Monday, November 30, 2009

Who is China Millman (and why do we care)?

I love to eat out. The presentation, the preparation, the decor of the all goes into it. I know what I like and what I don't like.

So why do we as humans need food critics to tell us these things? Everyone always rolls their eyes and says "Boy, I would love to have that job..." and I will admit, that has to be a pretty sweet gig.

You can definitely wield some power and alter the fortunes of a restaurant with a good or bad review. But your role should really be to open the eyes of the reader to a restaurant or an experience that they otherwise may not see or know about.

Which brings us to the pedantic food critic of the Post Miss China Millman. In a previous post, I railed against the "pretentiousness" of wine snobs popping up in Pittsburgh, so I don't want to go to the well too often with that word. Instead, I'll settle on "out of touch elitist" for my thoughts on Ms. Millman.

As the food critic, I would think she is the de-facto figurehead of the Food section, right? And as such, you would think she would be prominently featured in the Thursday Food and Flavor AND have an article in on Sunday, plus maybe a restaurant review? You would think so, but you would be wrong.

Instead, most times we are treated to such fluff as her Care Packages for College Students with ridiculous earthy tree-hugger ideas that no "normal" college student would like to see from home. Care package = money, chocolate, popcorn, and more money.

Or her screed on how we should tip at a MINIMUM of 20%. Whaaaaa? I am a "rounder-upper" when I go and I usually settle at 20% (unless the service is so-so, but only a handful of times in my life have I ever gone below 15%). If the bill is $36.70, I'm leaving $7 (not $7.34+).

I enjoyed her articles when she went to Greece, but even then she injected her ridiculous viewpoints into the article.

She should be part foodie, part travel guide...even if she doesn't leave Pittsburgh. I want to feel like I'm at the table with her, but not having to listen to her talk.

As for China herself, a food critic is not to be seen or known, lest they get favorable treatment when they review a restaurant. This has always bothered me. I like to solve puzzles. So using my bachelor's in Google Search-ology, I found this link with a possible picture of Ms. Millman:

This is from a Harvard newspaper in 2002, putting young Ms. Millman at approximately 25-26. I've always pictured her in my mind as a late 20-something, slightly sullen, prone to coffee shop mopey-ness, so this sad panda picture fit my thoughts to a tee. I also expect her to live somewhere trendy, like a Shadyside or East End, but that's not something I would ever publish online if I found out.

There's a difference between solving a puzzle and stalking. A thin line.

So if you see this girl out and about at a fashionable restaurant and she seems to be intently studying her plate, while contemplating how to convey her thoughts to the commoners, give her a big "HI, CHINA MILLMAN!!" for ol' DBS here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

DBS' Top 30 2010 Pirates' Prospects - #26 - 30

Age in parentheses is the players 2010-season age and the level is my projected starting assignment.

26. Bryan Morris (23) RHP, A+/AA -- Morris will, unfairly, have the spotlight shining on him more than most of our prospects because he was the "key" to the Jason Bay trade. Ever since he has come here, though, he has been plagued by injuries (arm, toes, knee) and ineffectiveness. Last year he muddled through another year with injuries and a 5+ ERA in A+ ball, coupled with getting suspended by the Pirates for poor attitude after arguing balls/strikes. As I've mentioned, I value performance very highly, not just potential. And at this point, Morris needs to show me more of both.

27. Tom Boleska (23) RHP, A+ -- Once you get into the mid-20's, I think it's perfectly fine to include pure relievers. Boleska has been racked with injuries, but when healthy has shown fantastic K rates and batting-average-against (BAA) during his time with the Pirates. I think much like Moreno, he could be a multiple level jumper in 2010.

