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UPDATE: The Pirates renounce any connection to the Pirates Fan Advisor thing


UPDATE: There has been clarification from the team. This remains a dumb idea, but it is apparently not a team-endorsed dumb idea, the presence of team president Frank Coonelly on the website in question notwithstanding. In fact, they have asked that the video of Coonelly be removed from the site and issued a statement making it clear that they have nothing to do with this:

“The Pirates have no financial agreement or affiliation with PiratesFanAdvisor.com and receive no financial benefit in any way. The Pirates were approached by a long-time Pirates fan and Pirates Fantasy Camp goer, asking if the organization would consider feedback that he collected from the fans through his independent Web site in order to improve the experience at PNC Park.

“We agreed to consider any feedback he gathered as we are constantly seeking input from our fans. The fact we agreed to listen to whatever information is collected and agreed to shoot a brief online video communicating as much is the extent of the Pirates’ involvement inPiratesFanAdvisor.com. To avoid any confusion among our fans that we are in some way asking them to pay to provide us with their input, we have asked the video be removed from the site.

“All of the many, many channels of communication remain available to our fans. Whether it is through our online surveys, social media platforms, customer service department, guest services stations at the ballpark, season-ticket holder Q&A events, fan forums at public events such as PirateFest, e-mail, standard mail or the many other options, we actively encourage our fans to share their experiences and opinions with us.”


1:41: This is … odd.

The Pirates have set up something called the Fan Advisor Network. The upshot: they’re asking Pirates fans to pay the team money, ranging from $9.95 to $50 a month to become some sort of glorified focus group. From their website, where team president Frank Coonelly greets you with an awkwardly read video:

The concept is fairly simple:  Turn the most passionate and intelligent Pirate fans into consultants for the team that they love.  Never before has the objective “voice of the fan” been captured.  The Fan Advisor Network does so each and every week through its unique Fan Advisor Network Consulting System, a weekly single-question statistically valid survey.  Confidential weekly reports are generated  from this data and provided to the Pirates as well as to the Pirate Fan Advisors themselves.

In addition to being allowed to take part in the team’s weekly surveys there are what sound like message boards, lapel pins, some ticketing preferences and other swag, the niceness of which depends on what level of membership you sign up for. Bronze is $9.95 a month, Silver is $23.95 a month and Gold is $600 a year. Why they don’t just call that $50 a month is beyond me, but maybe some past focus group paid the team to tell it that $600 a year sounds better.

The core to it all, however, is that the Pirates are selling some sort of exclusive fandom to people and then want to use them as a focus group.  Which all sounds kind of weird.  I mean, maybe other teams go to their season ticket holders for feedback and things, but I’m not sure any other team does this kind of thing so explicitly.

If it were me: I’d just constantly harass the Pirates twitter feed with all of my brilliant ideas. That’s free!

(h/t to Dejan Kovacevic)

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.