We were always fascinated with Adam Laroche. We liked the camoflauge shirts he wore and passed out to teammates as the Pirates would limp out of the gate year after year. We loved the camo paint in his rugged pictures with dead animals like the one he took with a mountain lion strewn over his shoulders.
The guy seemed to love hunting more than baseball. And sure, you can argue all you want about whether mountain lion tastes good, but in your heart of hearts those pictures of Adam Laroche always caught your attention.
The big, long swing would bother us in April and May, but come the second half of the season he was always good for a near .300 average and .800 OPS. The only thing LaRoche needed was a platoon partner to play in the first two or three months of the year. The Pirates simply couldn’t give LaRoche enough time to get all of the hunting out of his blood and begin to refocus on playing baseball.
In 2009 the Pirates traded the selfie loving animal killer to Boston for Hunter Strickland. The trade made room for Garrett Jones and Steve Pearce. GFJ put up 21 bombs that year which turned out to be alright in comparison to The Great White Hunter’s twelve homers in about the same number of at-bats. Jones hit his way into a job. It also didn’t hurt that GI Jones was cheap and LaRoche was getting expensive either.
So the Pirates do what they normally do in that situation and made the call to their favorite trade partners the Red Sox. A few moments later, the Bucs had Hunter Strickland.
Despite the best efforts of both sides and it varies depending on who is doing the talking, the Bucs and Strickland didn’t work out. The team waived him on April 2 of year. It was roughly three and a half years after the trade with the Red Sox.
The San Francisco Giants wasted no time in starting the reclaimation project. Bastards.
The Giants made him a reliever and he shined in the role. The right-hander made 19 appearances, earned nine saves and had a dazzling ERA of .86 before going down with an injury. Everything was just starting to work too which is something that just didn’t happen in his role as a starter in the Pirates minor league system.
Last May, Strickland had ligaments removed from his right wrist and put into his elbow. Before long, he will be throwing again for
Bruce Bochy and the Giants. We wish him the best. Not really. But whatever.
The first base position didn’t improve much with the departure of LaRoche despite the Pirates making tremendous efforts and millions of dollars trying.
In 2009, Steve Pearce got over 150 at-bats and was just awful.
In 2010, Jeff Clement was the Opening Day starter. That was an utter disaster and 144 at-bats later, the Pirates gave up. Or Jeff Clement gave up. You know the rest, why am I still typing?
In 2011, Lyle Overbay was the guy on first base. That was an utter disaster and 322 at-bats later, the Pirates gave up. Or Lyle Overbay gave up. You know the rest, why am I still typing?
Derrek Lee and his questionable heart was added to the Bucs roster in 2011. For a Marlon Byrd-esque brief time, all seemed well in the world. Lee ripped seven homers and slugged near .600 until an injury shut it down for the big guy. But in the offseason, Lee decided he had enough and went on with his lifes work or whatever.
In 2012, Casey McGehee got the call and played in 77 games at first base. That was an utter disaster and 265 at-bats later, the Pirates gave up. Definently, the Pirates gave up this time. McGehee was traded to the New York Yankees for the price of the airline ticket.
In 2013, Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones manned first base. The production was satisfactory at times, but Sanchez could only produce against southpaws and rarely with much power as the season moved along. Justin Morneau was picked up for the stretch run and did even less offensively.
In the offseason, the Pirates decided that Jones had became too expensive. Much like LaRoche. So the vicious cycle continues.
So that brings us to 2014. The Pirates need a first baseman that can sting some baseballs. Andrew Lambo is inexpensive power and will be given every shot on earth to win the job.
But no longer will average production be acceptable at the position. The pitching staff might not be able to carry the team early in the season with a heavy dose of divisional games. The Pirates will need every semblance of offense it can get. If not, 2014 is going to look a lot like the April and May production of the Adam LaRoche days of yesteryear.