The Weekend Buzz while you were aiming the fireworks AWAY from the children ...
1. Pittsburgh, city by the Bay: Every so often one of those cool stories comes along that makes you stand at attention and salute.
|Freddy Sanchez is an up-and-comer and definitely a deserving All-Star. (AP)|
When fan balloting was released Sunday, doggone if the Pirates' Jason Bay didn't lead all outfielders with 2.6 million votes.
And there was Pirates third baseman Freddy Sanchez, named by Houston manager Phil Garner as a reserve, collecting a stunning 800,000 votes -- more than any other write-in candidate.
Now let's say right up front, it wasn't exactly blind luck. The Pirates ran a sleek, professional campaign -- the Democrats might want to get advice come 2008 -- in which they peppered their fans with constant get-out-the-vote reminders.
Their radio and television broadcasters were proactive, the club reminded fans with scoreboard messages, they set up a kiosk outside of PNC Park for fans who didn't have tickets (and, as such, wouldn't receive the ballots being distributed in the park), they had the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame campaign for Bay (who is Canadian) and they even got word to Pearl Jam before a recent concert in town. Lead singer Eddie Vedder told fans to vote for Bay during the encore.
Still, given all of this, let's be honest. With the Pirates headed for their 14th consecutive losing season, baseball in Pittsburgh lately has resembled the steel industry in the last decades of the 20th century -- mired in a long, precipitous decline.
Pittsburghers could have ignored the reminders and made a statement of their disgust with their silence. Yet ...
"I think it's been very impressive to see how many of our players have moved up in the voting," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield says. "It was a great effort on the part of Pirates fans, along with the whole community and our marketing department.
"It really points to how passionate fans are about the Pirates."
It's also not simply homerism. Both Bay and Sanchez are highly deserving of being named to the NL team. Bay, an emerging star, is batting .281 with 20 homers and 57 RBI, and ranks fifth among NL outfielders with a .926 OPS. Sanchez is hitting .363 with 24 doubles and 45 RBI.
"Bay has been an outstanding player for us," said Littlefield, who acquired Bay and pitcher Oliver Perez from San Diego for outfielder Brian Giles in August 2003. "He's done a fantastic job in all phases of the game."