11/20/2002 4:00 pm ET
Mac chats online with fans
The following is a transcript of an online chat session held with Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon on Wednesday, November 20, 2002:
Brian Beerman: Hi Mac. I`ve been a total baseball junkie and huge Pirates fan for as much of my 39 years as I can remember. I`ve tried to hang in there these past ten years as best I can. What would you say to someone like me about how the Pirate future looks?
McClendon: I certainly think the future is very bright. We had a lot of positive things that happened last year. Our pitching staff is stable. We should have a healthy benson for the first time in three years. Wells and Fogg are two young pitchers that had 30 starts and pitched real well for us. Each one had 12 wins. Defensively we are much better with Pokey and Jack up the middle. We should have a healthy Ramirez at third and Kendall behind the plate.
sloshyj: Remember Barry Bonds' comments about race factors and the Buccos back in the early 1990s? Do you think this is still an issue or has it bent back the other way? It seems the Pittsburgh media gives you less gruff due to your race.
First of all, I don't remember the Bonds comments in the early 90s, but as far as i'm concerned I think the fans are more than fair. They don't look at me as a black manager, but just a manager. The media has been very up front and race issues have never come into play.
pbc1877: How much do you think having Espinoza on the staff will help Aramis Ramirez?
McClendon: I believe Espy will have a great influence on Rammy and how he goes about his business. Having Espy around to go through the drills with him and speak the language will create a better atmosphere. Rammy is a critical part of our success and we need to try to elevate his game in any way possible.
blackird12: What are you trying to do to better your offense next season?
McClendon: Offensively we struggled quite a bit last year. There is a natural progression that goes along with young hitters, but they should get better. Having Gerald Perry will help, too. We are going to stress having productive at bats, moving runners, driving them in from third, etc. we have to get it done. No excuses will be accepted.
bammer: Are you ready for Spring Training yet?
McClendon: I was ready for Spring Training the day the season ended. You really get anxious and it's tough to sit around without a uniform on. We have some great possibilities this year. We are moving in the right direction and we were one of six teams to improve by ten games last year. That is certainly something to build on.
PirateFan11: Where do you see help coming from? Do you feel more help will come from within the organization, through trades, or free agent signings (minor league or regular)?
McClendon: We don't have a lot of help at AAA as we speak. Most of our young talent is at the lower levels. It will take some time to help us from within. There are a couple of kids (Alvarez and Davis are among them) who can help us soon. We need to look at the six-year free agent market as well as possible trades to improve our major league club.
pbc1877: What happened to the base that you stole?
McClendon: I still got it.
Machaven: Is Jason Kendall going to continue being a catcher or is he going to play in the outfield
McClendon: Jason will be our catcher. He is our catcher for the foreseeable future. Two years ago we experimented with him the outfield because we did not have enough major league ready players. It was tough to take his bat out of the lineup. So in order to give him a day off, we put him in the outfield, but we are a much better team now and I don't see that happening again.
shalerallstar: How important do you think it is to sign a veteran pitcher to aid in the development of our three young stud pitchers?
McClendon: I think you always try to look to get better, particularly with starting pitching. Obviously if we can find a veteran pitcher that can give us quality innings, it will take pressure off our young starters. Having said that, everybody is looking for pitching and it is awfully hard to find.
bdchevy: Since Rios was released, who do you see starting in RF?
McClendon: Craig Wilson should get some time in RF, as well as Rob Mackowiak. We are also going to explore the market and see what is available that may fit our needs, particularly from a financial standpoint.
pbc1877: What can you do to keep Pokey Reese in the lineup more often next season?
McClendon: Part of our end of the season evaluations is trying to find a way to make Pokey stronger physically, so his offseason conditioning will be watched closely. We hope to prevent some of the small nagging injuries that have kept him out of the lineup for 2-3 days at a time.
pbc1877: Wells, Fogg and Benson are locks at the top of the rotation. Who are the top candidates for the other two spots?
McClendon: Right now as we move into Spring Training, two guys who pitched in the 4 and 5 spots last year, Meadows and Torres, will have strong consideration. We are also looking at the market to see what is available.
shalerallstar: If you had to do things differently, would you have handled the A. Rameriez situation differently. It seemed he played uninspired ball most of the time and yet he was rewarded with batting 4th and playing 3rd every game. Your thoughts.
McClendon: First of all, if I had to do it all over again, I would have been on the top step of the dugout and stopped him before he went to the mound in Milwaukee. Ramirez is a young player that at times shows the type of body language that makes him look as if he doesn't care, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. The fact is that he played hurt the entire year and gave us everything he had on a bum ankle, but his numbers still turned out decent. He hit fourth because we did not have a viable candidate to protect Brian Giles and I thought, given the situation, he did a very good job.
CoffeeNerd: Congrats on improving upon your 2001 campaign. With Walter Young and others added to the 40 man rosters, do you see a lot more open competition for Spring Training in 2003?
McClendon: We are always looking to improve and offensively we really struggled, so I would anticipate some very spirited competition in ST for a number of positions. The fact is we need to score more runs and if someone steps up and shows us they can help us do that, they have a good chance of playing.
PirateFan11: You have a revamped coaching staff for 2003. Have you begun to work with them at all? How do you get all these new coaches working together as a team prior to Spring Training?
McClendon: We do have a quite a few new coaches. The process has already begun and all of them have received scouting reports on all our players to become more familiar with their capabilities. I am also filling them in on our players and what they are capable of doing. We will use our time in mini-camp to further bring us up to speed before ST starts.
pbc1877: Do you believe that Mackowiak can be an everyday CF in the big leagues?
McClendon: Rob is a young man that did a tremendous job in CF last year with limited time at that position. His numbers across the board were at or above the major league average for CFers and I think he has a chance to be a pretty decent player if he continues to work. And we will certainly get an opportunity to compete at Spring Training.
Shunoco18: How are fogg, kendall, and young doing after their surgery?
McClendon: All three are progressing well and all signs are that they will be healthy and ready to go for Spring Training.