2009 Pittsburgh Pirates
2009 Pittsburgh Pirates / Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates / BR Team Page
Managed by John Russell
History, Comments, Contributions
The Pittsburgh Pirates entered 2009 with 16 straight losing seasons, tied for the most in the history of North American professional sports. Hope was not high in the fan community given the limited off-season moves made by the team, acquiring bench players Ramon Vazquez, Jason Jaramillo and Eric Hinske. The club did well in spring training, going 17-15 in Grapefruit League play, with non-roster invitee Craig Monroe being the big star and making the team as a backup outfielder.
Pittsburgh's opening game started on a rough note. Paul Maholm battled Adam Wainwright evenly for 6 innings but Tyler Yates and John Grabow allowed runs in the 8th. Down 4-2 entering the 9th, Freddy Sanchez doubled off Jason Motte, who retired #3 hitter Nate McLouth and cleanup man Ryan Doumit. Adam LaRoche singled, then Hinske pinch-hit and doubled to make it 4-3. Motte plunked Brandon Moss. After falling behind 0-2, veteran Jack Wilson cleared the bases with a double to the gap to give Pittsburgh the win.
After losing 13 of their past 15 home openers, Pittsburgh prevailed in their first game at PNC Park in 2009, a 7-0 romp of the Astros on April 13. Zach Duke tossed a 4-hit complete game shutout and Sanchez hit 3 doubles. Before the game, the Pirates paid tribute to the three City of Pittsburgh police officers who had been recently killed by a white supremacist right-winger.
Two weeks into the season, Pittsburgh suffered a significant blow when Doumit injured his wrist; he would have surgery and was expected to miss two months.
Pittsburgh began the season 11-7 but then dropped 12 of the next 13 contests to fall to 12-19 and last place in the division.
In late May, Pittsburgh became the first team in MLB history to play consecutive series against the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs on the road. In the May 25 game against the Cubs, Freddy Sanchez went 6 for 6 with a double, homer, 4 runs and 3 RBI, the first Pirate since Wally Backman in 1990 to get six hits in a game.
By June 2, the Pirate outfielders had a MLB-high 17 assists, while the three primary outfielders all had a fielding percentage of 1.000. The next day, they traded last year's All-Star CF, McLouth, to the Atlanta Braves, for prospects Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. Used to the Bucs trading off their stars, the fan community was highly critical, though McLouth's 110 OPS+ in 2009 was unexceptional and all 3 players acquired were moderate prospects. Pittsburgh had not been looking to deal McLouth as per officials, but Atlanta had been actively searching for an outfielder. Pittsburgh immediately called up former first-round pick Andrew McCutchen to start in McLouth's place. McCutchen quickly became the Pirates' best offensive player.
By the trading deadline, Pittsburgh was clearly headed for another losing season, so general manager Neal Huntington dealt away many starters - Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Wilson and Nyjer Morgan as well as pitchers Ian Snell, Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow in an attempt to stock the team's far system with a plethora of new prospects. While this was Pittsburgh's first serious rebuilding effort in years and the team was not going anywhere with its current group, the fans reacted very negatively. Huntington defended the moves, saying he was not dismantling the 1927 Yankees.
On September 2, Garrett Jones hit the 10,000th Pirate home run since they had joined the National League in 1887. Three days later, Ross Ohlendorf became the second Pirate ever (22 years after Jeff Robinson) to strike out the side on 9 pitches.
Awards and Honors