28. Hunter Strickland (21) RHP, A+ -- There are some guys that you want to rank higher, but you need to see more, even if you are certain that they will be breakouts. I think Strickland is one of those. When he over in 2009 for Laroche from BOS, I looked at his minor league numbers and was shocked how much they reminded me of Ross Ohlendorf's 2009 MAJOR league numbers (to that point in the season....Ohlendorf became an even better pitcher in August/Sept). Strickland is a pitch to contact, low K rate kind of guy, but he is effective and seems to profile as a #3/4. Reports out of fall instructional is that he was hitting 94 mph, which would add an even more interesting wrinkle.

29. Brett Lorin (23) RHP, A+ -- Lorin came over with Adcock and Pribanic in the Snell/Wilson trade with SEA. He is a tall 6'-7" pitcher, but not super overpowering. He did not get promoted to A+ when he got here, so he pitched the whole year as a slightly overage 22 in low A. If he makes it to AA for a decent amount of starts this year, his ceiling will improve, but right now his average stuff coupled with low placements does not make me very high on him.

30. Jordy Mercer (23) SS, AA -- Mercer was drafted one round ahead of D'arnaud in 2008 (3rd round v. 4th round), but D'arnaud has clearly passed him on the path to Pittsburgh. Mercer is a big SS at 6'-3", but plays it adequately. He had a huge amount of doubles and 10 HR's this year, so the thinking is always that "doubles turn into homers". But his low average to this point (.255 BAA) coupled with a low walk rate has given him only a barely above .300 OBP. He is very susceptible to pitches low and away. This year in the meat-grinder known as AA will be very telling for Mercer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

DBS' Top 30 2010 Pirates' Prospects - #21 - 25

Age in parentheses is the players' 2010-age and the level is my projected starting assignment for that player.

21. Nelson Pereira (21) LHP, A -- I had some high hopes coming in to the season for this undersized lefty. As a 20-year old, I envisioned him starting in Low A after a very dominant 2008 GCL season. However, he was placed in short season State College and got rocked early on. Pereira did rebound strongly and managed to still strike out over a batter an inning. Reports on his fastball improved, with the gun now getting him consistently in the high 80's. He is in danger of getting passed by some of the 2009 HS talent (Dodson, Stevenson) and some of the college guys drafted in 2009 (A. Baker, Inman) if his 2010 doesn't pick up.

22. Brock Holt (22) 2B, A/A+ -- Everytime I look at Holt's stats from State College this year, where he played after getting drafted in 2009, and I see Chase D'arnaud. D'arnaud was criminally underrated by most Pirates fans after his 2008 debut and Holt is no exception. I think his ceiling is lower than D'arnaud, but he could break out big just like Chase did this year.

23. Brian Friday (24) SS, AA/AAA -- Friday got off to a red hot start this year, but unfortunately his bugaboo kicked in...his injury prone nature. Friday had an inner ear problem for some time and battled minor injuries throughout the year, but he still finished with a 747 OPS, which for a SS is not bad. The upper minors are getting jammed with players playing either SS or 2B (Cruz, Friday, Bixler, Ford, Negrych) that are not going to be impact players. Plus with Mercer and D'arnaud rising fast, it will be difficult to slot everyone. But I feel that Friday will not be the odd man out, even if he has to shift to 2B.

24. Zackary Dodson (19) LHP, R/SS -- Dodson is another 2009 HS pitcher drafted by the Pirates. The only pitcher not on the 30 is Trent Stevenson, who had a very respectable debut, but I feel could be a project because of his beanpole-like height-weight. Dodson is a very projectable lefty and is getting this spot on pure projection.

25. Nathan Adcock (22) RHP, A+/AA -- Adcock came over with Lorin and Pribanic in the Snell/Wilson trade with SEA. Interestingly, Adcock was the one that went to A+ post-trade and not Lorin or Pribanic, which is why he is here and Lorin is at 29 and Pribanic is not ranked. Adcock also has one year of age (for the positive) on both of them, as well. His stuff is pretty standard, so 2010 may see a rearrangement in their ranking, but for now this is how it is.

