The Pittsburgh Pirates are doing their best to distract everyone from this, their 17th consecutive losing season. And while I’m not one to say their streak makes them the worst sports franchise in history, I’m also not above picking on them, or old people, for that matter.
Which brings us to Tuesday’s pregame ceremony, in which the Pirates honored Arnold Palmer in celebration of his 80th birthday, which is Thursday. Palmer, who hails from Latrobe, about an hour east of Pittsburgh, was interviewed by Jim Nantz on the field and shown a video tribute. Then the circus continued …
Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm, team broadcaster and former pitcher Steve Blass and professional golfer Peter Jacobsen took part in a “closest to the pin” contest on the field while players from both teams watched from the dugouts.
Jacobsen was the only participant to hit the “pin” — really team mascot the Pirate Parrot — in center field on a shot from near home plate, earning money for charity.
The good news is that PNC Bank made a $1 million donation to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh in Palmer’s name.
The bad news is that after the game finally started – 11 minutes late – it was back to reality, and the visiting Cubs tied a major league record by beginning the game with eight straight hits.
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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.
Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.
Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.