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Fans plan walkout on skinflint Pirates
Group called "Fans For Change" organized a walkout for Saturday night's home game.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published July 1, 2007
The Pittsburgh Pirates have most things a baseball franchise would love: a sparkling, perfectly placed new stadium, a proud history and a loyal fan base.
But a group called "Fans For Change, " frustrated by what could be the Pirates' 15th consecutive losing season, organized a walkout for Saturday night's home game against the Nationals at PNC Park. Fans were encouraged to wear green, to show their frustration with the Pirates' lack of financial commitment and their $38.5-million payroll.
Pittsburgh businessman Andy Chomos is one of three Pirates fans who formed the group. Chomos hoped fans would leave their seats in the third inning, leaving an empty ballpark, and return in the fourth. The Pirates were expected to get a strong crowd of 25, 000, fueled by a Bob Walk bobblehead giveaway.
"I think it's time that all fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates quit being 'dumbed down' by trinkets and bobbleheads and all those kinds of things, " Chomos said. "We have enough trinkets. Don't be like lambs being led to slaughter."
Pittsburgh, which entered Saturday 35-45 and 12 games behind the NL Central-leading Brewers, has been hounded by a series of bad front-office moves. The team is still paying C Jason Kendall, now with the A's, a team-high $5.5-million. Signing SS Jack Wilson to a three-year, $20.2-million deal in the offseason looks like a major mistake. One of the team's top acquisitions, RHP Tony Armas, owns an 8.92 ERA and is receving $3.25-million. And people around baseball wonder how GM Dave Littlefield manages to have a job.
"I've gotten to know a lot of the players from that 1971 (championship) team and it really strikes me how sad and angry they are about what has happened to what was a great franchise, " Chomos said. Former Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis "actually broke into the tears when he talked to me about what has happened to the Pirates."
SEEING THE FUTURE: Five years ago last Wednesday, then-Expos general manager Omar Minaya wasn't sure if the Montreal franchise had a future, so to make a playoff push he decided to trade part of the organization's future away.
Minaya, not sure if the franchise would be in operation the next season, sent three prospects - OF Grady Sizemore, LHP Cliff Lee and INF Brandon Phillips - to Cleveland for RHP Bartolo Colon. Colon went 10-4 in 17 starts for the Expos, who finished second in the NL East but trailed Atlanta by 19 games.
Since then, Sizemore has emerged as a budding superstar with Cleveland, and Lee is a serviceable end-of-the-rotation starter. Phillips struggled with Cleveland but is poised for a 30-30 season with Cincinnati. They would all be major upgrades for the franchise that now plays as the Nationals.
"That's what happens when you trade prospects, " said Nationals C Brian Schneider, who admitted he was happy when the Expos added Colon. "It stinks when you lose them, but at the time we loved the trade. But it would be great to have those guys now."
YANKEE POT ROAST: The Yankees roared to a 13-3 start to June, pushing their record three games over .500, but since then they are 3-8 and sit in third place in the AL East, 11 behind the division-leading Red Sox.
"I feel like we're not playing good baseball, " Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte said. "I feel like we're a better team than we are, and we're not getting it done. I hope there's a whole lot of guys in this room that are frustrated and care a whole lot right now."
CHANGING THE MARKET: The story changes by the day, but it appears the White Sox are going to sign LHP Mark Buehrle to a four-year, $56-million deal that will take the prospective free agent off the market.
Buehrle could have waited and had his payday. It appears he is so motivated to stay with the organization - in part because his wife, who is eight months pregnant, wants security over the uncertainty of the extended process - that he initiated these proceedings to get a quick deal and make the whole thing go away. So he settled for $14-million a year. Not bad.
AROUND THE HORN: Indians pitchers have allowed the fewest walks of any team in the majors, 198 entering Saturday's game. They are on a pace for 406 this season, which would be the fewest in a full season by Indians pitchers since 1920, when Cleveland won its world championship. ... Toronto 1B Matt Stairs signed as an extra OF and expected to be a bat off the bench and maybe play when Frank Thomas needed a day off, but after 1B Lyle Overbay was injured, Stairs has hit the second-most homers (12) in the majors since May 13. ... After Astros GM Tim Purpura had a closed-door meeting with manager Phil Garner, he said his patience with his underachieving team had reached the boiling point. "I'm looking at any possible thing that we can do to make ourselves better, whether that's bringing guys up, whether that's moving guys out, whether that's making trades, " Purpura said. "The way we're going is obviously not acceptable."
"Maybe we should send Southpaw."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen when asked who the White Sox representative to the All-Star Game should be, selecting the team's mascot
"The biggest job the manager has coming into this situation is to change the culture. That's basically it. If I don't change the culture here, I'm not going to succeed as a manager, period."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella on altering the mentality of the franchise
"I'm a big guy. I was out there running on the warning track today and guys are yelling, 'Hey, ever heard of Slimfast? Stop eating at McDonald's, ' and I'm going, 'Hey, be a little more original. My last name is Bell, like Taco Bell, and my first name, Heath, is a candy bar. Come up with something good.' "
Padres reliever Heath Bell on heckling he received at AT&T Park in San Francisco about his robust 6-foot-3, 226-pound frame