DBS' Top 30 2010 Pirates' Prospects - #16-20

Again, keep in mind the age in parentheses in the players' age during the 2010 season, with July 1st as the cutoff. The level shown is my anticipated starting level for that player.

16. Neil Walker (24) 3B, AAA/MLB -- At this point, we can probably all shelve those dreams of stardom for Walker. However, this year will determine if he is a bust or at least a serviceable major league player. He can still carve out a nice super-utility role for himself, use his switch hitting ability, and show some power. He could be the 2010 version of Jose Bautista, but with defensive prowess. Regardless of this year, he won't be on this list for 2011...he'll either have too many AB's (130 total) or he will have proven that he is not in the Pirates' plans.

17. Brooks Pounders (19) RHP, SS/A -- I put a lot of stock in performance and potential, probably 60/40 of a split. So that's why Pounders is here and higher ceiling players like Dodson and Stevenson are not. Pounders has most likely maxed out his MPH at 90-91, which is only average for a righty, but he has 4 pitches in his arsenal already. Most likely, he will be passed by some of the pitchers ranked below him after this year, but as of right now a potential workhorse with a feel for pitching gets my vote.

18. Jarek Cunningham (20) SS/3B, A -- With all of the talent added via trades and the draft this year, if you didn't have a great "wow" year, you were going to drop in my Top 30. Cunningham had one of the greatest GCL-debut seasons for a Pirates' HS prospect in recent memory - on par with McCutchen's and just slightly behind Aramis Ramirez's NY-P debut. With Alvarez ascending to the 3B throne in 2010, a new 3B needs groomed since Alvarez may not stick there long term. If Cunningham can return from his knee injury and show he is healthy, he could be ready when Alvarez has to move across to 1B in 3-4 years.

19. Victor Black (22) RHP, A/A+ -- Another one of my maxims of prospecting is that I will always rank a starter ahead of a reliever in the Top 20...unless that reliever could be very special. I think Black could be that guy. He had a 95+ mph fastball in his debut this year and rumors that his slider is top-notch, too. Although the Pirates may work him as a starter to build his innings and get him working on pitches, I wouldn't mind if they fast-tracked him as a pure reliever. He could be a blazer in the 8th/9th innings.

20. Diego Moreno (23) RHP, A+/AA -- Back to back relievers...the system must be thinning out, right? Wrong. I feel strongly that Moreno is a high-end reliever as well. He had a very strong season in A this year, albeit as a slightly overage 22. But he could be a strong multiple level mover in 2010.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Closers are overrated

I'm hoping that the next great revolution in manager-thinking will be the avoidance of "closers". There may be no other position as grossly overrated and typically overpaid than ML closer.

If you think about it from a money standpoint first, you are usually paying a top tier closer $8M to $12M to pitch maybe 60 innings. If you extrapolate that to a starting pitcher of any quality who can give you 180 innings, you are paying that closer the equivalent of $24M to $36M dollars!!

From a strategy standpoint, the closer has hamstrung managers and forced them to be by-the-book even more than they normally would be.

If your team is up by 1 run in the 7th inning, with 2 on and 1 out and your original pitcher is spraying gasoline all over the infield, why wouldn't you bring your best reliever in to the game at that point? If the arsonist on the mound blows the lead, you may not have any need for the "closer" in the 9th inning anyway. And don't say "what if you encounter the same situation in the 9th?"

You need to deal with the problem at the immediate hand, not deal with hypotheticals.

Relievers themselves are a fungible commodity. Their performances vary wildly from year to year, typically, and as such no team should tie themselves up financially or to a long term deal years-wise with a reliever.

No reliever should be paid more than $4.5M (in 2009 money) or be under contract for more than 3 years. The $4.5M is the assumed cost per win, as calculated by Fangraphs. Most relievers do not generate more than 1 WAR per season, anyway. The whole concept of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a topic for another post, if you're not familiar with it....

