was called up on June 24 when Chad Durbin was placed on the DL.
Julián Tavárez: After Tavarez’s bullpen work with the Pirates, he signed with St. Louis. In 2004 he took a page out of Eddie Harris’ book in the movie Major League and was suspended 8 games for having a “foreign substance” on his hat. Tavarez suffered a break in his left ring finger and fifth metacarpal when he punched the bullpen phone after being taken out of a post season game in 2004 with St. Louis. The incident occurred after he gave up a solo homerun to Carlos Beltran, walked two men, and then hit a batter. Wikipedia also notes that Tavarez was hit with a hot dog in Philadelphia in 2005; we couldn’t find any more information on this by searching Google, but since it happened in Philly, it’s probably true. Tavarez went on to win a World Series ring with Boston in 2006 after losing to the Red Sox in 2004 as a member of the Cardinals. After being released from the Red Sox in 2008, Tavarez signed with the Brewers but then opted to be released when he was designated for assignment. Tavarez signed with the Braves a few weeks later. In 2009 Tavarez resorted to accepting a spring training invite from the Washington Nationals, which led to this beautiful quote:
"Why did I sign with the Nationals?" Tavárez said on Sunday. "When you go to a club at 4 in the morning, and you're just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J-Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It's 4 in the morning. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me."
In July 2009, Tavarez was designated for assignment, released, and then retired.
Dennys Reyes: You might not remember this beast of a man that once dawned a Pirate uniform because he let up more runs for the Bucs (13) than games he had played for them (12). This hefty lefty currently stands in at 6’3” and 250 pounds, which has earned him the nickname “The Big Sweat.” Reyes has pitched for ten teams in the majors since he started his career in 1997 with the Dodgers. After two seasons with the Dodgers and three seasons with the Reds, Reyes was about to enter the journey man stage of his career where he would play for six teams in four years (Colorado, Texas, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Kansas City, San Diego, and Minnesota). Dennys Reyes signed with Minnesota in 2006 after playing for eight teams by the time he was 27 years old. It was with the Twins that Reyes finally put together a solid season, after failing to finish with an ERA below four for the previous six seasons. Reyes started the 2006 season in AAA, but proved to be effective when he reached the majors in April of that year. The stats from that season speak for themselves. After the All-Star break, Reyes made 41 appearances, racked up four wins with 29 innings pitched and one earned run for a microscopic ERA of 0.31, finishing the season with a 0.89 ERA with 50.2 innings pitched. Reyes remained with the Twins through 2008 then signed a two year deal with his current club, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jeff Suppan: After Suppan’s tremendous post season performance with St. Louis in 2006, when he was awarded with the NLCS MVP, Milwaukee signed him to a 4 year deal worth $42 million. Suppan slowly declined during his years with the Brewers and was released on June 7, 2010. He was picked up by the Cardinals four days later. Although Suppan is 0-4 this season with a 6.44 ERA, his four starts with the Cardinals have all been pretty decent.
Fun Fact: Jeff Suppan is a devout Christian and was featured in the youth-inspiring DVD “Champions of Faith” in 2008. Seriously, look at that cast…unreal.
Bobby Hill: Ahh, the centerpiece of the Aramis Ramirez trade…so depressing. Hill was traded to the San Diego Padres before the 2006 season. He spent the entire year with their AAA squad and put together a pretty solid year. Hill was out of baseball in 2007, but returned in 2008 to play for the Newark Bears in an Independent League. He currently plays for the Chico Outlaws in a different independent league. How great is it that one of Hill’s teammates this year is an 18 year old female knuckleballer?
Randall Simon: After Simon was traded to the Cubs in 2003, he returned to the Pirates in 2004. He was then released in August 2004 and spent about a month with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Simon split time between the Japanese Pacific League and Mexican League in 2005. His 2006 season was very eventful, splitting time between the Mexican League, Arizona League (rookie level), Pacific Coast League (AAA), and finally was acquired by the Phillies in a trade with the Rangers. Simon returned to the Mexican League in 2007, and then spent 2008 with the Newark Bears. Bobby Hill and Randall Simon were reunited?!?! That’s gotta be the best right half of the infield in Independent League history. Simon spent 2009 with another Independent League team, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. He is currently playing for his third Independent League team, the Rockford RiverHawks. If you’re reading this Randall, please come to the Federation League next year. You would be a great addition to the Washington Wild Things.
