The Great American Baseball Trip

Game 8

Chicago White Sox vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Monday, June 30, 1997 - 7:35pm

Three Rivers Stadium

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pre-Game Report
 My first interleague game pits the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the smallest payroll in baseball, against the Chicago White Sox, who signed Albert Belle in the offseason for more money per year than the entire Pirates payroll. But, the Pirates are serious contenders for a division title in the NL Central while the White Sox are struggling to find their rhythm. I think the NL may come away with this one.

Stadium Stats - Three Rivers Stadium

Surface: Astroturf
Capacity: 48,044
Dimensions: Left Field: 335 feet, Center Field: 400 feet, Right Field: 335 feet

baseball diamond image

Team Profiles
White Sox Logo

Chicago White Sox

 The Chicago White Sox collapsed at the end of the 1996 season, losing the wild card spot to Baltimore in the final weeks of the season. So, during the winter, owner Jerry Reinsdorf made some changes, including opening his wallet to make Albert Belle the highest paid player in baseball history. In the process however, Reinsdorf lost the bidding war for pitcher Alex Fernandez to the Marlins and was forced to sign Jaime Navarro to make up for the loss. Needless to say, the 1997 White Sox will have very different chemistry.

 The White Sox starting rotation has all the potential in the world, but a lot of questions waiting to be answered. Wilson Alvarez remains the key to the rotation, and is joined by Navarro, second year starter James Baldwin and Doug Drabek. But, Alvarez tired at the end of last season and may do so again, Baldwin's rookie successes may have been a fluke, and Drabek was terrible last season in Houston. The Sox are left to hope that one or two of the young pitchers in the bullpen will join Tony Castillo and Roberto Hernandez as consistent relievers.

 The combination of Belle and two-time MVP Frank Thomas is sure to make opposing pitchers nervous. But the White Sox have more talent hiding in the shadows. Both Robin Ventura, who set career highs in homeruns (34) and RBIs (105) while winning his fourth gold glove, and DH Harold Baines, are coming off their best seasons in years. And prospects Chris Snopek and Norberto Martin, who hit .350 last season in 140 at bats, give manager Terry Bevington lots of creative options for his lineup.

Pirates Logo

Pittsburgh Pirates

 The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't recovered from the firesale their ownership started in 1993. Like many smaller market teams, the Bucs were forced to reduce their payroll to find a buyer for the team, and the results are still being felt. With the departure of Manager Jim Leyland to Florida, and the laundry list of free agents who fled to greener pastures, the Pirates are but a shell of their former pennant chasing selves.

 The lack of talent is noticeable in the Bucs starting pitching. Unlike previous years, the Pirates don't have a dependable starter to build a rotation around. Jason Schmidt, the hard-throwing prospect acquired from the Braves in the Denny Neagle deal will be the number one starter and Jon Lieber, a once-perennial minor leaguer, should work with him nicely. Manager Gene Lamont does have a strong young bullpen, including John Ericks and Jeff Granger (both former #1 draft picks) who should be effective in closing out games.

 Al Martin and Kevin Elster, who was picked up during the offseason to play shortstop, account for most of the Pirate's power this season. And young prospect Jermaine Allensworth should anchor a strong defensive outfield. But, the rest of the roster is mainly utility players, none of which distinguishes themselves offensively or defensively.

Post-Game Report
 The Pirates took their $9 Million payroll and beat the White Sox high priced talent 3-2 in an interleague battle at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Click here for all the details. . .

Highlights from the Steel City

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