Ideally, a pitching staff should be:
5 starters
1 "long man" who can spot start and eat innings during a blowout
2 left handed relievers, at least one of which you feel comfortable using in a high-leverage situation where you need to protect a close lead or put out a fire
3 right handed relievers, at least two of which are high-leverage candidates

That's an 11 man staff which means that your relievers should all be able to work multiple innings and work both sides of the hitters' box. Pure left-on-left guys are another terrible waste of roster spots and resources. Learn a changeup for god sakes!

That would give the manager 1 more spot on the bench so that the premise of "the backup catcher can't pinch hit...what if the starter gets hurt?!?" can also be eliminated. Not all catchers are great shakes with the toothpick, but some teams have guys who were decent backups this year but never got the pine splinters out of their rear end unless they were starting that game.

So in this one blog post, I helped eliminate the following themes of baseball that are ruining it:
1. Closers are overpaid and not needed
2. LOOGY's are a waste of time and money
3. Use the backup catcher as a pinch hitter. Seriously.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tough night to find a plate in Pittsburgh

So on Saturday, my girlfriend and I had dinner with her aunt and her aunt's friend. We knew we were going out and we knew it would be around 7 pm, but we didn't have concrete plans about a place to go.

But it's Pittsburgh! You can always get a table at a nice restaurant, even on a Saturday. Right?

At least this past Saturday....wrong. We tried Red Room, Pangea, and Casbah and none of them could seat us until 9 pm! We ended up at Enrico's on Ellsworth, but we didn't consider that "settling".

When we walked in at 7, the place was empty except for 3 other tables. Oh, no! Did we overcorrect and go to a failing restaurant? I've been to Enrico's twice before and been pleased both times -- what happened? Well, by 8 pm the whole place was packed and people were eating at the bar as well.

All of a sudden, Pittsburgh has become chic and trendy with eating "fashionably late" as my mother says.

As for the meal itself, my girlfriend has a serious pumpkin lust in the fall, so she went with the pumpkin/sage-filled ravioli and I had the gnocchi with butternut squash. The gnocchi were light, not heavy and doughy like most places, and the filling had enough zip to catch your attention. The ravioli were fantastic as well...sage is a very underrated herb, especially for autumn cooking.

Seated next to us were two couples, both around my age (early 30's) or maybe slightly younger. They actually brought a small portable wine cooler (not a Seagram's, but a container) and it held 3 bottles of wine. And they weren't 10 dollar bottle of wine, either. This table proceeded to put down 2-1/2 bottles of wine while we were there, with the remaining part of the bottle not far behind I'm sure.

It's interesting seeing the uptick in wine interest among people my age. I'm just fearful there's a huge amount of pretentiousness to go along with it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Greek Pork Loin Roast

My job is fairly black and white, so I indulge my creative side by cooking. I'm not going to be the next Iron Chef, but I know my way around the kitchen.

One of the things that I would like to do is pair a city post with a recipe post of cuisine either from that city or from a restaurant style that I visited. Since I was singing the praise of Mezes in Toronto's Greektown, here's one of my favorite recipes to make.

This is from the fantastic cookbook The Foods of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi....

Oven Baked Pork Loin with Olive Oil, Garlic, Thyme, and Oregano (modified by portion size and use of pork tenderloin instead of roast)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp dried thyme, crumbled
1/2 tbsp dried oregano, crumbled
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb pork tenderloin

In a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt. Rub this mixture all over the pork. Place the pork in a Dutch oven (or casserole dish if you don't have a Dutch oven), cover the dish with aluminum foil, then place the lid on top and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours (I usually do 8 at max).

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Remove the aluminum foil, replace the lid, and bake for 30 minutes. Baste the pork then bake for 30 minutes. Baste again and cook uncovered for 20-30 more minutes. The tenderloin should be a nice brown with the ends more well-done looking. The inside meat temp should be 155 to 165 F.

