2008 Pittsburgh Pirates
2008 Pittsburgh Pirates / Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates / BR Team Page
Managed by John Russell
History, Comments, Contributions
Pirates fans expressed little hope for the team for the 2008 season. Coming off a 95-loss campaign in 2007, the organization had not made any major changes to the lineup or pitching staff nor were any promising rookies part of the Opening Day roster. The only significant adjustment was a new management team, led by John Russell.
Pittsburgh's Opening Day was one of the wildest in over 120 years of the franchise's history. Playing the Atlanta Braves with a 4-4 tie in the 8th, the Pirates' Xavier Nady homered off of Manny Acosta and Nate McLouth added a 3-run homer. Carrying a 9-4 lead into the bottom of the 9th, Russell called on Damaso Marte, an effective pitcher in 2007. Marte walked Mark Kotsay and one out later walked Ruben Gotay. Russell then turned to closer Matt Capps, who had walked only six batters in all of 2007. Capps struggled with his control as well, walking Martin Prado to load the bases then walked Yunel Escobar to force in a run. Chipper Jones hit a two-run single to close it to 9-7. With two outs, Brian McCann hit a fly to left that dropped in between LF Jason Bay and CF Nate McLouth when neither made an attempt to get the ball. Escobar and Jones came home to tie the game before Capps retired Jeff Francoeur. Nady hit a 3-run homer off of Blaine Boyer in the top of the 12th but that lead was almost blown as well. With Franquelis Osoria in his third inning of work, Francoeur homered with one out. Mark Kotsay doubled and Matt Diaz singled him in to make it a 12-11 game. Osoria escaped by retiring Corky Miller on a fly to McLouth to end the roller coaster ride.
Pittsburgh kept falling short of .500 in the first half of the season, getting close only to slump backwards. They were hindered by the poor performance of Matt Morris, who was released, the typical slow start of Adam LaRoche, injuries to Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson and the disappointing mound work of Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny. The bright spots in the first half were outfielders Nate McLouth, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady and catcher Ryan Doumit.
On June 30, Pittsburgh batted their pitcher other than 9th for the first time since 1957 when Paul Maholm hit 8th and Wilson 9th. They were the third NL Central team to bat their pitcher 8th that year, as the Cardinals routinely did so and the Brewers did it early in the season.
There was a glimmer of hope when the team drafted top prospect Pedro Alvarez in the 2008 amateur draft but Alvarez's agent Scott Boras got into a legal disagreement with the team over whether they had signed him prior to the deadline; the conflict went to arbitration. The conflict was finally resolved on September 24 without waiting for the arbitrator's final word, as Alvarez negotiated a new deal with the Bucs.
Through July, Pittsburgh has one of the most productive offenses in the National League, still led by the outfielders and Doumit, but a poor pitching staff outside of Paul Maholm left them among the bottom-dwellers once more. At the trading deadline, management sent Nady and Bay away for 8 players, led by prospects Jose Tabata and Andy LaRoche. The move also attempted to strengthen the pitching staff, adding Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf. Besides Morris (9.67 ERA), Snell and Gorzelanny, the team had numerous other failed pitchers in Zach Duke, Yoslan Herrera (9.82 ERA) and John Van Benschoten (10.48). The moves depleted the offense, though, which struggled mightily the last two months. After being 7th in the majors in runs through July, Pittsburgh fell to 19th by year's end.
On September 7, the team clinched the 16th consecutive losing season, tying the record for North American pro sports; only the 1933-1948 Philadelphia Phillies had done as poorly. The record-setting loss was marred by an injury to McLouth.
The Pirates finished with a staff ERA of 5.08, 5th-highest in franchise history and set a club record with 657 walks. Starting pitchers only won 33 games and for the first time since 1890, Pittsburgh failed to have a pitcher with 10 or more wins in a non-strike season; Paul Maholm led the staff with 9, followed by Ian Snell with 7.
Awards and Honors