Tike Redman: When I hear those frightning words, “Pirates prospect,” a few names come to mind. Tike Redman is right near the top of that list along with Chad Hermansen and Bobby Bradley (I’m still waiting for Bradley to pan out even though he’s been out of the organization for five years). Redman was traded to the New York Mets for cash in 2006, but did not play a game in their system. He split that year between Houston’s AA squad and Detroit’s AAA squad. In 2007 Redman went from one of the lowest tiers in baseball to the highest tier when he jumped from an Independent League to Baltimore’s AAA team, then returned to the majors with the Orioles. Tike would bat .318 in 40 games as Baltimore’s everyday center fielder for the end of the season. It is the last time he has played in the Majors. Redman would stay in Baltimore’s organization in 2008, but spent the entire year at the AAA level. Tike went back to Independent League baseball to start the 2009 season until he was signed by the Brewers in late August. When Milwaukee assigned Tike to Triple-A Nashville, he was reunited with a team that he had spent a lot of time with because it was formerly the Pirates AAA affiliate. Redman added to his Nashville Sounds legacy by setting the franchise record for most career triples with 32. Now this is the beauty of Where are they now?...Tike Redman is STILL playing baseball?!?! Yes he is. Redman is currently tearing up the Mexican league (MLB AAA level) with the Olmecas de Tabasco.
Fun Fact: Tike’s real name – Julian Jawonn Redman. Pretty clever because I doubt Julian Redman would have been as appealing of a draft choice.
Another Fun Fact: Redman has a brother named Prentice that is in the Seattle Mariners organization.
Kenny Lofton: Is Lofton the best journey man ever? I can’t think of anyone better that has spent time with nine teams in a six year period. He wasn’t an All Star or a Gold Glove winner during this time, but he put together six solid years (his lowest OBP from 2002-2007 was .346). Lofton returned to Cleveland to retire as an Indian and will be inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in August.
Reggie Sanders: After playing for the Pirates in 2003, Reggie signed a two year deal with St. Louis and continued his consistency with two more 20 home run seasons. Reggie became only the fifth member of the 300-300 club in 2006 when he hit his 300th home run with the Royals (he had stolen his 300th base a month earlier). Reggie missed most of the 2007 season with the Royals with a hamstring injury and retired from baseball when he could not reach a deal for the 2008 season.
Fun Fact: Reggie is the only player in MLB history to hit 20 or more home runs in one season for six different teams.
Jason Bay: In Boston, Bay was Bay to say the least. In his debut, he scored both runs including the game winner after a bottom of the 12th triple. The next night Bay his first homerun in a Red Sox uniform and ended the season batting .293 with 9 HR and 37 RBI in 49 games. The 2008 ALDS was the first of Bay’s career and he hit a homerun in each of the first two games and batted .412 with 2 doubles, 2 homeruns, and 5 RBIs in the series against LA. In the ALCS, his offense continued against Tampa, but the Sox lost 4 games to 3.In 2009 Bay had an All-Star selection and continued to have a career year hitting 36 homeruns and 119 RBIs. The next season Bay was a free agent and signed with the NY Mets for 66 million over four years. So far in 2010 Bay has not been very Bay-like for the Mets batting .271 with 6 HR and 44 RBI.
"Baywatch, Pittsburgh style"
Matt Stairs: Stairs joined several major league ball clubs after he left the Pirates in 2003. Stairs had stints with KC, TEX, DET, and TOR before landing in Philadelphia in 2008 where he won his first WS ring. Stairs played for the Phillies again in 2009, but signed with the Padres in 2010 hoping to make the 25 man roster and is now platooning in SD as a left hitting outfielder.
J.R. House: After leaving the Buccos to be a third-string QB at WVU, House bounced around the Houston and Baltimore minor league system and making a few brief major league appearances from 2006-2009. In 2010, House signed with the Mets and is currently catching for their AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.
The 2003 Pirates squad had the 2nd highest payroll in franchise history. Many felt that this team finally had enough fire power to break the current streak of ten consecutive losing seasons. The lineup was a huge improvement over past years, with Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton, Jason Kendall, Aramis Ramirez, Matt Stairs, and Brian Giles all putting up solid numbers. The pitching featured Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, and Jeff Suppan, all of whom won ten games and had winning records as well. This team had a legitimate chance at a winning record, but Dave Littlefield traded Lofton, Ramirez, Suppan, and Giles at the deadline Pirates finished in 3rd place with a record of 75-87.
Peter, Paul, and Mary – Leaving on a Jet Plane