Remove the pork from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 15-20 minutes to allow the juices to draw back into the meat. Reheat briefly if necessary.

I usually pair this with a roasted potato dish sprinkled with lemon juice and herbs. You can do a wild rice, as well. This is one of those dishes that is almost as good the next day, too. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Toronto - a city fit for a Queen

Much like what I did with Chicago last week, I'll periodically post my thoughts about cities that I have visited. Most of these cities will be over a series of posts, as there are many different stories/places/anecdotes that I would like to share.

Toronto is one of those cities. It's clean. It's cosmopolitan. It has an endless amount of restaurants and things to do.

Setting aside the citizenship/visa issues, if I could move to Toronto tomorrow to live and work, I would. Yes, the winters are mind-numbingly cold. But they've thought of that too in Toronto, by building a huge series of underground malls and pathways to essentially create an Underground Toronto.

I always like to gauge a city by its mass transit options and systems. Toronto's subway (metro) is at the top of that list. Again, it is very clean to ride and wait for underground. It is safe and relatively inexpensive, especially if you get a 1-day pass. And most importantly for visitors, it's easy to grasp and use right away.

The main backbone of downtown Toronto is Yonge Street (pronounced "young") and this spine contains the north-south main leg of the Metro. One of the hubs of the Metro is at Bloor Street, which contains a main east-west line. If you take that Bloor St metro to the east, towards Danforth, you will wind up in one of Toronto's many ethnic neighborhoods...this one is Greektown.

If you get off at the Pape station on this line, you will go top-side into the heart of Greektown. It was here that I had one of the 5 best meals of my life. Don't ask me right now what the other 4 were, but I know this one is in the Top 5, OK?!

It was a restaurant called Mezes and it is on the main drag of Danforth. I just checked and it is still in business, which is good when you're singing the praises of one of your favorite meals.

That night I had Ortikia (quail) with potatoes. The preparation and the seasonings of the quail made me feel as if I was leaning up against the Parthenon itself. Mezes itself, which I believe means "appetizers", is a fairly standard restaurant...not too fancy, not too casual.

But if you love Greek food like I do, and happen to be in Toronto, I highly recommend Mezes. Here's their website for you to peruse....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

DBS' Top 30 2010 Pirates' Prospects - #11 - 15

Continuing on with my personal Top 30 list and the appropriate comments. Remember the age is the players 2010 season-age (July 1 cutoff) and the level my assumed assignment.

11. Jeff Locke (22) LHP, AA -- Jeff Locke and another Pirates' trade acquistion, Bryan Morris, got lumped in together this year as under-achieving players. But Locke improved down the stretch, has at least been not as much as an injury concern as Morris, and did not have "makeup" concerns this year like Morris did. Locke has the full arsenal and the additional bonus of being a lefty.

12. Colton Cain (19) LHP, R/SS/A -- Perhaps I have a blind spot for power-throwing lefties, so sue me. A lefty that can gas it at 94-95 at age 18 is a great starting point for a top of the rotation pitcher. For me, Cain is 1A behind ZVR in terms of ceiling in the high school pitchers we drafted in 2009. Cain may also follow ZVR by starting at State College before moving to West Virginia.

13. Quinton Miller (20) RHP, A+ -- Quinton Miller was like a Gatorade cooler in the middle of the desert during the 2008 draft season. Pirates fans were not used to us drafting a high-end high school pitcher under the reign of terror known as Dave Littlefield's tenure. Miller may have had too many expectations heaped on him going into 2009 (by me, too), but he had a very acceptable season for a 19 y.o. in Low A. He will move up with a very crowded staff to Bradenton this year.

14. Robbie Grossman (20) OF, A+ -- Grossman was another oasis from the 2008 draft as a high-end high school position player. Grossman in 2009 played the full season in Low A, with no extended training or short season ball in his path. However, he had serious contact issues, with an over 30% K rate and little power. So why so high? Grossman drew a tremendous amount of walks, played a competent CF, and stole 30+ bases. His K rate was disportionate while batting L (he's a switch hitter), so it may be a decision in 2010 to abandon switch hitting if the results do not improve.

15. Gorkys Hernandez (22) OF, AA/AAA -- To this point in his career, the best facet of Hernandez's game has been "tradeability". Originally a product of the Detroit Tigers, Gorkys was included with Jair Juirrens in the Renteria deal to Atlanta. Then, of course, he came here with Morton and Locke for Nate McLouth. Gorkys has blinding speed that doesn't translate well to stolen bases, a moderate amount of power, and fantastic defense. But where does he fit with the Pirates? McCutchen has CF locked down as long as he wants, so Hernandez would move to LF most likely due to the vastness of PNC. But his power does not profile well there....he actually would be much like the erstwhile Nyjer Morgan. He seems like a 4th OF, but age is on his side still.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chicago - My kind of town

I will admit right now that I don't like New York. Not because of the people, the attitude, the sports's just too big. I can't get comfortable with all the people, the congestion of Manhattan, the dirtiness.

But Chicago...yeah, that's much better.

It's probably the "biggest" city I could live in and be happy. I've been there twice, the last time being 2006. It's the type of city that you could eat out every night at a different restaurant and still keep finding great places.

Their parks system is top-notch, as well, with Millenium Park and the Lawn close to Lake Shore Drive. And of course the views from the Hancock Building are fantastic. It's the kind of city where you feel like things are happening all around you.

The architecture has something for everyone...from the classical style of the Tribune Building, to the office tower style of the Hancock, to the modern "what the heck is that" of the vertical bee-hives apartment towers next to the House of Blues, to the chic, clean lines of the recent buildings.

If you go, check out the restaurant called Opera. It's in the South Loop and is a Chinese restaurant set in an old movie reel storage building. Because the reels had to be kept dark, there are all these private alcoves where they have tucked 2-3 feels very private as opposed to the din of the main area. And in order to not feel too pretentious for being one of the top restaurants in the city, on Saturdays the waitstaff all dresses up with a different theme. When I went, it was "Bad 80's Prom Night".

Their website is

DBS' Top 30 2010 Pirates Prospects - #6-10

Took the day off from work today and will be going away for the weekend with my girlfriend...perfect time to post some Prospects! Remember, the ages are their 2010 ages and the starting levels are presumed by me.

6. Chase D'Arnaud (23) SS/2B, AA -- D'Arnaud seems to be an "end justifies the means" kind of guy, in that scouts are never wowed by the tools, but love his approach and obviously his results. For me, I look at K/BB rates in the minors for hitters and D'Arnaud had a nearly 1:1 ratio. Coupled with playing both middle infield positions and having a lot of speed...he could be a perfect #2 hitter in 2011 for the Pirates.

7. Rudy Owens (22) LHP, A+/AA -- Unless you have a blazing fastball, all lefties get perjoratively labelled as a soft-tossing lefty. Owens works in the low 90's, plenty of juice for a lefty, with solid off-speed stuff. It was curious as to how the Pirates treated a possible mid-season promotion for him, though, as they really made him sweat for it. I hope they don't see something we don't.

8. Starling Marte (21) OF, A+ -- Marte could be very special, a real lottery ticket for the Pirates. He is one of the rarest of birds...a Latin prospect signed and developed under Dave Littlefield...even if Gayo signed him of course. Anyway, Marte showed 4 tools this year, with only power lacking. But his frame and build suggest that will develop too. It would not surprise me at all if he is considered for #1 on this list next year after the Top 3 graduate.

9. Ronald Uviedo (23) RHP, AA -- Over at OnlyBucs, I've been voting for him since #9...and we're on #19 now. Some of it is the question on whether he is a starter or reliever long term, but his year this year was too good to ignore. He did have an injury, but he came back to be a near-dominant closer for Lynchburg in the playoffs. Barring "flameout", the worst case for him is power set-up man.

10. Zach von Rosenberg (19) RHP, SS/A -- Just typing that out, you see why he is known simply as "ZVR". ZVR is the highest-end pitching prospect drafted by Huntington. He is 6'-5" with plenty of projection and 3 current avg to plus pitches as an 18 year old. He was signed away from going to LSU and should, conservatively, follow Quinton Miller's path in 2010, by getting a taste of short season and then going to Low A West Virginia. Capable of being the elusive #1 or #2 starter the Pirates lack.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

DBS's Top 30 Pirates Prospects - 2010

Over at OnlyBucs in December of 2008, I was bored. So I put up a poll of 25 names or so and asked people to rank who they thought the #1 prospect was. I thought, maybe at best, we could do a Top 10.

Well, it caught on like a house on fire, and eventually went all the way out to 30. People love to talk and argue about prospects!

This year, we started the OBN Top 30 again and the response has increased by over 50% in votes from last year.

I struggle to not jaundice the polls with my opinions, though. But now I have a forum to put up my guys and the reasoning behind it.

The number in parentheses in the players' 2010 age, using July 1 as the cutoff. His position and expected starting level follows:

1. Pedro Alvarez (23) 3B, AAA/MLB -- Alvarez is a legitimate home-grown power threat, something the Pirates have not had since Aramis Ramirez. My concerns about his K rate have lessened and he is semi-respectable against LHP. Even if he has to shift to 1B, the bat will play.

2. Brad Lincoln (25) RHP, AAA/MLB -- Lincoln has shown that he has rebounded from Tommy John surgery and is ready to challenge for a spot in the Pirates' 2010 rotation. He has a mid 90's fastball and perhaps the best curve in the system.

3. Jose Tabata (21) OF, AAA/MLB -- So many questions swirl around Tabata that it seems like he is permanently enveloped in a fog sometimes. The rumors that he may not really be 21, his perceived lack of hustling, and his long term ability to hit for power will not go away. If he can play a competent RF, bat .300+, and generates lots of doubles and 15 HR's, I will take it.

4. Tony Sanchez (22) C, A+/AA -- Sanchez was a much-maligned pick in 2009, as he was seen as an overdraft and a cheap way out by ownership. He proceeded to put down a huge debut season with the bat, a so-so season behind the dish (the exact opposite of what was expected) and impress me with his commitment and winning attitude. Playing the most important defensive position doesn't hurt either.

5. Tim Alderson (21) RHP, AAA -- Ahh, the curse of the Pirates prospect. With SF, Alderson was #2 behind only Madison Bumgarner. He was a future #2 starter with impeccable control. He gets traded to the Pirates for Freddy Sanchez and all of sudden he is complete trash. Reports came from every corner that his velocity was way down and he would be, at best, a #5 starter. I think the Pirates will straighten out his awkward delivery and extrapolate a few more MPH on the fastball.

I'll post more prospects later....this is already turning into quite a missive.

...and here....we....go...

I've toyed around with the idea of starting my own blog for some time now, but decided just recently to just go ahead and give it a shot.

This blog spurred off of my posting on Only Bucs and getting comfortable sharing my thoughts in a forum that didn't resort to profanity and namecalling after 10 posts. But I've been holding back sometimes on my opinions, as to not dominate the board.

Also, my interests aren't just discussing the Pirates. I thought it would be interesting to have a blog with some varied topics on it.

I was thinking that 2/3 of the posts could be about sports, with 1/3 revolving around my love of cooking, some of the cities that I've visited, and my thoughts about my hometown of Pittsburgh. Those ratios are subject to change without further notice!

Even though this first post will be viewed by nobody but spambots, most likely, I hope that people come here and partake in the comments. I want an open forum where my posts are more like Conversation Starters rather than Gospel From On High.

Take off your e-shoes and stay awhile...welcome